Nicola Sturgeon says Alex Salmond is clearly 'annoyed' she did not try to make his sexual assault allegations 'go away'

Nicola Sturgeon has revealed previously undisclosed messages between her and Alex Salmond, who she says is "clearly angry with me" for not covering up sexual harassment allegations.

The First Minister was accused of withholding the WhatsApp exchanges but insisted they were "not a big revelation", adding that the claims were a diversionary tactic by her "annoyed" predecessor.

Speaking on Sky News, Ms Sturgeon acknowledged the messages did make "an oblique reference" to claims of inappropriate conduct by Mr Salmond - despite saying she released all relevant evidence to the Holyrood investigation into the government's botched handling of harassment allegations.

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Ms Sturgeon's disclosure followed a report in The Times that Mr Salmond's lawyers were accusing her of holding back certain messages.

Challenged about the claims, Ms Sturgeon offered to read out the messages she believed Mr Salmond's lawyers were referring to.

She said she was "setting up a conversation" to discuss an enquiry by Sky News in 2017 about Mr Salmond allegedly behaving inappropriately towards female staff at Edinburgh Airport.

The messages, which Ms Sturgeon said were sent during the week of November 5 2017, also suggest Mr Salmond did not tell her he was to start hosting a show on Kremlin-backed broadcaster Russia Today.

Asked about the undisclosed messages, Ms Sturgeon said: "Around about the time I spoke to (Mr Salmond) about the Sky News query, I sent him a message on November 5 saying, 'Hi, when you free to speak this morning?'. He replies saying '10am'.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with Alex Salmond in Inverurie. Picture: PAFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon with Alex Salmond in Inverurie. Picture: PA
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with Alex Salmond in Inverurie. Picture: PA

"That's when I asked him, 'What is this Sky thing?'

"I go back to him later that day to say, 'Any developments?'

"The next day, I say, 'You free for a word?'

"So I was setting up a conversation that I have told the parliamentary inquiry about, it's hardly a big revelation.

"Later that week, incidentally, I messaged him to say, 'No wonder you didn't want to tell me'. That's just after I find out that he's agreed to host a regular show on Russia Today, and it reflects my incredulity at that decision.

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"I think his response to me then makes an oblique reference to the Sky News query, so that may be what he's talking about."

Pressed as to why Mr Salmond could want these messages to be released to the parliamentary inquiry into the government's handling of harassment complaints, Ms Sturgeon suggested the former first minister may want people to believe the allegations were "all a big conspiracy" to deflect from his conduct.

"I'm afraid that's not the case, Ms Sturgeon said,

"This is age-old here, that a man is accused of misconduct against women and often it's a woman that ends up sitting answering for them," Ms Sturgeon said.

"In a political sense, one of the worst things I faced was being confronted with the reality that my predecessor - my mentor of 30 years, somebody I considered a friend, closer to me than probably anybody outside my family - was facing serious allegations of sexual misconduct.

"Every day I've tried to do the right thing and not cover it up, and I think the reason perhaps he is angry with me - and he clearly is angry with me - is that I didn't cover it up.

"I didn't collude with him to make these allegations go away and perhaps that is at the root of why he is as annoyed as he appears to be."

Mr Salmond was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault, attempted rape and indecent assault at the High Court in Edinburgh in March.

The court case followed a legal battle which saw him awarded more than £500,000 when the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled a Scottish Government investigation into his conduct was unlawful.

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