ALEX Salmond believes allies of Nicola Sturgeon conspired to act against him in a bid to stop him returning to frontline politics by returning to Holyrood as a MSP for Aberdeen Donside, a defence witness in his recent trial has claimed.

Alex Bell, who was a special adviser to the former First Minister, claimed some people around Nicola Sturgeon did not want Salmond to return to the Scottish Parliament after he lost his Westminster seat in June 2017.

Alex Salmond told the court he believed there was a 'conspiracy' against him. He says the details of this will emerge,” said Bell in a newspaper article today. He did not name anyone.

“The conspiracy goes like this: Mark McDonald MSP was caught up in a #MeToo scandal in late 2017 for sending sleazy texts. He stood down as a minister in early November. The speculation at the time was that he may resign his seat and Alex Salmond might run in the by-election.

“By this point Nicola Sturgeon and many in the SNP’s leadership cadre had grown tired of the ex-FM. Sick of keeping his secrets from the membership, they sought to stop him.

“Still on the conspiracy, Sturgeon’s team launched the Scottish Government’s internal inquiry into sexual complaints some days after McDonald resigned his ministerial position. They did this, apparently, knowing it would expose Salmond’s sleaze.”

He went on in his Courier article: “That’s part one of the conspiracy. The second part begins when Salmond attempts to negotiate with Sturgeon. We shall hear a lot more about that in the Salmond fightback yet to come.

“As a conspiracy, it’s too clever to be sensible. Too many variables, too much risk. Though I do accept that, given how events have played out, there’s the possibility stupid people didn’t realise the risks.”

Meanwhile one of Salmond’s supporters, the SNP MSP Alex Neil, has said he should be back at Holyrood where he would “enhance the reputation” of the parliament.

The Former First Minister was cleared of all 13 sexual assault charges he faced on Monday after a two-week trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

He signalled afterwards he would reveal evidence he could not present in court showing there was a concerted effort to discredit him.

He is now writing a book about what he called the ‘nightmare’ of the past two years.

In a separate development, Neil, who has called for a judge-led inquiry into whether Salmond was the victim of a state conspiracy, said the former FM should return to frontline politics.

Salmond lost his Gordon seat at Westminster in 2017 and resigned from the SNP in August 2018.

Party rules say he must wait until August this year before he can reapply for membership.

It is possible that if he is readmitted to the party he could be selected for the Holyrood 2021 election. Currently the SNP’s selection process for candidates has been suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

There is no date yet when it will recommence.

The rules also say that because he publicly announced his resignation, his application to rejoin would have to be approved by the SNP’s ruling National Executive Committee.

Neil and another supporter of Salmond, MP Joanna Cherry QC, have said the former First Minister should be readmitted to the party he once led as soon as possible.

Neil, a former health secretary, told the Daily Record: “I do not see why Alex should not be back in the party. He was acquitted of all charges. The SNP cannot ignore someone of his talents and achievements. I would be happy for Alex to be back at Holyrood.

“He nearly led Scotland to independence. He would absolutely enhance the reputation of the Parliament. He’s a heavyweight.”

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously declined to comment on claims of a conspiracy against Salmond while she focuses work on combatting the coronavirus. She has said she will co-operate with any inquiries that follow Salmond’s trial and will address any claims then.