NICOLA Sturgeon’s husband faces being recalled to the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair after being accused of giving “shambolic” and “sleekit” evidence.

Opposition parties said they wanted SNP Chief Executive Peter Murrell to be hauled back before MSPs after apparent “inconsistencies” in his testimony yesterday.

Mr Murrell twice contradicted himself by saying he both knew and didn’t know in advance about a key meeting between Mr Salmond and his wife, and that he both was and wasn’t in the couple’s Glasgow home when it took place.

He also said he didn’t use the WhatsApp message system only for it to emerge a WhatsApp account linked to his mobile phone number was apparently active as recently as November 22.

The SNP later admitted Mr Murrell has WhatsApp on his phone, but insisted he didn't use it.

Mr Murrell, the SNP’s top unelected official since 2000 and Ms Sturgeon’s husband since 2010, also appeared to contradict an assurance his wife gave the Scottish Parliament in January 2019.  

The First Minister told MSPs she had taken three meetings with Mr Salmond while he was under investigation by her officials in her capacity as SNP leader.

She said it would have been wrong for her to meet her in her capacity as First Minister.

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

However Mr Murrell yesterday said that while the first of the three meetings in 2018 was taken on the basis an SNP matter would be discussed, Mr Salmond’s revelation that he was under investigation by Ms Sturgeon’s officials made it “government business” from there on.

Indeed, Mr Murrell said his wife refused to tell him the contents of her conversation with Mr Salmond precisely because it was government business.

It could indicate Ms Sturgeon misled parliament and broke the Scottish Ministerial Code, which her opponents say would be a resignation offence. 

The Holyrood inquiry is investigating how the Scottish Government bungled a probe into sexual misconduct claims made against Mr Salmond in 2018.

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

The inquiry, which has an opposition majority, has already recalled several witnesses, including the Government’s top official, the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, and the Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, who sits on the inquiry, said Mr Murrell had to come back. 

He said: “In a shambolic evidence session, Peter Murrell managed to contradict not only Nicola Sturgeon but himself, all in the space of a few hours.

“His answers were sleekit from start to finish. One minute he was in the house for a crunch showdown with Alex Salmond, then he wasn’t. He knew about the meeting beforehand, then he didn’t.

“He told the committee he is one of the few people not to have WhatsApp – only for it to emerge he used it a few weeks ago.

“He tied himself in knots answering the simplest of questions and spoke in riddles.

“The SNP chief executive must return to the committee to clear up the contradictions in his evidence and this time, provide entirely truthful answers.”

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: “Peter Murrell must explain the contradictions and discrepancies in his evidence to the Committee yesterday as a matter of urgency.

“Mr Murrell’s squirming performance has cast doubt over the First Minister’s account of what happened, and poses a serious question over whether Nicola Sturgeon breached the Ministerial Code by having a clandestine meeting with Alex Salmond.

“I know it’s the pantomime season, but it is time for Mr Murrell to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to the committee.”

Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP also called for Mr Murrell to be recalled. 

He said: “If Peter Murrell thinks that half-truths and untruths will convince the committee to give up its enquiries, he is dead wrong. 

“The public are not being well served by sneakiness and evasion. With significant doubts now cast over the evidence he gave, Peter Murrell should return to the committee for further questioning. 

“If this is the level of co-operation the public can expect from the Sturgeon-Murrell household, then we are in for a long and painful process.” 

An SNP spokesperson said: "Mr Murrell has written to the Committee, and confirmed he does not use WhatsApp, which is among several messaging apps on his phone that he doesn’t use."