NICOLA Sturgeon has apologised to the two civil servants who accused Alex Salmond of harassment. 

In her opening statement to the Holyrood inquiry, the First Minister said they had been failed.

She said her predecessor had told her of his behaviour towards one of the women. Without going into detail, she told the committee it was in her view, “deeply inappropriate”.

Sturgeon also said she had angered her old friend by refusing “to follow the age old pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his status and connections to get what he wants”. 

One of the key charges against the First Minister is about when she knew of the allegations against her predecessor.

Initially, after the Scottish Government conceded the judicial review in January 2019, she told Parliament that she first learned of the Government’s investigation when Salmond told her at a meeting in her Glasgow home on April 2, 2018.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon hits out at Alex Salmond's claims over harassment complaints

However, it later emerged that she met his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein three days earlier on March 29 where he organised the later meeting.  

In her written evidence to the committee, Sturgeon said she had forgotten about this meeting and that it was opportunistic and casual.

Salmond has said this is untenable.

His account was backed up on Tuesday when two senior SNP figures – former party strategist Kevin Pringle, and advocate Duncan Hamilton, a former MSP – told the committee that the First Minister knew about the purpose of the meeting in advance.

This matters because it leads to questions over whether it was party or government business being discussed.

Sturgeon told MSPs there was “no shared understanding on the part of all the participants of the issues for discussion”.

She told the committee: “When he arrived at my house he was insistent that he speak to me entirely privately away from his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein and Duncan Hamilton who had accompanied him, and my chief of staff who was with me. 

“That would have seemed unnecessary had there already been a shared understanding on the part of all of us. He then asked me to read a letter he had received from the Permanent Secretary.

“This letter sets out the fact that complaints of sexual harassment had been made against him by two individuals, it made clear that these complaints were being investigated under the procedure adopted at the end of 2017, and it set out the details of what he was alleged to have done.

“Reading this letter is a moment in my life that I will never forget. And although he denied the allegations, he gave me his account of one of the incidents complained of, which he said he had apologised for at the time.

“What he described constituted in my view, deeply inappropriate behaviour on his part, perhaps another reason why that moment is embedded so strongly in my mind.” 

Sturgeon said she had “no wish to question the sincerity of Geoff’s recollection” about the March meeting, but that it was “clear that my recollection is different and that I did not and do not attach the same significance to that discussion that he has”.

READ MORE: Fury over 'sexist' request to Nicola Sturgeon to apologise for Alex Salmond

The First Minister said Aberdein had indicated “that a harassment type issue had arisen” but in “general terms”.

He had also said Salmond might be considering resigning his party membership. “It was these factors that led me to agree to meet him and it was these factors that placed the meeting on April 2 firmly in the personal and party space,” she said. 

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

The former First Minister had the exercise set aside in January 2019, with a judicial review declaring it “unlawful”.

His supporters have long claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy, which Sturgeon has said is an “absurd” idea.