NICOLA Sturgeon has tried to downplay the meeting at the centre of claims she lied to Holyrood over the Alex Salmond affair, saying it “never held any significance in my head”. 

The First Minister also claimed the March 2018 meeting, at which she learned her predecessor was accused of sexual misconduct, was “a general discussion”.

However in her written evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Salmond affair, Ms Sturgeon admitted it had covered “allegations of a sexual nature.”

Ms Sturgeon was speaking ahead of Holyrood publishing evidence from Mr Salmond claiming she misled MSPs over the nature of meetings she had with him in 2018.

The inquiry is looking into how the Scottish Government bungled a sexual misconduct probe into claims made against Mr Salmond in the January of that year.

He had the exercise set aside in a judicial review, with taxpayers paying his £512,000 costs. 

He was later charged with sexual assault, but cleared on all counts in a trial last March. 

After the Government’s defence collapse, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs she had had three meetings with Mr Salmond while he was under investigation by her officials.

These were in April, June and July 2018.

She told MSPs on 8 January 2019: “On 2 April, he [Mr Salmond] informed me about the complaints  against him”.

Her government also told Scotland’s highest court this was the first she learned of it. 

However, during Mr Salmond’s criminal trial, his former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, told the jury he raised the subject with Ms Sturgeon in her Holyrood office on 29 March 2018.

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It was only after Mr Aberdein gave this evidence that the Scottish Government admitted there had been a prior meeting.

Ms Sturgeon then claimed that, despite the explosive subject matter, she had “forgotten” about the meeting as it had taken place on a busy day at Holyrood.

Mr Salmond claims that Ms Sturgeon and Mr Aberdein agreed on 29 March to set up the 2 April meeting to discuss the Government probe, and that Ms Sturgeon knew full well this was the basis on which Mr Salmond would be coming to her Glasgow home a few days later.

Mr Salmond claims Ms Sturgeon’s account of the meeting to MSPs is untrue and that she misled parliament by characterising it as an SNP matter, when it actually concerned the government probe.

With Mr Salmond due to testify under oath to the inquiry on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon today gave a series of media interviews to get across her side of the story.

She told BBC Scotland’s Glenn Campbell she stood by what she had told parliament. 

She said: “On 2 April 2018, Alex Salmond came to my house and told me in quite gory details what he was accused of, and also gave me his account of one of those incidents.

“There’s since been an issue raised about a meeting I had with his former chief of staff three days earlier.

"That’s a meeting that’s never held and significance in my head.”

Pressed on how unlikely it would be to have forgotten a meeting at which she first learned such of explosive allegations against her mentor, Ms Sturgeon said: “My recollection of that I will give to the committee, but it doesn’t change what I said to parliament.”

Pressed again on whether she misled parliament over the Geoff Aberdein meeting, she said: “Three days before I had a general discussion. I will set out my recollection of that.”

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But in her written evidence to the committee last year, Ms Sturgeon said: “I had forgotten that this encounter had taken place until I was reminded of it in, I think, late January/early February 2019. For context, I think the meeting took place not long after the weekly session of FMQs and in the midst of a busy day in which I would have been dealing with a multitude of other matters.

“However, from what I recall, the discussion covered the fact that Alex Salmond wanted to see me urgently about a serious matter, and I think it did cover the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature.”

Ms Sturgeon is due to appear at the inquiry next week.