Nicola Sturgeon has defended her handling of the Alex Salmond sexual harassment case, saying the former SNP leader’s account to her of his ‘deeply inappropriate behaviour’ was a moment she would ‘never forget’.

The First Minister maintained she did not intervene in the Scottish Government’s investigation into Mr Salmond amid calls for her to resign, telling MSPs that the details of complaints against him were ‘shocking’ and his behaviour ‘was not always appropriate’.

She apologised to the public and the women who came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against her predecessor.

But a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the investigation being ruled unlawful and ‘tainted by apparent bias’, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him in legal fees.

Mr Salmond was later acquitted of 13 charges following a criminal trial.

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Ms Sturgeon told MSPs it was ‘absolutely right’ that the Scottish Government investigated the complaints.

She said: ‘An individual’s profile, status or connections should not result in complaints of this nature being ignored or swept under the carpet. That in this case it was a former first minister does not change that.’

She said ‘two women were failed and taxpayers’ money was lost, I deeply regret that’.

She added: ‘Although I was not aware of the error at the time, I am the head of the Scottish Government so I want to take this opportunity to say sorry to the two women involved and to the wider public.’

Describing a meeting with Mr Salmond in her home on April 2 2018, she said while he denied the complaints against him he gave his account of the incident which ‘he said he had apologised for at the time’.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: ‘What he described constituted in my view deeply inappropriate behaviour on his part, perhaps a reason why that moment is embedded so strongly in my mind.’

She said she had no intention of intervening in the investigation process, adding ‘and I did not’.

Ms Sturgeon is facing calls from the Scottish Conservatives to resign after two witnesses backed up Mr Salmond’s claim that she misled Parliament about a meeting with her predecessor in evidence to the committee.

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