Nicola Sturgeon has told MSPs she was not out to "get" Alex Salmond when the Scottish Government first launched an investigation into his behaviour.

She insisted her predecessor as SNP leader had been "one of the closest people to me in my entire life" and that "if I could turn the clock back and find legitimate ways that none of this would ever have happened, then I would".

The First Minister is giving evidence today to a Holyrood committee investigating how ministers and civil servants at Holyrood managed to botch an internal complaints process - a mistake which ended up costing the taxpayer more than £500,000.

Two women had raised complaints against Salmond in 2018 dating to his time in the top job in Scottish politics and the government launched a probe.

Salmond denied the allegations and insisted the complaints process was biased against him - a claim vindicated in the civil courts in January 2019.

Sturgeon was asked today if the Scottish Government had revised its complaints process specifically to target Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence at Holyrood today

She said: “It wasn’t. Absolutely, emphatically not. Alex Salmond has been, and I have said this many times, one of the closest people to me in my entire life.

“I would never have wanted to get Alex Salmond, and I would never, ever have wanted any of this to happen. If I could have, short of brushing complaints under the carpet which would have been wrong to me, if I could turn the clock back and find legitimate ways that none of this would ever have happened, then I would.

“Alex Salmond has been for most of my life, since I was about 20, 21 years old, not just a very close political colleague, a friend, someone in my younger days who I looked up to and revered.

“I had no motive, intention, desire to get Alex Salmond.”

Sturgeon also denied the name of one of the original complainers had been shared with Geoff Aberdein, Salmond's former chief of staff, during a meeting with a senior Scottish Government official in 2018.

She suggested instead that Salmond undertook his own investigation to discover the identity of one of the two alleged complainants against him.

Labour’s Jackie Bailie pressed the First Minister on the issue, saying in an “extraordinary breach of confidentiality” Mr Aberdein had passed the details to Mr Salmond.

Baillie said in any other position doing this would be a “sackable offence” as she demanded to know if the First Minister or the Permanent Secretary had authorised this.

But Sturgeon said: “I am not accepting that that happened, therefore I am clearly not accepting that was authorised.”

The First Minister accepted this was a “matter of contention”.

She added: “Certainly in relation to one of the complainants Alex Salmond was pretty clear he had found out through investigations of Scottish Government social media accounts he had found out who that was.

“And in relation to the other one, and this is the bit I am perhaps speculating on, it must have been the case when he got that letter, because he knew about the incident because he had apologised to the person.

“So my assumption would be that he would have known that without anybody having to tell him. And I know from what he told me he found out the identity of the other one through his own investigations.”

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