JEANE Freeman responded to questions on the leaked Salmond inquiry report during this afternoon’s coronavirus briefing, telling journalists that it was not the “appropriate place” for these discussions.

The Health Secretary led the update with national clinical director Jason Leitch, laying out the latest Covid figures and touching on the closure of the NHS Louisa Jordan.

During the Q&A section Freeman faced several questions from journalists asking if the First Minister should resign over the report’s findings.

The First Minister has hit out at the “very partisan leak” of the unpublished report, which is being finalised and is not due to be released until next week.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon hits out after leak of Alex Salmond inquiry report

The report is understood to have deemed Nicola Sturgeon misled parliament, but it has been reported that the word “knowingly” was not included in the text.

MSPs on the committee voted 5-4, along party lines, that the FM gave an “inaccurate” account of a meeting with her predecessor during the live investigation.

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up after a successful judicial review by Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government’s investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees. Salmond was later cleared of all charges at the High Court.

The National:

A journalist asked Freeman if the First Minister should resign, adding: “And if she so instantly and quickly dismisses that finding by the harassment committee, what was the point of the inquiry in the first place?”

The minister responded: “I have to say before I say anything, this is a Covid briefing, that’s what I’m here to answer questions on. Very briefly, on your first question, I do not believe the First Minister should resign. I do not believe she has misled parliament. And I have absolute confidence in her veracity of what she said in those eight hours of evidence to that committee in her integrity and in her professionalism. And I am not going to comment on unattributed briefings about a report which has not yet been published.”

A second reporter asked: “Further to that point, the parliamentary inquiry, as James Matthews there has said, was set up to try to get to the bottom of this. If you’re already dismissing findings that we’re hearing from this inquiry, the Scottish Government has dismissed findings … saying it’s divided on party lines. And it’s partisan. If we can’t have faith in the parliamentary inquiry and our First Minister has misled parliament, what faith can the people of Scotland have in our democratic institutions?”

READ MORE: Salmond inquiry MSP Andy Wightman takes dig at report's leaker on Twitter

Freeman said she would repeat her first point, telling the journalist: “This is a Covid briefing and I’m the Health Secretary. I’m not dismissing anything. What I am saying to you is the report has not yet been published.

“And I am not going to comment on unpublished reports or unattributed briefings on anything actually. But what I’m here to do is talk to people who are watching, hopefully with Covid questions from you and your colleagues, about where we are and what are the most important things in their lives and mine, which is this pandemic and how we work our way through it.”

She then tried to move onto another reporter, but the previous one interjected: “… in democratic institutions is extremely important. We have to have trust in the messaging we’re getting from your government every day on this. And we’re being told potentially that we have a First Minister who misled parliament, a parliament of the people.”

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A frustrated Freeman replied: “And the key word there that you used was potentially. And we will know all of that when we see the report when it is finally published but most importantly, the independent report into whether or not the First Minister breached the ministerial code. Not yet published. Let’s deal with those matters when they arise in the appropriate place, which frankly is not a Covid briefing.”

Immediately after, a third reporter asked what the contingency plan is for the Covid-19 response if Sturgeon does resign.

The Health Secretary said: “We have a deputy first minister. But I have no expectation at all that our current most excellent First Minister will resign.”

More to follow