NICOLA Sturgeon has lashed out after being grilled about her husband’s controversial evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair.

The First Minister accused her opponents of trying to use SNP chief executive Peter Murrell as a “weapon” to damage her, and indulging in “wild conspiracy theories”.

She also said other parties were trying to "drag" her husband into the affair, even though he was selected as a witness by the inquiry and oversees the SNP.

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Asked if she and Mr Murrell discussed Mr Salmond was being investigated by her officials for alleged sexual misconduct, she said she was First Minister not “the office gossip”.

The comments were met with scornful laughter at a bruising session of FMQs.

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.

On Tuesday, Mr Murrell gave oral evidence under oath in which he twice contradicted himself and also appeared to contract an assurance his wife gave MSPs in January 2019.

The First Minister told MSPs then that she had take 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 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.

If Ms Sturgeon did mislead parliament she may have broken the Scottish Ministerial Code, which her opponents say would be a resignation offence. 

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories now want Mr Murrell to be recalled to give further evidence, accusing him of "shambolic" testimony and "sleekit" answers.

READ MORE: Alex Salmond inquiry: evidence from Nicola Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell labelled 'hard to believe'

Holyrood Tory leader Ruth Davidson said Mr Murrell’s evidence plainly contradicted that of Ms Sturgeon, and asked the First Minister whose version people should believe.

She also questioned if it was credible Ms Sturgeon never told her husband about the probe into Mr Salmond despite learning of it four days before the initial April 2, 2018 meeting.

Ms Sturgeon said she had set out her position in written evidence and would elaborate in oral evidence “in a few weeks”.

She said: “Only I can do that - only I can set out the circumstances and reasons for the decisions that I have made. The fact of the matter is that my husband had no role in those meetings and had no role in the matters that are under investigation by the committee.

“Ruth Davidson might want to attack my husband and use him as a weapon against me - people will draw their conclusions about that—but it does not change the basic fact of the matter, which is that he had no role in the issues.”

Ms Davidson said she was asking because women had been “utterly let down” by Ms Sturgeon’s government.

“If the First Minister does not want to answer for the consequences of her Government’s actions, shame on her,” she said.

Pressed to explain the “clearly contradictory” accounts of her meeting Mr Salmond on both party and government business, Ms Sturgeon said she thought the first meeting would “raise immediate implications for my party”, and after that her “priority was to protect the confidentiality and integrity of the process”.

She said: “The committee will have the opportunity to question me on that.

“The inquiry is into an investigation of sexual harassment, which is why we should all treat it seriously. 

“People who choose instead to indulge in wild conspiracy theories make it less likely, rather than more likely, that we will learn lessons from it. 

“The fact of the matter is that it is for me to answer, because I am the leader of this Government. My husband is not a member of my Government; he had no role in those matters. It is for me to answer, so that is exactly what I will do.”

Ms Davidson said she had been careful to call Mr Murrell by his professional title, not refer to him as Ms Sturgeon’s husband.

She then mocked his account of the meeting of April 2, 2018, when Mr Salmond told Ms Sturgeon at her home that he was under investigation by her officials.

She  said: “Nicola Sturgeon seems to think that all our heads button up the back, because we are being asked to accept that the chief executive of the SNP popped his head round the door to find the First Minister of Scotland - who is, coincidentally, his wife -her predecessor, Alex Salmond, his chief of staff, her chief of staff and Mr Salmond’s lawyer, all sitting, unannounced, in his living room and he never asked a single question, then or since, about what that was all about.

“Does she really think that sounds plausible? Is that seriously what she’s asking us to believe?”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “Yes, because that happens to be the truth. That may not suit what Ruth Davidson wants to be the situation but I’m afraid that is the situation.”

Ms Davidson said the inquiry had revealed a pattern of “sharp brains suddenly turning blank, contradictions piling up, and halfanswers having to be dragged out of people who should know better”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I understand why Ruth Davidson wants to drag my husband into these matters, but the fact is that he had no role. It is for me to answer the questions, which is exactly what I will continue to do.”

Afterwards, Ms Davidson said: “The First Minister’s repeated references to her husband today were a desperate, pathetic and transparent attempt at deflection and, frankly, were beneath a woman of her professional standing.

“Mr Murrell appeared at a Scottish Parliament committee this week as SNP chief executive. Under oath, he plainly contradicted the First Minister and indicated she misled Parliament and broke the Ministerial Code.

“There was incredulous laughter at the First Minister’s answers today because she is seriously asking us to believe that the SNP chief executive saw a crucial meeting happen in his own home, between a whole host of key SNP figures, and never asked a single question what it was all about.

“Throughout this affair, a clear pattern has emerged of sharp brains suddenly turning blank, contradictions piling up and half answers having to be dragged out of people who should know better.

“It was perhaps unfortunate of Nicola Sturgeon to make reference to 'office gossip' on the day we find out her former deputy was first informed about allegations surrounding Alex Salmond as long as 11 years ago.”

Ms Sturgeon’s official spokesman later said the Frist Minister stood by her evidence.

He also accused certain members of the inquiry of no longer treating it seriously, and turning it into a “partisan” exercise.