NICOLA Sturgeon has said harassment claims against Alex Salmond cannot be “swept under the carpet” despite the difficult situation created for her and the SNP.

The Scottish Government has confirmed it received two complaints regarding the former First Minister, who denies them. He intends to take court action against the Scottish Government to contest the process activated against him.

Sturgeon said her relationship with her predecessor “makes this an extremely difficult situation for me to come to terms with”, but that due process must be followed.

READ MORE: Alex Salmond demands Scottish Government investigate leaking of harassment inquiry

“Everybody knows the length and closeness of my relationship to Alex Salmond and I think people will understand how difficult this is for me and for my party,” she told the BBC.

“This will be extremely upsetting to members of the SNP up and down the country. It’s a difficult situation but what is important is that complaints are treated seriously, regardless of who the person complained about is.

“That is a principle that cannot be applied selectively no matter how difficult that may be for me, my party or for others.”

Leslie Evans, Permanent Secretary at the Scottish Government, said a review was launched last year into procedures for handling complaints in the workplace in light of wider harassment concerns. As part of that review, a new procedure on handling harassment complaints involving current or former ministers was introduced. She said two complaints were made in January against Salmond and he was notified in March about an investigation.

The complaints concern his alleged behaviour towards two staff members at his official residence Bute House in Edinburgh in 2013 – while he was in office – and have been handed to Police Scotland.

Last night a spokesman for Police Scotland said: “We are carrying out an assessment of information we have received and inquiries are at an early stage.”

Salmond would not be drawn on the details of the allegations, or on whether he was aware of any other complaints against him.

READ MORE: Why it’s important not to be partisan over sexual harassment claims

Asked about his reference to past mistakes during a briefing with reporters, he said: “I’m not going to give you a list of mistakes I think I’ve made.

“I can’t talk about the complaints the allegations examined by the Scottish Government], but what I can say is I refute them.”

Pressed further on whether concerns over the nature of his conduct had been raised during his time in office, Salmond said: “I’m here to talk about the complaints that have been made against me, which I refute, and it’s not a question I can answer.

“I’m not going to go into a list of things I did or didn’t do when I was first minister, who I did or didn’t speak to.

“What I can say is the complaints made against me don’t have a foundation and I have never engaged in criminality.”

Asked by the BBC if Salmond is still a member of the SNP, Sturgeon said: “These matters will be considered in the fullness of time.

“This has not been a party investigation, I have limited information, for legal reasons that information I am not able to pass to the party, so the situation will undoubtedly develop as more information becomes available, but I am not able to confirm more than I have at this stage.”

She said she first heard about the investigation from Salmond in April and was not involved in the investigation.

Sturgeon also said that all “workplaces must make it possible for people to come forward to report concerns and have confidence that they will be treated seriously”, adding: “For that principle to mean anything it cannot be applied selectively. It must be applied without fear or favour, regardless of the identity, seniority or political allegiance of the person involved.”

Evans said: “I note the former first minister has indicated his intention to challenge the actions taken by the Scottish Government. His statement contains significant inaccuracies which will be addressed in those court proceedings.

“The Scottish Government will defend its position vigorously."

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