ALEX Salmond has said that a key statement made by Nicola Sturgeon to the Holyrood inquiry investigating the Scottish Government's botched handling of sexual assault claims made against him was "simply untrue".

In a submission to James Hamilton, who's investgating whether or not the First Minister broke the ministeral code, the former first minister accuses his successor of misleading parliament and repeatedly breaching the rules.  

Labour and the Tories said the First Minister would have to stand down if Salmond's "bombshell" allegations were true.

A spokesman for Sturgeon "entirely rejected" the claims, and accused Salmond of "spinning false conspiracy theories".

Sources close to Salmond told The National he is angry that his testimony has been called a personal attack on Sturgeon.

The source said: "He was asked by the Committee to provide his evidence and that is what he has done, no more no less."

In January 2019, the Scottish Government conceded its investigation of Salmond had been unlawful and tainted by bias. It was forced to pay the ex-SNP leader £512,000 in costs.

After the judgment Sturgeon told parliament that she became aware of the government’s investigation of the allegations against Salmond when he told her at a meeting in her Glasgow home on April 2, 2018.

However, it later emerged that she met Geoff Aberdein, Salmond’s former chief of staff, in her office on March 29, 2018.

In her evidence to the cross-party Holyrood inquiry, Sturgeon said she had forgotten that meeting. 

She said: “However, from what I recall, the discussion 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."

However, in his submission Salmond says this is "untenable".

He said that the meeting had been arranged after Aberdein was told of two allegations by Sturgeon's chief of staff - before Sturgeon claims to have learned about it.

His submission adds: "The fact that Mr Aberdein learned of these complaints in early March 2018 from the Chief of Staff to the First Minister who thereafter arranged for the meeting between Mr Aberdein and the First Minister on 29th March to discuss them, is supported by his sharing that information contemporaneously with myself, Kevin Pringle and Duncan Hamilton, Advocate.

"In her written submission to the Committee, the First Minister has subsequently admitted to that meeting on 29th March 2018, claiming to have previously ‘forgotten’ about it.

"That is, with respect, untenable."

He adds: “The pre-arranged meeting in the Scottish parliament of March 29, 2018 was ‘forgotten’ about because acknowledging it would have rendered ridiculous the claim made by the First Minister in parliament that it had been believed that the meeting on April 2 was on SNP party business and thus held at her private residence,” he said.

“All participants in that meeting were fully aware of what the meeting was about and why it had been arranged. The meeting took place with a shared understanding of the issues for discussion — the complaints made and the Scottish Government procedure which had been launched. The First Minister’s claim that it was ever thought to be about anything other than the complaints made against me is wholly false.”

He said Holyrood had been "repeatedly misled" about the nature of a meeting between the two at Sturgeon's home.

He said: "The First Minister’s claim that it was ever thought to be about anything other than the complaints made against me is wholly false.

"The repeated representation to the Parliament of the meeting on the 2nd April 2018 as being a ‘party’ meeting because it proceeded in ignorance of the complaints is false and manifestly untrue." 

He also claims she had offered to intervene in the Government's complaints process, which the First Minister has repeatedly denied. 

He said: "The First Minister’s position on this is simply untrue. She did initially offer to intervene, in the presence of all those at the First Minister's house on the 2nd April 2018.

"Moreover, she did engage in following the process of the complaint and indeed reported the status of that process to me personally."

Salmond also says Sturgeon allowed the Scottish Government to contest a civil court case against him despite having had legal advice that it was likely to collapse.

His submission says that “at the very latest, by October 31, 2018, the government and the First Minister knew of legal advice . . . that on the balance of probability they would lose the judicial review and be found to have acted unlawfully.

“Despite this the legal action was continued until early January 2019 and was only conceded after both government external counsel threatened to resign from the case which they considered to be unstateable.”

A spokesman for Sturgeon said the First Minister “entirely rejected Salmond’s claims that she has broken the ministerial code.

“We should always remember that the roots of this issue lie in complaints made by women about Alex Salmond’s behaviour whilst he was first minister, aspects of which he has conceded.

“It is not surprising therefore that he continues to try to divert focus from that by seeking to malign the reputation of the first minister and by spinning false conspiracy theories.

"The First Minister is concentrating on fighting the pandemic, stands by what she has said, and will address these matters in full when she appears at committee in the coming weeks.”

It's understood, Salmond’s seven-page submission was not made directly to the Holyrood inquiry, but to James Hamilton, the independent adviser on the Scottish ministerial code, and then shared with MSPs.

The Scottish Tories said, if proved correct, the allegations should mean Sturgeon's resignation. 

Douglas Ross said: “Alex Salmond, the very person who knows exactly what Nicola Sturgeon did behind the scenes and precisely what happened in their meetings, has now said she ‘misled’ the Scottish Parliament and ‘broke’ the Ministerial Code.

“There are witnesses and there appears to be a mountain of evidence that confirms Nicola Sturgeon knew of the allegations before she claimed to find out.

“Nobody ever bought Nicola Sturgeon’s tall tales to have suddenly turned forgetful, especially about the devastating moment she found out of sexual harassment allegations against her friend and mentor of 30 years.

“What has been revealed are allegations of shocking, deliberate and corrupt actions at the heart of government. There is now clear evidence of Nicola Sturgeon abusing her power to deceive the Scottish public.

“If this proves to be correct, it is a resignation matter. 

“No First Minister, at any time, can be allowed to get away with repeatedly and blatantly lying to the Scottish Parliament and breaking the Ministerial Code.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader and Committee member Jackie Baillie said: “Alex Salmond’s explosive allegations demand answers from the First Minister to the Committee.

“The bombshell accusation that Nicola Sturgeon has broken the Ministerial Code has the potential to end her political career and demands a robust and honest answer from the First Minister.

“This Committee demands truthfulness and honesty from every witness it calls – it is vital that the First Minister tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when she appears before the Committee.”