NICOLA Sturgeon has accused Alex Salmond and a Conservative MP who made serious allegations against her as being part of an “old boys’ club”.

The First Minister also referred to David Davis as being an “old pal” of her predecessor who had used his position in the Commons to spread “conspiracy theories”.

In heated exchanges at First Minister’s Questions, Sturgeon also called on Tory MSP Ruth Davidson to stop listening to Salmond and his “cronies”.

A Holyrood committee is investigating the Scottish Government’s mishandling of sexual misconduct complaints against Salmond when he was First Minister.

READ MORE: Ruth Davidson has checked out of FMQs as she gets ready for Lords role

Salmond pursued a judicial review and the court ruled the Government investigation had been unlawful and tainted by apparent bias. He was awarded more than £500,000 in legal costs by the Government.

MSPs are preparing to publish their report into what went wrong in the Government’s investigation, with Salmond and Sturgeon both appearing in person, for six and eight hours respectively, before the committee in recent weeks.

The former First Minister believes Sturgeon’s allies were involved in attempts to remove him from public life and even have him sent to jail, while she has accused him of “inhabiting an alternative reality” and pursuing false conspiracy claims.

The drama escalated this week after Davis used parliamentary privilege to put into the public domain messages that Salmond told the committee show a plot against him.

Also at FMQs, Davidson raised a claim made by Davis that a government legal document had been suppressed during Salmond’s successful legal challenge to the investigation and asked whether Sturgeon knew it had happened.

The National:

The First Minister replied: “It didn’t happen.”

In a blistering attack on Davis and Salmond, Sturgeon said: “Having David Davis, a Tory MP reading out in the House of Commons, under the protection of parliamentary privilege, his old pal Alex Salmond’s conspiracy theories about the sexual harassment allegations against him must be the very epitome of the old boys’ club.

“Anyone who chooses to cheer that on should not pretend to have the interests of the women concerned at heart.”

Davidson accused the Scottish Government of proceeding with an attempted cover-up after warnings emerged it could look “shifty” if information was withheld during Salmond’s legal challenge.

Sturgeon was asked about an email exchange in which the Government was told not disclosing the ultimately-damning evidence of prior contact between the two civil servants who made the complaints and the investigating officer could be “portrayed as a failed attempt at a cover-up”.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon hits out after leak of Alex Salmond inquiry report

Davidson asked Sturgeon: “Why did the Government go ahead with the attempt of the cover-up anyway?”

The First Minister replied: “What she has just quoted, what that actually means is counsel saying to Government: ‘Here are things we should hand over and we should hand them over – I think actually it was amend pleadings, although I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong on that – rather than have any suggestion that we’re trying to cover it up.’

“So what did we do? We amended the pleadings.”

After he won the judicial review, Salmond faced criminal charges and was last year acquitted in the High Court in Edinburgh of all 13 sexual offence charges against him.

An inquiry by James Hamilton QC, a former director of public prosecutions in Ireland, into whether the First Minister broke the Ministerial Code is expected to be published shortly.

She has denied breaching the code.