Nicola Sturgeon insists she has “nothing to hide” over the Alex Salmond inquiry, after being accused of misleading parliament about when she first knew of allegations against him.
The first minister previously said she was first made aware of complaints against her predecessor when he told her in a meeting at her home on 2 April 2018.
But it has since emerged she was informed during a meeting with Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein several days earlier – on 29 March.
Mr Salmond was cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault, attempted rape and indecent exposure at the High Court in Edinburgh in March 2020.
The case followed legal action taken by Mr Salmond, which found the Scottish government’s handling of complaints against him had been unlawful. He was awarded more than £500,000.
Ms Sturgeon said she had forgotten about the meeting with Mr Aberdein in evidence submitted to a committee set up to investigate the matter.
During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon was challenged by the Conservatives’ Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson on whether her claim to have forgotten was “credible”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I get why people will look at that and raise an eyebrow.
“There is something seared on my memory and it is actually the meeting that took place some three days later when Alex Salmond himself sat in my own home and gave me the details of the complaints that had been made against him and also gave me his response to aspects of those complaints.
“That is what seared in my memory and I think most reasonable people would understand that.
“Forgive me if that has somehow overwritten in my mind a much more fleeting, opportunistic meeting that took place a few days earlier, that is just how it is.”
The first minister repeatedly added she wants to appear before the committee to answer any questions MSPs may have, adding that she is “looking forward” to giving evidence.
Ms Davidson said the explanation given by the first minister “does not even bear the lightest scrutiny”, adding it is “beyond belief”.
But Ms Sturgeon hit back: “That is the fact, other people can decide to give their own evidence – I will give mine and I will sit before a committee whenever the committee decides to call me and I will do that on oath and I will give my account of what happened.
“I have got nothing to hide in all of this.”
Ms Davidson went on to ask the first minister if she believes a judge-led inquiry should be launched to look into the handling of the complaints, an idea put forward by SNP MSP Alex Neil.
Ms Sturgeon said: “There is a parliamentary inquiry under way that I’ve given evidence to and that I will sit in front of and give evidence to orally, I will do it under oath.
“I’ve got nothing to hide in all of this. I’ve had two years or more of people making accusations about my conduct.
“It’s not my conduct that sparked off this, I’ve tried to act in the proper way – if I’ve made mistakes along the way then I will say that and people can make their judgments.
“But I have tried to do the right thing and I will continue to try to do the right thing.”