NICOLA Sturgeon’s husband is to give further evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair after MSPs agreed to use compulsion powers if he refused.

SNP chief executive Peter Murrell is expected to be grilled about text and WhatsApp messages about Mr Salmond which he has previously said under oath do not exist.

Mr Murrell had twice failed to appear before the inquiry after being recalled to clear up contradictory evidence he gave in December. 

He skipped proposed dates on January 26 and February 2 after taking legal advice.

That followed Labour urging the Crown Office to investigate whether he had “perjured himself” at his first appearance.

However Mr Murrell has now reluctantly agreed to return to the committee on Monday, February 8.

The climbdown followed growing exasperation among MSPs at his attempts to evade questioning.

The Scottish Tories earlier this week threatened Ms Sturgeon with a Holyrood vote unless she made her party’s top official comply with the recall request.

READ MORE: Furious Salmond attacks Holyrood inquiry for not publishing his evidence

The Tories planned to table a motion accusing Ms Sturgeon of misleading parliament given she told MSPs in October the SNP would “cooperate fully” with the inquiry.

It is understood MSPs on the inquiry agreed to use parliament’s power to compel the appearance of witnesses if Mr Murrell refused to appear at all. 

Though it did not make the ultimatum explicit to Mr Murrell, it is understood he was aware of it - and of the political damage it would cause his wife and the SNP for him to be seen being dragged to testify. 

The inquiry is looking at the Scottish Government’s mishandling of sexual misconduct complaints made against Mr Salmond in 2018 by two civil servants.

The former First Minister had the exercise set aside in a judicial review, showing it was “tainted by apparent bias”, a Government flaw that left  taxpayers with a £500,000 bill for his costs.

He was later charged with sexual assault but cleared on all counts at a Highh Court trial last March.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon faces Holyrood vote over husband Peter Murrell's snub to Alex Salmond inquiry

The inquiry last month used parliament’s powers to compel the production of documents for the first time against the Crown Office in relation to WhatsApp and text messages involving SNP chief operating officer Sue Ruddick.

Mr Salmond had pushed MSPs to seek the files, which were obtained by his trial defence team, so that he could tell the “whole truth” under oath.

He had been threatened with prosecution if he released the confidential material himself.

The inquiry refused to publish the material it was sent by the Crown, as it involved private messages from different women in a “safe space for confidential support”.

READ MORE: Alex Salmond inquiry rules out publishing secret trial evidence

However MSPs were not satisfied the Crown had released all the relevant material it had asked for, including messages involving Mr Murrell, and want it to check again.

Mr Murrell has already admitted sending two text messages to Ms Ruddick on the day Mr Salmond was charged with sexual assault in January 2019, urging further police and prosecution action.

Giving evidence in December, he denied any similar messages existed.

He also denied using the WhatsApp message service, but after it emerged a WhatsApp account was linked to his mobile phone, he was forced to revise his evidence and said merely that he not use WhatsApp at present.

Mr Murrell also contradicted himself by saying he had and hadn't known Mr Salmond was coming to his home on 2 April 2018 to talk to Ms Sturgeon, and that he had and hadn't been there at the time. 

READ MORE: Alex Salmond inquiry demands to know if evidence censored for 'political' reasons

SNP MP Kenny MacAskill, a supporter of Mr Salmond, last month claimed senior SNP and government figures were part of a WhatsApp group called ‘Vietnam’ which discussed Mr Salmond in the run-up to his trial, including how to encourage a witness to testify.

Mr Salmond’s supporters claim he was the victim of a high-level conspiracy to stop him making a comeback and rivalling his estranged successor.

Ms Sturgeon has dismissed that as a “heap of nonsense”.

Mr Salmond is scheduled to give evidence on February 9, Ms Sturgeon on February 16.