FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that she “acted properly” during the probe into claims of harassment against Alex Salmond.

During First Minister's Questions she was forced to defend her judgement as both the Tories and Labour called for an inquiry into the affair.

Earlier this week, the Scottish Government caved in a legal battle with the ex-SNP leader and former First Minister, over how the civil service handled the investigation. 

Salmond’s lawyers revealed that the person appointed to investigate the complaints, which has has rejected, had prior contact with the two women who had made them.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled the Scottish Government's actions were "unlawful in respect that they were procedurally unfair and that they were tainted with apparent bias".

Sturgeon was tackled on the botched investigation at Holyrood, with both Jackson Carlaw and Richard Leonard demanding she explain why she had met with Salmond when she knew he was under investigation.

The SNP leader said she was both being accused of taking part in a conspiracy against Salmond while also being accused of acting improperly to support him.

Carlaw told Sturgeon it was wrong for her to suggest she hadn’t been involved in the process: "Discussing the case with the subject of the investigation on five separate occasions is surely getting involved, isn't it?"

He also rejected the First Minister's claim that discussions between her and Salmond on the matter were not Scottish Government business, but party business, particularly given that her chief of staff, Liz Lloyd, had been at the first meeting between the two.

Carlaw replied: "Her position appears to be a meeting between the First Minister of the government and the former First Minister of the government, about a government investigation, involving two government employees was not government business. Really, how?"

Sturgeon replied: "The fact that I had no role in the Government process is why it wouldn't have been appropriate for the meetings to be government meetings.

"I have responsibilities as party leader, as other leaders do."

She told MSPs: "I acted appropriately. I absolutely accept there are others who think I made wrong judgements along the way, and that is absolutely their entitlement.

"But I made the judgements that I made, I will stand by and defend those judgements, and I will be absolutely adamant that I did not intervene in this process and it would have been entirely inappropriate for me to have done so."

The First Minister added: "Since I found out about the investigation I have tried to do the right thing in a situation which, no matter what happened, was never going to be easy for me.

"The most important thing here has always been, and continues to be, the complaints that were made and the people who made those complaints."

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said his party would back a parliamentary inquiry "because serious questions do need to be answered".

He added: "On Tuesday the First Minister invited us to judge her decision to hold a serious of meetings and discussions about these cases, with Alex Salmond.

"First Minister, that was a grave error of judgement, but it was also a clear potential breach of the ministerial code of conduct.

"After the events of this week, people need to have trust and confidence in the system and that's why the First Minister herself should back a full parliamentary inquiry. It's why she should refer herself today to the panel of independent advisers on the Scottish ministerial code."

Sturgeon said: "It is entirely for Parliament, rightly and properly for Parliament, to decide what it wants to inquire into and look into, and ministers and government officials will, as they do in all inquiries, co-operate fully with that."

She pledged she would consider any request made, including that she refer herself to the panel of independent advisers on the Scottish ministerial code.

She stressed: "I am satisfied that I conducted myself appropriately in line with all of the rules."

Sturgeon added: "The fact of the matter is complaints came forward. The Permanent Secretary was right to investigate those.

"The question of whether behaviour is criminal is a matter for the police, that's not for me to comment. It was for the Scottish Government to investigate whether the behaviour was inappropriate.

"The Scottish Government didn't get that right and that is what in all of this I deeply regret. I am also determined the Government will learn lessons from that."