NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted "no-one is being blocked" from giving evidence to the Alex Salmond inquiry after she was accused of "having something to hide" over the probe.

At First Minister's Questions, Ruth Davidson claimed the Scottish Government's failure to divulge legal advice given during the judicial review against the former First Minister shows contempt for the Scottish Parliament.

Salmond was awarded more than £500,000 after the handling of complaints against him was deemed unlawful.

MSPs voted in favour of a motion on Wednesday to release the advice, the second time in the last month such a vote has passed in Holyrood.

In January, Sturgeon assured MSPs the committee set up to investigate the handling of allegations made against Salmond would receive all the information it required.

Davidson said: "The blunt fact is this – the only reason that she is breaking her promise is because she has something to hide."

In an attempt to uncover what the legal advice contained, the Tory MSP told the chamber what she believed lawyers advised, asking the First Minister to correct her if she was wrong.

"The advice received by the Scottish Government's senior counsel warned that the Scottish Government's handling of the sexual harassment allegations was deeply flawed and that the judicial review would find in favour of Alex Salmond, as it duly went on to do.

"And this advice was proffered to the Scottish Government long before they finally collapsed their own case, running up hundreds of thousands of pounds of bills in the process and utterly failing the women who came forward."

The First Minister refused to address Davidson's assertions about the legal advice, saying it would breach the ministerial code.

She said a process is under way, led by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, to consider if the advice should be revealed, which needs to be approved by law officers.

Sturgeon said: "The ministerial code sets out a process that ministers have to go through should legal advice be divulged and, just to remind the chamber and others watching, the starting point in the ministerial code is that ministers must not divulge the contests of legal advice unless certain tests are fulfilled and we are going through a process right now of consideration of those tests.

"That is the right and proper way to do this.

"Once that process has concluded the Deputy First Minister will update Parliament about the outcome of it."

The First Minister claimed MSPs would attack her and her ministers for breaching the ministerial code should they release the advice without the proper process being undertaken.

Earlier in the exchange, she told the chamber: "We have been co-operating and we will continue to co operate with the inquiry. Nobody is being blocked from giving evidence. I have recused myself from the decisions to this ... as it is partly my conduct the inquiry is looking at."

The inquiry has been asking the First Minister's chief of staff Liz Lloyd to appear before it in person. However, to date she has not appeared.

In August, the Holyrood committee convener Linda Fabiani wrote to the Scottish Government asking Lloyd to appear.

"I also made it clear that the committee was not content for the actions of the First Minister’s Chief of Staff to be added to the timeline of actions by Government officials.

"I have discussed these matters further with the committee. While the committee agrees that a timeline is a helpful reference, it wants to confirm at this point that further evidence from individual officials providing a factual account of their involvement in the development of the policy and in the judicial review, as originally requested, will also be required.

"This includes from the chief of staff. The committee is clear, as stated in my last letter, that civil servants can give evidence to Parliament, in person or in writing, on an individual basis on how their actions contributed to delivery of a particular policy, in this instance the development and use of the complaints procedure. The committee requires a factual account of individual actions, in person and in writing, and will proceed on that basis."

However, Deputy First Minister John Swinney wrote back and insisted the civil service's code of conduct prevents the First Minister's chief of staff from giving her own written and oral evidence to the inquiry.

On Wednesday, the First Minister's government suffered an unprecedented second Holyrood defeat over her refusal to release Scottish Government legal advice to the inquiry.

MSPs backed a Tory motion demanding the advice be disclosed by 65 votes to 55 last night, having already voted 63-54 in favour of release on November 4.

LibDem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton warned Swinney he could now face a personal confidence vote if he continued to withhold the material.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has also said his party may launch legal action if the Government continues to withhold the material.

There were four abstentions in last night's vote – the four SNP MSPs who sit on the Salmond inquiry – convener Fabiani, as well as Alasdair Allan, Angela Constance and Maureen Watt.