THE Scottish Tories have claimed Peter Murrell’s evidence to a Holyrood inquiry has “sunk Nicola Sturgeon” by contradicting one of her statements to parliament.

The SNP chief executive, who married Ms Sturgeon in 2010, said his wife and Mr Salmond had twice discussed “government business” at the couple’s home in 2018.

However Ms Sturgeon told Holyrood that she had took part in the meetings in her capacity as SNP leader. 

The meetings were not included in her ministerial diary and no notetakers were present.

On 10 January 2019, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “Like other party leaders here, I have responsibilities as leader of my party and I took part in meetings in that capacity…. it would not have been appropriate for the meetings to be Government meetings.” 

Ms Sturgeon is currently under investigation over a possible breach of the Scottish ministerial code for failing to tell officials timeously about her contacts with Mr Salmond.

Mr Murrell, the SNP’s most senior official since 2000, today gave evidence to the Holyrood inquiry looking into how the Scottish Government botched a probe into sexual misconduct allegations made against Mr Salmond in 2018.

The former first minister had the exercise set aside in a judicial review after showing it was “tainted by apparent bias” from the start, landing taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his costs.

Giving evidence under oath, Mr Murrell was asked about the first of five contacts Mr Salmond had with Ms Sturgeon while he was under investigation by her officials in 2018.

This was on 2 April at the Glasgow home shared by Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell.

Ms Sturgeon has said Mr Salmond first told her he was under investigation at the meeting.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser asked why, if the meeting was an SNP one, Mr Murrell had said he had was told about its contents by his wife, and only learned of them in August 2018, after the Scottish Government probe was revealed in the media. 

Mr Fraser said: “The leader of the SNP didn’t think to tell the Chief Executive of the SNP that there was a looming problem with the former leader of the SNP and the former First Minister of Scotland, that might end up in the public domain?”

Mr Murrell said the issue Mr Salmond raised with Ms Sturgeon had been “a Scottish Government matter and Scottish Government business is not for me”.

Reminded Ms Sturgeon had said the meetings were party matters, Mr Murrell said: “She thought it was a party matter and once Alex told her what the meeting was about, then it became something else.”

Mr Fraser said: “Well that might have been the case for the first meeting but surely the [two]  subsequent meetings, it would have been obvious what the matter being discussed was.”

Mr Murrell said: “A Scottish Government matter.”

Mr Fraser said:  “There is a degree of confusion here as to whether these were government meetings or these were party business meetings, and I don’t think your helping us to clean that up.”

After the evidence session, Mr Fraser said: “The SNP chief executive has sunk Nicola Sturgeon. He has directly contradicted the First Minister and exposed her claim that it was party business to be utterly false.

“Peter Murrell’s words indicate that Nicola Sturgeon misled Parliament, gave false evidence to the committee, and broke the Ministerial Code.

“The SNP chief executive said today that the meetings with Alex Salmond were government, not party business. That is the opposite of what Nicola Sturgeon claims.

“The First Minister’s ever-changing story has been dealt a fatal blow by her own chief executive and husband. His evidence has shattered her claims to pieces.”

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie added: “Peter Murrell’s appearance today demonstrated the lengths that the SNP will go to in order to prevent this committee from getting to the truth.

“Nicola Sturgeon claims her meeting with Alex Salmond was as SNP leader but Peter Murrell has contradicted her previously and said it was in her capacity as First Minister that she met him. Both can’t be right.”