THE Scottish Government is pleading ignorance about the bombshell meeting at which Nicola Sturgeon was told of sexual misconduct claims against Alex Salmond.

The Government has claimed it “holds no information” about the incident, despite Nicola Sturgeon being forced to talk at length about it at Holyrood.

The Government even claimed not to know where the meeting took place, despite the First Minister already stating it was “in my office at the Scottish Parliament”.

The Government also failed to address a claim that the meeting was later “removed” from the FM’s diary.

After Labour MSP Jackie Baillie tabled five written questions about the incident, she received the same “no information” answer to them all from parliament minister Graeme Dey.

Ms Baillie, who sits on the Holyrood inquiry into the Salmond affair, said it showed a “pervasive culture of secrecy” and the Government's willingness to take extreme measures to protect the First Minister.

The inquiry is looking at how the Scottish Government botched a probe into sexual misconduct claims levelled against Mr Salmond in 2018.

The former first minister had the exercise overturned in a judicial review, showing it was “tainted by apparent bias”, a flaw that left taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his costs.

After the Government’s case fell apart in January 2019, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs she had three meetings and two calls with Mr Salmond while he was investigated by her officials.

She said the first was on April 2, 2018 at her home in Glasgow, where Mr Salmond told her himself that he was under investigation.

However it later emerged at Mr Salmond’s trial, where he was acquitted of sexual assault, that Ms Sturgeon was alerted to the probe four days earlier, on March 29, 2018.

She was told by Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, in a meeting in her Holyrood office.

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

Her failure to mention the meeting to MSPs has led to claims, which she denies, that she misled parliament, which one MSP has said would be a “resignation matter” if correct.

Last month, Ms Baillie tabled her written questions to get to the bottom of the matter.

She asked when the meeting was first placed in the ministerial diary, by whom and whose instruction; when it was removed from the ministerial diary, by whom and on whose instruction; where the meeting took pace; the purpose of the meeting and who arranged it; and whether there were any prior meetings between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Aberdein, and if so what was discussed. 

In reply to the first question, Mr Dey said: “The Scottish Government holds no information.”

In reply to the rest, he then referred Ms Baillie to his answer to the first question.

Ms Baillie said: “This is just the latest example of the pervasive culture of secrecy in the Scottish Government and the lengths to which they will go to protect the reputation of the First Minister.

“By failing to answer these legitimate and necessary questions, the Scottish Government has displayed a contempt for transparency and utter disdain for the work of the Committee.

“This is symbolic of the obstruction that the Committee has faced and the toxic political culture that the SNP government has created and nurtured.

“Try as they might, the truth will out and I will use everything at my disposal to ensure that this sordid episode in Scottish political history is exposed.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The First Minister has already set out in some detail the circumstances of her meeting with Mr Aberdein as part of her personal evidence to the committee.

"Ms Baillie has this and it has been published.”