THE Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair began as a look into how the Scottish Government bungled a sexual misconduct investigation into the former First Minister.

Mr Salmond successfully challenged the process in a judicial review, showed it had been “tainted by apparent bias”, and taxpayers had to pay him £512,000 in costs.

However the cross-party committee set up to look at what went wrong in government in 2018 has taken on far greater significance because of what happened after the judicial review.

In January 2019, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs she had met Mr Salmond three times while he was under investigation by her officials, insisting it was in her capacity as SNP leader.

She said it was not until their first meeting, on April 2, 2018 at her Glasgow home, that she learned, from Mr Salmond himself, that he was being investigated. 

However she did not tell the Government’s top official, the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, about any of this until June 6, the day before she met Mr Salmond a second time.

At the end of January 2019, Mr Salmond was charged with sexual assault, leading to a trial at Edinburgh High Court last March, where he was acquitted on all counts.

In Mr Salmond’s eyes, the two court cases - his civil action against the Government he once led and the criminal prosecution against him - are linked. 

He claims his judicial review victory left people around Ms Sturgeon resentful and in fear of their jobs, and they conspired to bring him down, even to the extent of having him jailed.

In his written evidence, he named four people he said were involved in this “deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort” to remove him from public life.

He named SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, who is also Ms Sturgeon’s husband; SNP chief operating officer Susan Ruddick; SNP compliance officer Ian McCann; and Ms Sturgeon’s top aide in Government, her chief of staff Liz Lloyd.

Ms Sturgeon, Mr Murrell, Ms Ruddick and Ms Lloyd have all denied there was a conspiracy.

Mr McCann, who was married to another of Ms Sturgeon’s special advisers, has been silent. 

Mr Salmond claims Mr Murrell “deployed his senior staff to recruit and persuade staff and ex-staff members to submit police complaints” about him, and that special advisers “were using civil servants and working with SNP officials in a fishing expedition to recruit potential complainants”.

Mr Salmond claims the proof is contained in messages between the plotters his defence team gathered for his trial, but were not allowed to put before the jury for legal reasons.

He says he cannot share the material with the inquiry because the Crown Office has threatened him with prosecution if he does so.

He also claims the Crown Office is withholding this material from the inquiry to shield “some of the most powerful people in the country”.

The Crown Office under Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC is “simply not fit for purpose”.

In his written evidence, as he did after the judicial review, Mr Salmon also criticises Ms Evans, who he says blames for creating, mishandling and adjudicating on the unfair Government complaints process used against him.

“Despite her protestations to the contrary, the Permanent Secretary was chiefly responsible fort the pursuit of an unlawful policy which has cost te Scottissh people millions of pounds.

“The damage she has done to the reputation of the civil service is very significant. In my view, any person conscious of the responsibility of holding high office would have resigned long ago. Instead Ms Evans’s contract was extended.”

On top of all that, Mr Salmond takes direct aim at Ms Sturgeon, accusing her of misleading parliament about the nature of the meetings they held about the probe in 2018.

He says she gave Holyrood a “false and manifestly untrue” account of them, and that they were not, as she claimed, party matters, but about the Government investigation, and that she knew this clearly, having teed up the April 2 meeting in her Holyrood office on March 29.

The March 29 meeting was attended by Mr Salmondd’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein.

It was only after Mr Aberdein revealed its existence to the jury at Mr Salmond’s trial that Ms Sturgeon admitted it had taken place, saying she had “forgotten” about it.

She said it had been a busy day at Holyrood.

Mr Salmond said in his written evidence: “That is, with respect, untenable.

“The pre-arranged meeting in the Scottish Parliament of 29th March 2018 was ‘forgotten’ about because acknowledging it would have rendered ridiculous the claim made by the First Minister in Parliament that it had been believed that the meeting on 2nd April was on SNP Party business (Official Report 8th & 10th January 2019) and thus held at her private residence. In reality all participants in that meeting were fully aware of what the meeting was about and why it had been arranged. 

“The meeting took place with a shared understanding of the issues for discussion - the complaints made and the Scottish Government procedure which had been launched. 

“The First Minister’s claim that it was ever thought to be about anything other than the complaints made against me is wholly false.”

Above all, it is the claim that Ms Sturgeon repeatedly lied to parliament and so broke the Scottish ministerial code which is potentially the most dangerous to her.

Mr Salmond is effectively saying Ms Sturgeon is not fit to be First Minister.

He also claims she broke the ministerial code by failing to report their meetings timeously.

Ms Sturgeon denies any breach, but has conspicuously refused to answer “hypothetical” questions on whether she would stand down if she was found to have broken the code, despite it being considered an automatic resignation offence.

She says her predecessor is taking refuge in an “alternative reality” in which he is the victim of a vast, swirling conspiracy, rather than facing up to his own behaviour with women at the heart of the affair.

She gives her side of the story to MSPs next week.