NICOLA Sturgeon’s husband has defended sending messages backing more police and prosecution action against Alex Salmond.

SNP chief executive Peter Murrell admitted expressing himself poorly, but blamed his “shock, hurt and upset” over the party’s former leader being charged with sexual assault. 

Mr Murrell is facing calls to resign over the messages, which were sent the day after Mr Salmond was charged at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 24 January 2019.

The messages were recently leaked to SNP MP Kenny MacAskill, who then forwarded them to the Holyrood inquiry into the Salmond affair. Police are investigating that leak.

Mr Salmond’s supporters cite the messages are evidence of a high-level conspiracy to ruin Mr Salmond and stop him making a political comeback and rivalling his successor.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has also said they leave Mr Murrell’s “position as chief executive of the SNP completely untenable”. 

MSPs are investigating the Scottish Government’s botched probe into sexual misconduct claims made against Mr Salmond in 2018.

The former First Minister had the exercise set aside in a judicial review by showing it was “tainted by apparent bias”, leaving taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his costs.

Shortly after winning his civil legal action, Mr Salmond was charged with sexual assault leading to a trial this year at which he was acquitted on all 13 counts. 

Last week, Ms Sturgeon refused to say if Mr Murrell’s leaked messages were genuine.

“I do not think that it is reasonable.. to be asked questions about things that other people might or might not have done,” she said. 

“Call the people who the messages are purported to come from and ask them the questions; call me and I will answer for myself.”

But in new evidence to the Holyrood inquiry, her husband confirmed they were genuine, but were text messages, rather than WhatsApp messages as reported in the media.

He said they were between him and “another individual”, and had been “presented in a way that suggests a meaning that they do not in reality have”. 

Although outwith the inquiry’s remit, he suggested it would “helpful” to give an explanation. 

The first message read: “Totally agree folk should be asking the police questions… report now with the PF [procurator fiscal] on charges which leaves police twiddling their thumbs. 

“So good time to be pressurising them. Would be good to know Met looking at events in London.”

Mr Murrell said both messages were sent the day after Mr Salmond was charged in court, but did not explain why he had used the word “pressuring” or why it would be “good to know” the Metropolitan Police were looking at events in London, or what “events” he had mind.

He wrote: “In the aftermath of this, the SNP was contacted by individuals who had specific, personal questions in relation to that criminal case. 

“My intention was to advise that their questions should be addressed to the Police and not the SNP. 

“I acknowledge that I did not express myself well but I suggest that in the context of such a criminal case, directing people to the Police was the only responsible thing to advise.” 

Mr Murrell’s second message read: “TBH [to be honest] the more fronts he is having to firefight on the better for all complainers. 

“So CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] action would be a good thing.”

Mr Murrell told the inquiry: “In relation to the second message, this has been presented as following on immediately from the first. That is inaccurate. 

“However, my intended meaning was that any and all complaints should be appropriately investigated. 

“The tone of it is a reflection of the shock, hurt and upset that I, and so many others in the SNP, felt that day given the events that had unfolded in court the previous day. 

“As most people will appreciate, the immediacy of text messages lend themselves to informal, shorthand forms of expression but, even so, I would wish on reflection to have expressed myself more appropriately.”

Mr Murrell also insisted he did not if his wife used her SNP email account for Government business, despite the release of Government files establishing last year that she did.

He said the committee should take it up with the First Minister instead.

He said: “I am not aware of any instances of this account being used for Scottish Government business. 

“I note that you have since drawn my attention to an FoI [Freedom of Information response] on this subject and to media reporting. 

“However, with respect, questions about use of this email account can only be addressed by Nicola Sturgeon, and indeed I note that you have asked for evidence from her on this point.

“In addition, as I indicated in my earlier response, I am not a member of the Scottish Government and cannot be expected to know what is government business and what is not.”

Mr Murrell first made a submission to the inquiry on 4 August, but it wrote back to him asking for more information after MSPs were unhappy about the quality of his evidence.

In his second statement, he insisted: “For clarity, I do not accept that I or the SNP have acted in any way other than to cooperate with the Committee to the fullest extent possible."