SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has been accidentally dropped in it by her own husband who, under oath, gave testimony which contradicts her previous claims and infers that she broke ministerial code, withheld evidence, and lied to the Scottish Parliament.
Peter Murrell, the chief executive of the SNP, said it wasn’t true that text messages he sent urging police and prosecution action against Mr Salmond were evidence of a conspiracy.
“It’s not true, no. Of course it’s not true,” he told MSPs this morning.
He said the text messages were “out of character” and a once-in-40 year lapse in language caused by him being upset at the time after a sleepless night.
The aggressive messages are seen by Mr Salmond’s supporters as evidence of a high-level plot to stop him making a political comeback and rivalling his successor.
Mr Murrell made the denial under oath as he gave oral evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Salmond affair this morning.
The cross-party inquiry is looking into how the Scottish Government botched a probe into sexual misconduct claims levelled against Mr Salmond in 2018.
Mr Salmond had it set aside in a judicial review, showing it had been “tainted by apparent bias” from the start, a flaw that left taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his costs.
Yet, as the Scottish Conservatives were quick to point-out, parts of Mr Murrell’s sworn testimony contradicted statements made by Nicola Sturgeon.
After the Government’s defence collapsed, Ms Sturgeon revealed she had had three meetings and two phone calls with Mr Salmond while he was being investigated.
She said the first contact was on 2 April 2018, when Mr Salmond came to the Glasgow home she shares with Mr Murrell.
However it later emerged Ms Sturgeon had been warned by Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, about the issue in her Holyrood office four days earlier, 29 March.
The First Minister has claimed she forgot about the meeting with Mr Aberdein as it was a busy Thursday, and it had been eclipsed in her mind by the 2 April meeting.
Opposition parties have ridiculed Ms Sturgeon for her apparent memory lapse, and say she should resign if she misled parliament.
Ih her written evidence, Ms Sturgeon said she agreed to the 2 April meeting with Mr Salmond as “I believed that what he was about to tell me may require a public response from the SNP. Indeed, I suspected that he may be about to resign from the SNP.”
But in his written evidence, Mr Murrell said he only became aware that complaints had been made against Mr Salmond when the media revealed the Government probe in August 2018.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton told Mr Murrell to his face that that he found parts of his account “incredible” and “hard to believe”.
Mr Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Surely the fact that she [Ms Sturgeon] knew four days before her meeting on the second of April that Mrt Salmond was going to come some pretty strong information that was going to cause damage to the SNP… I’m sorry, I just find it incredible that you didn’t have a discussion prior to either of those meetings so that you could at least lay the groundwork for an SNP response to that.”
Mr Murrell said: “There’s no groundwork that you could have laid for that event. She’s set it out in her own evidence and that’s just the truth of it. It wasn’t something we discussed prior to it. I really wasn’t aware that he was coming to the house.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton told him: “I’m sorry, Mr Murrell, I find it hard to believe. It just really jars with me. Take my party, we’re the smallest party in Scotland [at Holyrood].
“We’ve got mechanisms for dealing with bad news. We always prepare an internal comms strategy, an external comms strategy, risk follow-up, lots of different things.
“I just find it difficult that you are one half of Scotland’s most powerful couple and this is not a conversation that passed over the breakfast table in those four days prior to the second of April.”