NICOLA Sturgeon should resign as First Minister if she is shown to have misled the Scottish Parliament over the Alex Salmond affair, an MSP has said.

Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton, who sits on the Holyrood inquiry into the scandal, said the First Minister “may not have been entirely straight with her answers to parliament”.

The Edinburgh Western MSP said a separate investigation into whether Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code should be expanded to look at whether she misled MSPs.

“If she has, then that’s a resignation matter,” he said.

Mr Cole-Hamilton and other MSPs on a special Holyrood committee are investigating how the Scottish Government bungled a probe into claims of sexual misconduct made against Mr Salmond in 2018.

The former First Minister had the exercise set aside in court by showing it was “tainted by apparent bias”, a Government error that left taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his costs.

After the Government’s case collapsed in January 2019, Ms Sturgeon told parliament she had had three meetings and two calls with Mr Salmond while he was under investigation.

She said the first of these was on 2 April 2018 at her home in Glasgow, and that Mr Salmond informed her he was being investigated by her officials.

However it later emerged at Mr Salmond’s separate criminal trial, at which he was acquitted of sexual assault, that Ms Sturgeon was alerted to the probe four days earlier.

Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, testified that he has spoken to Ms Sturgeon about it in her Holyrood office on 29 March 2018.

The Scottish Government did not formally confirm this meeting until August this year.

In her written evidence to the Holyrood inquiry, Ms Sturgeon said she had “forgotten” about her meeting with Mr Aberdein, despite the explosive content, as it had been “in the midst of a busy day” after FMQs. 

She said: “I had forgotten that this encounter had taken place until I was reminded of it in, I think, late January/early February 2019. 

“From what I recall, the discussion covered the fact that Alex Salmond wanted to see me urgently about a serious matter, and I think it did cover the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature. 

“The impression I had at this time was that Mr Salmond was in a state of considerable distress, and that he may be considering resigning his party membership.”

At last week’s FMQs, Holyrood Tory leader Ruth Davidson said that was “beyond belief”.

Ms Sturgeon also claimed the meeting with Aberdein was “somehow overwritten in my mind” by her later meeting with Mr Salmond himself at her home.

Writing in the Edinburgh Evening News, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “I struggle with this account. 

“Many times, the First Minister has defined her relationship with Salmond as ‘the most important outside of her family – a mentor of 30 years’.

“Think of anyone that important to you and now imagine being told for the first time that they were under investigation for sexual assault.

"I doubt it’s a meeting you’d forget.

“When the allegations first came to light in 2018, Andrew Marr asked the FM on camera – ‘Had you heard stories about him before it broke in the press?’ 

“To which she replied, unequivocally ‘absolutely not’.

“Yet her written evidence to our committee states she had been told in 2017 about an alleged incident at Edinburgh Airport which Salmond had denied.

"She states that it left her with a ‘lingering concern’ that other allegations could arise.

“All of this suggests that the First Minister may not have been entirely straight with her answers to parliament and that matters. 

“The remit of her self-referral for investigation over a potential breach of the Ministerial Code is currently tasked to look only at her meetings with Salmond.

"That’s why I’ve asked for the remit to be expanded to look at her actions under Section 1(c) of the code, to ascertain whether she has misled parliament. 

“If she has, then that’s a resignation matter.”

Ms Sturgeon also told the parliament in January 2019 that she had met Mr Salmond at her home in her capacity as SNP leader, not in her role as First Minister.

However if she knew in advance, from Mr Aberdein, that Mr Salmond wanted to discuss a Government investigation, her statement no longer holds water.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The First Minister stands by what she has said to Parliament and by her written evidence to the committee, and looks forward to answering questions at the committee when they decide to ask her to appear.”