NICOLA Sturgeon has said there is no good reason for Alex Salmond to not appear before Holyrood’s harassment inquiry. 

The First Minister also described as “dangerous” and “damaging” claims that the Scottish Government put pressure on the Crown Office to call for her predecessor’s evidence to the committee to be deleted. 

She said Salmond seemed to be keen to spread conspiracy theories while at the same time avoiding scrutiny. 

Sturgeon also said that while her predecessor had been cleared of criminal charges in the court last year, that didn't mean that the behaviour the women complained about "didn't happen".

READ MORE: Alex Salmond demands answers from Lord Advocate over evidence censorship

The First Minister’s daily coronavirus briefing was derailed by the row, with journalist after journalist pushing the SNP leader on this week’s dramatic developments.

Earlier in the day Salmond had demanded the Crown Office reveal if they were instructed to put pressure on parliament to redact his evidence. 

He was due to be in front of Holyrood’s harassment committee this morning but pulled out yesterday after a last-minute intervention from prosecutors saw chunks of his written submission to the ministerial code probe censored. 

The decision to edit Salmond's evidence came after the Crown Office told the parliament they had “grave concerns”.

It was briefly taken offline on Tuesday morning before being uploaded later in the day with the changes.

Information redacted or not published cannot be considered by the committee for their final report, which ultimately means it cannot be raised during the evidence session with Salmond or Sturgeon.

The National: Alex Salmond: "This would be a good innovation".

He has previously tied his appearance to the publication of the submission.

Salmond is now likely to appear before the committee on Friday.

His legal team are taking time “to consider the full implications" of the decision to redact five of the 33 sections of his submission.

Sturgeon said any suggestion that the Crown Office’s decisions were in any way politically influenced were “downright wrong”.

“But I would suggest that they go further than that,” she added, “that they actually start to buy into a false, and quite dangerous conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact.

The First Minister later added: “The idea that any decision of the Crown Office around what they do to uphold or enforce the law is politically driven or influenced is just down right wrong and nobody who is responsible I think should be making that claim.

“This is about one element of evidence that I don't think inhibits what I can be asked about and I don't see why it inhibits Alex Salmond's ability to sit before that committee.

“He's put reams of evidence before that committee much of it ... well, I'll say what I think of it when I get to the committee myself. 

“There's no good reason why isn't sitting in front of the committee right now. And I understand he said he'll go later in the week, let's hope he does, and then we can get all this out in the open, all of it on to the table. I'll have my say next week. And then people can make up their minds.”

She said the one piece of evidence redacted by the SPCB was still, in its full unredacted form, with James Hamilton’s separate investigation into whether or not she broke the ministerial code.

“So the idea that scrutiny of me has been inhibited in any way shape or form is wrong. There is no reason why I can't sit before that committee, answer questions, fully in detail openly for as long as the committee wants. And frankly, there's no reason why Alex Salmond cannot do the same. 

“So perhaps he should just get himself in front of it, we can both have our say, people can make up their own minds, and then I'll get on with my job of leading the country through the pandemic, and hopefully out the other end of it.”

She added: “There was no conspiracy theory and I sometimes think that the preference perhaps of Mr Salmond is to continue to make those claims without ever subjecting them to the proper scrutiny of the parliamentary committee looking into them. 

“So I hope he proves me wrong on that by getting himself in front of the committee in early course. 

“And then I look forward to appearing next week. Next week I think is the sixth date I've had in my diary  to appear before this committee. Every one before now has been postponed by the committee and the last few because Alex Salmond has not agreed to appear.” 

She added: “And Alex Salmond, well, you know, maybe creating an alternative reality in which the organs of the state, not just me and the SNP and the civil service and the Crown Office and the police and women who came forward, were all part of some wild conspiracy against him for reasons I can't explain, maybe that's easier than just accepting that at the root of all this might just have been issues in his own behaviour.

“But that's for him to explain if he ever decides to pitch up and sit in front of the committee."

Responding to a question on the women who complained about Salmond, the First Minister said she worried their voices had been silenced and their motives maligned.

“And I think that is wrong. They came forward with complaints. The behaviour they complained of was found by a jury not to constitute criminal conduct and Alex Salmond is innocent of criminality, but that doesn't mean that the behaviour they claimed didn't happen, and I think it's important that we don't lose sight of that.

“And when I've said that before people have said, 'you're hiding behind the women'. I'm not hiding behind anybody, if anything, I'm standing up for the right of women to come forward and for claims to be taken seriously.”

The cross-party harassment committee is investigating the Scottish Government’s flawed probe into allegations of misconduct made against Salmond by two civil servants. 

He had the exercise set aside in January 2019, with a judicial review declaring it “unlawful” and “tainted by bias”. 

The Government’s botched handling ultimately cost the taxpayer half a million pounds. 

At a later criminal case, the former-SNP leader was cleared on 13 counts of sexual assault.