NICOLA Sturgeon’s husband has contradicted himself in evidence to a Holyrood inquiry after being asked about a bombshell meeting between his wife and Alex Salmond.

SNP chief executive Peter Murrell initially denied he was at home when the First Minister met her predecessor at the couple’s Glasgow house, then admitted that he was there part of the time.

Mr Murrell also twice claimed he “wasn’t really aware” that Mr Salmond would be coming to the house, then said he had been told about it a day in advance.

The cross-party inquiry is looking into how the Scottish Government botched a probe into sexual misconduct claims levelled 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, and told her he was under investigation.

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.

After Tory MSP Murdo Fraser asked Mr Murrell whether Ms Sturgeon met Mr Salmond in her capacity as SNP leader or first minister, he replied: “I wasn’t at home. I wasn’t aware of the capacity in which she was having the meetings.”

Mr Fraser said: “So you weren’t in the house at the time?”

Mr Murrell replied: “I wasn’t at home at either meeting. I think the third meeting [7 June 2018] took place at SNP conference, on the eve of an SNP conference, and I suspect I was busy elsewhere. But I wasn’t at home on the two occasions where a meeting took place.” 

However when Green MSP Andy Wightman later asked about the 2 April meeting, Mr Murrell changed his story.

Mr Wightman said: “You said that you weren’t ‘at home’, you were elsewhere.”

Mr Murrell said: “At work.”

Mr Wightman said: “You were at work.”

Mr Wightmand then read from Mr Murrell’s written evidence in which he said “I knew about the meetings between Nicola and Alex Salmond at our home on 2 April and 14 July”.

Mr Wightman said: “So when you say you knew about them when did you first know about the 2nd of April meeting?”

Mr Murrell said: “I think at some point on the previous day I was aware that Alex was coming to the house. On the second meeting, I can’t actually remember. It wasn’t actually an unusual occurrence.”

Mr Wightman said: “So you knew in advance that meeting was going to happen?”

Mr Murrell replied: “Yes. I think so.”

Mr Wightman then quoted more written evidence in which Mr Murrell said: “I had the sense that something serious was being discussed,” adding: “How did you obtain that sense?” 

Mr Murrell said: “Well, I came home from work and there were people still in the house at that point.”

Mr Wightman said: “Sorry, sorry, you said you weren’t at your home on the 2nd of April.”

Mr Murrell said: “That’s correct.”

Mr Wightman said: “You’re saying you did actually come home.”

Mr Murrell said: “I arrived home not long before the meeting ended.”

Mr Wightman said: “You were aware that people were going to be there. You were aware that a meeting had been arranged?”

Mr Murrell said: “Yes.”

Mr Wightman said: “And you had the sense something serious was being discussed. That sense was being picked up by you arrival home and just the atmosphere was it?”

Mr Murrell said: “Well, to give you the situation, I arrived home and popped my head into our living room and there were three individuals in the living room. Alex and Nicola were in another room. I couldn’t see them. The fact that there were other people there was what gave me that sense.”

Mr Wightman said: “Then you said [in written evidence], ‘Nicola told me she couldn’t discuss the details’. That was after?”

Mr Murrell said: “That was after. I went upstairs, I got changed, I had a shower and by the time I had done that the meeting had ended and they had left. There was no interaction, really, apart from saying hello top people when I arrived and going upstairs.”

Mr Wightman went on: “Then you go on to say, ‘The nature of Nicola’s job means that when she tells me she can’t discuss something, I don’t press it.’ The reference to Nicola’s job presumably means her job as first minister?”

Mr Murrell said: “Yes.”

Mr wightman said: “So... you didn’t anticipate being told chapter and verse or indeed any detail because it wasn’t an unusual thing for you to be denied knowledge of what happened. But what was unusual was the apparent serious nature of the meeting though? You say you sensed something serious was being discussed.”

Mr Murrell said: “That’s because of the fact there were other people there. When just what I was expecting was that Alex and Nicola would be having a meeting.”

After Mr Wightman had extracted the new information, Mr Cole-Hamilton asked a supplementary question about the 2 April meeting, and asked if Ms Sturgeon had given him an idea of the contents of the meeting, even if she hadn’t given him “the details”.

Mr Murrell denied that, but said he had asked if it had been about an inquiry from Sky News four months earlier about an alleged incident involving Mr Salmond at Edinburgh Airport.

Hel said: “I’ll try and set it out. I think, given that other individuals were there, what had triggered in my head was this Sky News inquiry coming back, to which she said it wasn’t, and she couldn’t discuss what it was about. That’s the point at which I wasn;t going to probe any further. When you’re married to the first minister, who is privy to lots of information, when she says she can’t talk about something, you don’t continue to say, ‘Ah but’. 

“It just doesn’t happen. She’s been a minister a long time and works very hard, every day, every weekend. When we get precious time together, the last thing we want to be doing is rerunning days with each other or whatever. 

“When she says she can’t talk about something, the that’s the end of it and we move on to something else.”