NICOLA Sturgeon’s husband has been accused of giving "wholly implausible" evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair.

SNP chief executive Peter Murrell came under attack after denying his wife warned him about a brewing scandal that could prove a “bombshell” for the party.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton told Mr Murrell to his face that that he found parts of his account “incredible” and “hard to believe”.

The challenge came as Mr Murrell gave oral evidence to the inquiry into how the Scottish Government botched a probe into sexual misconduct claims against Mr Salmond in 2018.

Mr Salmond had the exercise set aside in a judicial review, showing it had been “tainted by apparent bias” from the start, a flaw that left taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his costs.

After the Government’s defence collapsed, Ms Sturgeon revealed she had had three meetings and two phone calls with Mr Salmond while he was being investigated.

She said the first contact was on 2 April 2018, when Mr Salmond came to the Glasgow home she shares with Mr Murrell.

However it later emerged Ms Sturgeon had been warned by Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, about the issue in her Holyrood office four days earlier, 29 March.

The First Minister has claimed she forgot about the meeting with Mr Aberdein as it was a busy Thursday, and it had been eclipsed in her mind by the 2 April meeting.

Opposition parties have ridiculed Ms Sturgeon for her apparent memory lapse, and say she should resign if she misled parliament. 

Ih her written evidence, Ms Sturgeon said she agreed to the 2 April meeting with Mr Salmond as “I believed that what he was about to tell me may require a public response from the SNP. Indeed, I suspected that he may be about to resign from the SNP.”

But in his written evidence, Mr Murrell said he only became aware that complaints had been made against Mr Salmond when the media revealed the Government probe in August 2018.

At the inquiry today, Mr Cole-Hamilton said the 2 April meeting appeared to be one of potential high importance to the SNP, and asked if it wouldn’t have been right for Mr Murrell, as the party’s highest elected official, to know about it.

Mr Murrell said: “I don’t think you pre-plan for a crisis. When you’re dealing with the kind of lives that we lead, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you deal with something at the point.

“So at the point something was happening you would be told.” 

Mr Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Surely the fact that she [Ms Sturgeon] knew four days before her meeting on the second of April that Mrt Salmond was going to come some pretty strong information that was going to cause damage to the SNP… I’m sorry, I just find it incredible that you didn’t have a discussion prior to either of those meetings so that you could at least lay the groundwork for an SNP response to that.”

Mr Murrell said: “There’s no groundwork that you could have laid for that event. She’s set it out in her own evidence and that’s just the truth of it. It wasn’t something we discussed prior to it. I really wasn’t aware that he was coming to the house.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton told him: “I’m sorry, Mr Murrell, I find it hard to believe. It just really jars with me. Take my party, we’re the smallest party in Scotland [at Holyrood].

“We’ve got mechanisms for dealing with bad news. We always prepare an internal comms strategy, an external comms strategy, risk follow-up, lots of different things.

“I just find it difficult that you are one half of Scotland’s most powerful couple and this is not a conversation that passed over the breakfast table in those four days prior to the second of April.”

Mr Murrell said: “I think you misunderstand the life of a first minister. Up early in the morning, back late at night, lots happening in between, very limited time at home, very limited personal time.

“That way you’re characterising it there is that we had four days at home. 

“That just doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t.

“The first minister is constantly on the phone, constantly at meetings, constantly reading papers, constantly dealing with government business.

“Back before we started to win elections, we used to pre-plan things as well, have lots of strategies for things, but in the end you ended up ripping them all up because that’s not what happened. When you’re in a fast moving political situation you deal with things at the point they happen. You can’t just pre-plan things.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton said afterwards: "Every couple in Scotland will share the stresses and strains of their working day over dinner or before putting the lights out.

“The suggestion that Nicola Sturgeon gave her husband no warning of the what was potentially the biggest threat to their party in its history, and a head start on bracing the party for impact is wholly implausible.

“She was worried that Salmond was about to resign from the party at the 2nd of April meeting, she attended as much in her capacity as leader of the party.

"Normal practice would have seen her ringing alarm bells within the party high command. Mr Murrell’s appearance undermines both of their accounts as to Nicola Sturgeon’s role in all of this.”