NICOLA Sturgeon has suggested that Alex Salmond is attempting to shift the focus of an inquiry into the botched handling of complaints onto her when the former First Minister “didn’t always behave”.

The First Minister, who has been accused by opponents of attempting to frustrate a Holyrood inquiry investigating the handling of complaints against Mr Salmond, has stressed that her predecessor's conduct could not be “brushed under the carpet”.

Speaking on Sky New’s Ridge on Sunday show, Ms Sturgeon said that it was “age old” that when a man is accused of misconduct against women, “often it’s a woman that end up answering for them”.

Ms Sturgeon reiterated her stance that “I have nothing to hide in all of this”.

She added: “I faced a situation where complaints were raised about my predecessor and the Scottish Government tried to investigate those complaints. It made a mistake in how it applied its process and there's a parliamentary inquiry into all of that just now.

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“At the heart of this, and it pains me to say this, because this is somebody I have worked with and cared about for a long time and I know this is difficult for my party, but this all came to light because complaints were raised about Alex Salmond.

“He was cleared of any criminal conduct but in the course of that, there were admissions about his conduct made along the way – that's what’s at the heart of this.

“It’s age-old that when complaints are made against people, there’s an attempt to try and shift the story about conspiracy. This is complaints that were made about him and that’s important to remember.”

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The First Minister hit out at suggestions from within her own party that she has conspired against Mr Salmond – with SNP MP Kenny Macaskill claiming “dark forces” had been at play.

Ms Sturgeon said: “All I’ve tried to do all along is make sure complaints about senior people in politics can’t be brushed under the carpet as would have happened for generations.

“This was an issue of Alex Salmond’s conduct here. Yes, he’s been cleared of criminal charges but there were concerns raised that suggests he didn’t always behave in this respect as he should have done.”

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The First Minister also suggested that Mr Salmond is “angry” at her because she refused to collude with him and attempt to suppress the allegations.

She added: “I understand that for Alex Salmond, it probably is better for the focus of this to be on people wanting to believe that there was a big conspiracy against him as opposed to the focus being on his conduct.

“I can understand why people in my party might want an alternative explanation for all of this. I might like to think there’s an alternative explanation other than maybe at time he didn’t behave as he should have done – but I’m afraid that’s not the case.

“It’s age old here that man accused of misconduct against women and often it’s a woman that ends up answering for them.

“At every stage I’ve tried to do the right thing and not cover it up. I think the reason perhaps he is angry with me, and he clearly is angry with me, is that I didn’t cover it up – I didn’t collude with him to make these allegations go away. Perhaps that is at the route of why he is as annoyed as he appears to be.”