NICOLA Sturgeon has accused Alex Salmond of living in an “alternative reality” in which he is the victim of a grand conspiracy because he can’t accept “issues in his own behaviour”.

The First Minister also said that while her predecessor had been cleared of  13 counts of sexual assault in the court last year, that didn’t mean that the behaviour the women complained about “didn’t happen”.

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

Salmond had been due in front of Holyrood’s harassment committee in the morning but pulled out 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”.

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

The First Minister said she looked forward to appearing before the committee next week.

She added: “And Alex Salmond may be 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.”

Answering a question about the complainants, she said she worried their voices had been silenced: “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.”