LABOUR, Tory and LibDem members of the Holyrood inquiry probing the Scottish Government’s botched handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond have called for the expansion of a separate investigation into whether or not Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code.

James Hamilton, a former director of public prosecutions in Ireland, was tasked with investigating the First Minister’s actions.

Sturgeon triggered the inspection in January 2019 by referring herself to the independent advisers on the Ministerial Code, after it was claimed she had broken the guidelines by failing to swiftly declare the three meetings and two phone calls with Salmond about the harassment complaints.

Scottish Government rules say that when discussing official business “any significant content” should be reported back to private offices.

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Now MSPs have formally written to the John Swinney urging him to expand the investigator’s remit to include allegations that Sturgeon misled Parliament about when she first knew that the government was investigating complaints.

Speaking to the BBC yesterday, Swinney said it was wrong to suggest Hamilton’s investigation was limited, pointing to a Holyrood question in November, where he said the probe could take “evidence and reporting on other aspects of the Ministerial Code that he deems to be relevant".

But in their letter, the MSPs said that as Hamilton is “engaged in a quasi-judicial process, he cannot indulge in mission creep and that the remit may only be formally expanded by an official directive from your government".

One of the MSPs to sign the letter, Alex Cole-Hamilton of the LibDems, said: “From what we have heard from the current and former First Ministers so far it is clear their versions of events cannot both be true.

“Either Nicola Sturgeon knowingly misled Parliament about when she first knew that her government was investigating complaints against her predecessor, or Mr Salmond may be fabricating his assertions in an effort to damage Ms Sturgeon.

“We believe it to be of paramount importance to the national interest that the facts of the matter are established.

“If the First Minister has been honest with parliament, she has nothing to fear from widening this probe and everything to gain in putting the matter to rest.”

In an interview with the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland, Swinney said the public knows the First Minister “to be an honest and candid individual who sets out the position as it is”.

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Asked if Sturgeon would have to resign if she was found to have broken the ministerial code, Swinney said: “The First Minister will set out clearly and openly and transparently all that she’s got to say on this issue and I’m very confident in the points the First Minister will put across.

“The First Minister looks forward to the opportunity to set out in detail all of the views and perspectives that she has on this issue to put to rest some of the absolute nonsense that has been circulating about this particular issue.

“We’ve got to remember that we faced a very difficult situation of having to investigate complaints about inappropriate behaviour, a lot of which have now been conceded by Alex Salmond in court, and that issue had to be addressed.

“An incredibly difficult situation, and the First Minister will set out exactly her perspective when it comes to all of the relevant inquiries on this issue.”

On Friday night details of Salmond’s submission to Hamilton’s investigation were leaked.

He accused his successor of misleading the Holyrood inquiry, calling her evidence “simply untrue” and “untenable”.