The First Minister is set to battle for the survival of her political career next week after the Scottish Conservatives announced plans to push for a no-confidence vote in the SNP leader on Wednesday.
Douglas Ross’ party said that will give Ms Sturgeon a “last chance to resign” on Tuesday for allegedly misleading Parliament.
If she does not do so, the party will proceed with a vote of no confidence on Wednesday, subject to the agreement of the parliamentary bureau.
The move follows reports the Alex Salmond inquiry has concluded the First Minister misled Parliament around the details of a meeting held with her predecessor on April 2, 2018.
The committee believes that corroborated evidence shows Ms Sturgeon promised Mr Salmond she would intervene in the process – something the First Minister has repeatedly denied.
This, the inquiry has said, means the First Minister misled the committee and therefore Parliament, and is a potential breach of the ministerial code.
Any minister found to have “knowingly misled” the Scottish Parliament is expected to offer their resignation.
The emergence on Thursday night of the committee’s conclusions promoted SNP members of the Salmond inquiry to launch a scathing attack on their opposition counterparts as fury over the leaking continued to bubble over.
In a joint statement, Alasdair Allan, Maureen Watt and Stuart McMillan criticised their inquiry colleagues for having “railroaded through their prejudged assertions” for political gain.
"Without a shred of evidence to the contrary, the opposition simply used their majority on the committee to insert 11th-hour predetermined political assertions that have no basis in fact,” the statement said. “That is simply disgraceful and wrong.”
Announcing her party’s plans to bring forward the no confidence vote, Holyrood leader of the Scottish Tories Ruth Davidson said there was “no question” that Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament.
She said: “If Nicola Sturgeon has a shred of integrity, she should be considering her position. She has every opportunity to do the right thing and resign.
“No First Minister is above the fundamental principles of honesty and trust. There is no question that Nicola Sturgeon has misled Parliament and broken the promises she made to tell the truth.
“The SNP’s erratic outburst today against the committee shows the panicked spiral they are now in.
“Their suggestion seems to be that Andy Wightman, arguably the MSP most likely to rigidly stick to his principles, is some kind of underhand political opportunist. It is an extraordinary attack on a committee, and its members, before it has even reported.
“If it was possible, the SNP’s defence looks even less credible now. They are lurching from whataboutery to unhinged criticism of a well-respected, independent-minded parliamentarian.”
The announcement of plans to continue with the no-confidence vote, first floated the day before Ms Sturgeon gave evidence to the committee, came as the inquiry convener also hit out at the “selective leaking” from committee members.
Linda Fabiani, an SNP MSP, said she was "dismayed by the damage this may do" to the committee's work and criticised the “party political” decision to leak, which she claimed would "frustrate, not assist, the women at the heart of this".
In a statement, Ms Fabiani said: “I am dismayed by the damage this may do to the value of the committee’s work, which I have long hoped would improve the treatment of the complainers of sexual harassment.
“The selective leaking of particular committee recommendations has shifted the focus away from these goals, and the recommendations which seek to achieve it, and onto party political terrain, which will likely frustrate, not assist, the women at the heart of this.
“The MSP’s Code of Conduct requires that all drafts of committee reports should be kept confidential unless the committee decides otherwise and it requires that members must not provide the media with off-the-record briefings on the general contents or line of draft committee reports because such disclosures of this kind can also seriously undermine and devalue the work of committees.”
Ms Fabiani’s comments followed an excoriating attack from Ms Sturgeon’s office on the committee.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the First Minister accused committee members of resorting to “baseless assertion, supposition and smear”.
It followed Ms Sturgeon’s public comments following the leak that she was “not surprised” by the “partisan” leak from the committee.
The spokesperson said the claim it was “hard to believe” Ms Sturgeon did not know about inappropriate behaviour by Mr Salmond prior to the allegations in 2018 was “not supported by a single shred of evidence”.
They also accused the committee of having “ignored” and “suppressed” evidence corroborating the First Minister’s claim that she did not promise to intervene during the meeting with Mr Salmond.
Attacking opposition members of the committee, the spokesperson labelled it “never a serious exercise in learning lessons” and that it was “only ever about politics".
“The First Minister told the truth to the committee and stands by every word of her evidence,” the spokesperson said.
“Day and daily the public have seen the open, frank approach the First Minister has taken to political leadership. The contrast with elements of the opposition, who appear intent on breaking every rule in the book in a blatantly transparent attempt to damage her before the coming election, could not be more stark.
“It was clear from the actions of the Tories several weeks ago, when they announced plans for a motion of confidence before they had even heard a word of evidence from First Minister, that for them this committee was never a serious exercise in learning lessons on behalf of women who bring forward complaints of sexual harassment. It was only ever about politics.”
However, the pressure will continue to mount on the First Minister after leader of UK Labour, Sir Keir Starmer, said that if Ms Sturgeon has breached the ministerial code, she should resign.
The leaks from within the Salmond inquiry were separately criticised by Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie.
Mr Harvie, whose party is likely to hold the casting votes in any vote of no confidence in Ms Sturgeon, said the inquiry had descended into “complete farce” with leaks that had “destroyed the credibility of their own report.
He said: “I’ve never seen a committee process more compromised by leaks, MSPs pre-judging the evidence, and party politics overriding the public interest. What should have been an examination of how women were failed and how we could prevent that from happening again has turned into a complete farce.
“There were serious questions that needed to be answered by this committee. That’s why we supported its creation, but it’s clear that a number of committee members have absolutely no interest in establishing the facts or seeking to create a supportive environment for women to bring forward complaints.
"Instead they have bought into Alex Salmond’s conspiracy hook, line and sinker in the hope of securing a political scalp.”
Scottish Liberal Democrats MP Christine Jardine said of the no-confidence vote: "We need to remember that this inquiry is about how complaints raised by women were handled and in the context of the [Sarah] Everard murder, this must contribute towards a more effective and trusted complaints process in government and beyond.
"It has become an issue of integrity for the First Minister.
"The Conservatives are premature with their calls for immediate resignation. We need to respect the two inquiries and wait for their reports."
The comments came as The Scotsman understands some committee members were “furious” at nature of the leak from the inquiry.
One member, independent MSP Andy Wightman, took to Twitter to post a section of the code of conduct for MSPs that states leaks to the press can “seriously undermine and devalue the work of committees”.
The concurrent investigation by independent ministerial code adviser James Hamilton into whether the First Minister breached the ministerial code is also expected to be published in coming days.
The publication of the full Salmond inquiry report is set for 8am on Tuesday.