Sturgeon: I did not mislead Scottish Parliament over Salmond

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Nicola Sturgeon: 'It's right that I am properly scrutinised'

Scotland's first minister has insisted she did not mislead parliament about when she learned harassment allegations had been made against her predecessor Alex Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon said "false conspiracy theories were being spun" about her involvement by Mr Salmond's supporters.

A Holyrood inquiry into how the government handled the allegations against Mr Salmond is under way.

She said she expects to give evidence to the inquiry in the coming weeks.

The BBC's Andrew Marr asked Ms Sturgeon how she responded to Mr Salmond saying that parliament had been repeatedly misled, and that evidence she gave to the inquiry was "simply" and "manifestly untrue".

Ms Sturgeon replied that she would "refute that vigorously".

Her interview came after the inquiry announced it would use legal powers to seek documents from the Crown Office.

In response to Ms Sturgeon's interview, a spokeswoman for Mr Salmond said: "The evidence, if published, will speak for itself".

A committee of MSPs is investigating the government's handling of two harassment claims against the former first minister, after he successfully challenged the complaints process in court.

She said it was right that she was scrutinised and that she had hoped to appear before the committee on Tuesday but that this had been delayed by "a couple of weeks".

Asked if Alex Salmond was "spinning false conspiracy theories", Nicola Sturgeon said: "There are false conspiracy theories being spun about this... by Alex Salmond, by people around him - you can draw your own conclusions around that."

She added: "What I certainly reflect on is that at times I appear to be simultaneously accused of colluding with Mr Salmond to somehow cover up accusations of sexual harassment on the one hand.

"And then on the other hand, being part of some dastardly conspiracy to bring him down.

"Neither of those are true."

Ms Sturgeon added: "I didn't collude with Alex Salmond and I didn't conspire against him."

Image source, PA Media

The first minister reiterated that Mr Salmond had told her about the allegations during a meeting at her home on 2 April 2018.

However, Mr Salmond has insisted that she already knew about the allegations as she had been told about them four days earlier by one of his aides.

Nicola Sturgeon has previously acknowledge that she initially "forgot" about this meeting.

In evidence to the Holyrood inquiry which was published in October, she said: "From what I recall, the discussion [with Mr Salmond's aide] covered the fact that Alex Salmond wanted to see me urgently about a serious matter, and I think it did cover the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature."

Speaking to The Andrew Marr Show, she added: "I, at the time I became aware of all of this, just tried hard not to interfere with what was going on and not to do anything that would see these swept aside rather than properly investigated."

Ms Sturgeon conceded that the Scottish government had made mistakes in how it handled the allegations.

"What I will never do is apologise for doing everything I could to make sure that complaints about sexual harassment were investigated, and not simply swept under the carpet because of the seniority and powerful position of the person who was subject to them," she added.

Last March, Mr Salmond was cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault at the High Court in Edinburgh.

A spokeswoman for Mr Salmond said: "The two inquiries under way are into why Nicola Sturgeon's government acted unlawfully.

"Alex has submitted his evidence as requested and the parliamentary committee is now challenging the Crown Office to produce some of the text messages which they believe are being suppressed.

"The evidence, if published, will speak for itself"