NICOLA Sturgeon played a key role in framing the Scottish Government harassment policy that was used against Alex Salmond, official documents have revealed.

Material sent to the Holyrood inquiry into the Salmond affair shows the First Minister and her aides ensured the policy would apply to “former ministers” as well as serving ones.

Ms Sturgeon told her top official  she “wanted to make clear” the policy was not “constrained by the passage of time” and should include the “particular aspect” of former ministers.

The Government also admitted it shared a draft version of the policy with a woman who later lodged a complaint against Mr Salmond before it was finalised.

The UK Cabinet Office said it felt "very uncomfortable" about the policy.

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The details appear in a cache of more than 150 documents uploaded to the Scottish Government’s website.

The same material has gone to MSPs investigating the way the Government botched its in-house probe of two sexual misconduct complaints made against Mr Salmond in 2018.

After the investigation concluded, Mr Salmond took the Government to court and successfully overturned the findings in a judicial review at the Court of Session.

The Government admitted in 2019 its probe was unfair, unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, as the investigating official had been in prior contact with Mr Salmond’s accusers.

The fiasco cost taxpayers £500,000 to cover the former First Minister’s legal bills.

It also sowed the seeds of the bitter split between Mr Salmond and his successor, and prompted his resignation from the SNP after 45 years as a member.

Separately, Mr Salmond was later charged with sexual assaults - he was cleared of all 13 counts this March.

He and his supporters claim he was the victim of a plot by Ms Sturgeon’s inner circle to stop his return to frontline politics, where he could potentially rival her.

Ms Sturgeon has dismissed the conspiracy theory as a “heap of nonsense”.

The cross-party committee is considering how the Government messed up its probe, and whether Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial by staying in touch with Mr Salmond while he was being investigated by her own officials.

Ahead of the committee taking evidence from witnesses on oath next month, it has asked the Government for details of how it devised the harassment policy which was applied to Mr Salmond within weeks of it being drawn up.

In a chronology supplied to the committee, the government said it reviewed its harassment policy in late 2017 in light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the #MeToo movement, and complaints against senior figures at Westminster. 

The Government said that “against this backdrop of concern that the First Minister wished to be assured that all available steps were being taken within government to protect staff”. 

It said: “The First Minister wanted reassurance that the Scottish Government’s internal policies and procedures remained fit for purpose in this context.”

In a rare step, the Government released a minute of a Scottish Cabinet meeting of 31 October 2017 at which Ms Sturgeon raised the issue.

The minute said: “The First Minister introduced a discussion concerning recent allegations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate conduct by individuals holding elected office in the UK and Scottish Parliaments. 

“It appeared that such behaviour was representative of a culture that had gone unchallenged in many workplaces for a long period of time. 

“If the right actions were taken now to ensure zero tolerance of such unacceptable behaviours and that every workplace had robust procedures in place to address them, then this could be a watershed moment which would provide the catalyst for the cultural change that was necessary to change these deep-rooted behaviours once and for all. 

“While there was no suggestion that the current arrangements were ineffective, the First Minister had also asked the Permanent Secretary to undertake a review of the Scottish Government’s policies and processes to ensure that they were fit for purpose.” 

The Government said this review identified that “while options were available to consider potential sexual harassment complaints about serving Ministers, no such option was available in respect of former Ministers.

“Those involved in the review process identified that there was a gap in the coverage in terms of having a procedure that could be deployed should any historical complaints arise in Scotland.”

It said the first version of a policy that could be applied to former ministers was created on 7 November 2017, then broadended to include current ministers.

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The Scottish Government’s top official, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, “kept the First Minister briefed on the review”.

On 17 November 2017,  an unidentified person in the UK Cabinet Office emailed a senior official in the Scottish Government to say they felt “very uncomfortable to be highlighting a process for complaints about Ministers and former ministers”.

However latter that day, Ms Sturgeon’s office ran a draft text of the policy past Ms Evans before it was sent to Ms Sturgeon for approval.

On 22 November 2017, Ms Sturgeon sent Ms Evans a formal record of her decision.

The letter said: “As is clear from the continued media focus on cases of sexual harassment, in many instances, people are now making complaints regarding actions that took place some time ago. “I wanted to make clear that in taking forward your review, and the new arrangements

being developed, you should not be constrained by the passage of time. 

“I would like you to consider ways in which we are able to address if necessary any concerns from staff – should any be raised - about the conduct of current Scottish Government Ministers and also former Ministers, including from previous administrations regardless of party. 

“While I appreciate that the conduct of former Ministers would not be covered by the current Ministerial Code, I think it fair and reasonable that any complaints raised about their actions while they held office are considered against the standards expected of Ministers. 

“I would be grateful for confirmation that this particular aspect is being included as part of the review you are leading.”  

The Government’s chronology said Ms Sturgeon signed off the policy on 20 December.

The Government also revealed that in late 2017, after Ms Evans told staff about the review of harassment procedures, a female civil servant referred raised an issue of concern, which later developed into a formal complaint against Mr Salmond.

The Government said Ms A was sent a draft of the complaints procedure “for information” but did not comment on offer any comments on the draft.