Sky News presenter Niall Paterson has been criticised after a heated interview in which SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford claimed he overheard the journalist boasting he would "give him a kicking".

The Skye and Lochaber MP was on Sky News this morning to discuss the investigation into the Scottish Government’s unlawful handling of harassment allegations against Alex Salmond - after its official report was published today.

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints found Nicola Sturgeon had misled a Scottish Parliament committee, with a “fundamental contradiction” in her evidence on whether she agreed to intervene in a Scottish Government investigation into complaints by two women against the former first minister.

The findings are separate from those of James Hamilton, who reported on Monday that there had been no breach of the ministerial code by the First Minister over her role in the saga.

Mr Paterson asked Mr Blackford on the Sky News programme: "Do you accept the committee's findings, that the First Minister of Scotland misled parliament? It's pretty straight forward.

But Mr Blackford replied that he could "see what you're trying to do", claiming he heard the presenter telling his studio he would give the MP a "kicking" during the interview.

Mr Blackford said: "I can see what you're trying to do and I did hear you speaking to your studio as I was waiting to come on, that you were going to 'give me a kicking', so it's quite clear what's happening here."

Mr Paterson denied the claims, saying "no, that's not what I said."

Mr Blackford went on to say that the First Minister was "demonstrably" not in breach of Ministerial Code.

He said: "The First Minister has been cleared of the allegations that have been made, by James Hamilton, and the report of the committee makes it clear that it's the job of the Hamilton report to make judgements on whether or not the First Minister has lied to parliament and breached the Ministerial Code, and demonstrably she has not done so."

However, the committee's report said that, in a meeting at her Glasgow home on April 2 2018, Ms Sturgeon “did in fact leave Mr Salmond with the impression that she would, if necessary, intervene”.

It continued: “Her written evidence is therefore an inaccurate account of what happened, and she has misled the committee on this matter.”

The committee found this is a potential breach of the ministerial code but added that Mr Hamilton’s report was the “most appropriate place” to address the question of whether Ms Sturgeon had breached the ministerial code.

The four SNP committee members did not agree with the finding that she misled the committee, which was among the conclusions leaked last week.

The report states the committee “find it hard to believe” Ms Sturgeon had “no knowledge of any concerns about inappropriate behaviour on the part of Mr Salmond prior to November 2017”.

It continues: “If she did have such knowledge, then she should have acted upon it. If she did have such knowledge, then she has misled the committee.”

The four SNP committee members again disagreed with this statement, saying it “does not distinguish between bullying behaviour and sexual harassment”.

They claimed “some evidence to the inquiry indicated that the former first minister could display bullying behaviour” but “there has been no suggestion the First Minister was aware of sexual harassment”.

The report states the committee is “concerned” that Ms Sturgeon did not disclose details of her meeting with Mr Salmond to the Scottish Government’s most senior civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, until June 6 – more than two months after the meeting at the First Minister’s home.

The committee found she should have told Ms Evans “at the earliest opportunity” and immediately stopped contact with Mr Salmond, instead of continuing to meet him.

The four SNP committee members also disagreed with this finding.

The committee found the Scottish Government’s handling of the complaints was “seriously flawed” and the women who made the allegations were “badly let down”.

It concluded that the Scottish Government was responsible from an early stage “for a serious, substantial and entirely avoidable situation that resulted in a prolonged, expensive and unsuccessful defence” of the civil case.

"Fair and robust interviewing"

Following the interview, Mr Blackford posted about the incident on Twitter.

He said: "I did not hear him say that is not what I said until I saw this back.

"Let me be quite categorical that he did say he was going to give me a kicking. All of us have a duty to tell the truth.

"When you have been caught out, it is best to admit it."

He added he had "a lot of time for @SkyNews and the presenter, they can do better than this", to which Mr Paterson replied "that's very good of you to say" in a Tweet posted once he came off air.

The series of Tweets, in which Paterson apologised to the politician for having the comment overheard outside the gallery, read: "Apologies it’s taken me until coming off air to respond directly.

"Whilst my gallery were rehearsing the top of the hour I was discussing the length of time to give to your interview - commenting that “well, we gave Murdo a kicking. We need to give Blackford a kicking too”.

"It wasn't intended as commentary either on you, your position on the FM, or Murdo Fraser - but neither was it intended, as we were off air at the time, to be heard outside the gallery.

"It was, and I should apologise - though I hope reviewing both interviews suggests to you at least an equality of approach. I’ve worked long and hard to be seen as impartial."

Blackford since replied: "Thank you Niall. We have had and will continue to have a good relationship. I have no issue with fair and robust interviewing. Let us draw a line under this."