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Nicola Sturgeon has come out fighting in her long-awaited appearance before the Holyrood inquiry into her government's unlawful investigation of Alex Salmond, amid calls for her to resign.
The First Minister apologised for the "serious mistakes" made in the handling of Mr Salmond's alleged sexual harassment claims, but insisted that she was not out to "get" her predecessor.
She said there is not "a shred of evidence" to support her former mentor's claim there was a "malicious and concerted" attempt to see him removed from public life and she has consistently denied breaching the ministerial code.
Ms Sturgeon is facing calls from the Scottish Conservatives to step down after two witnesses backed up Alex Salmond's claim that she misled parliament about a meeting with her predecessor.
The Scottish Government launched an investigation into the former first minister after a number of women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment. 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 for legal fees.
Mr Salmond was later acquitted of 13 charges following a criminal trial at Edinburgh's High Court.
Follow the live updates below.
Nicola Sturgeon's closing statement in full
"I know what Alex Salmond has said. I know what version of this Alex Salmond wants people to believe, and I know why.
"What happened here with Alex Salmond is no different to what would have happened with any individual. People came forward with complaints, first to the Scottish Government, then to the police. They did so of their own free will.
"The police investigated those independently, as they would have done regardless of who these complaints had been about. The Crown Office, as it does every day, assesses the evidence and decided there was a case to answer. And then a court and a jury did its job.
"There have been mistakes made in this, and I think there is a lot of learning to be done. I would put it to people when it is seen in terms of what actually happened this is an example of the institutions of the country, the independent institutions of the country, doing their job.
"Actually, out of this comes the message no matter how powerful you are or were, no matter your status or connections, if you are accused of serious offences they will be investigated and you will have the chance to defend yourself in court. That is how these things should work.
"Mistakes have been made by government, that is undeniable. But the idea that because somebody doesn't like what happened over the past couple of years we allow this attack to be made on the very fundamentals of democracy, I just find deeply distressing, deeply unfair and, actually, whatever you think about me, the SNP, the Scottish Government, I think deeply injurious to the health and wellbeing of our democracy."
Sturgeon: Whatever you think of me - do not attack the wellbeing of our democracy
In closing her evidence for the day, the First Minister made an impassioned rallying cry.
She said: "Mistakes have been made by government, that is undeniable.
"But the idea that because somebody doesn't like what happened over the past couple of years we allow this attack to be made on the very fundamentals of democracy, I just find deeply distressing, deeply unfair and, actually, whatever you think about me, the SNP, the Scottish Government, I think deeply injurious to the health and wellbeing of our democracy."
Civil service accusations 'deeply unfair'
Nicola Sturgeon accepted the civil service had made "mistakes" in how the complaints were dealt with.
While she insisted she was not defending those mistakes, she said: "The civil service in Scotland acts properly and impartially at all times."
The First Minister went on to say the "accusations that have been made about the lack of independence or impartiality of the civil service are deeply unfair and, more importantly, unfounded".
'No matter how powerful, if you are accused, you will have the chance to defend yourself in court'
The First Minister, in closing her evidence to the inquiry, said that whoever will lead the Scottish government is a matter for the people of Scotland.
But said this entire chapter has shown "the independent institutions of the country doing their job.
"No matter your power, no matter your connections, if you are accused of serious offences you will have the chance to defend them in court."
Nicola Sturgeon's closing remarks begin
After Margaret Mitchell's long-winded final question, Nicola Sturgeon began her final remarks for the day.
As she entered her ninth hour on the stand, the First Minister said: "I know what Alex Salmond has said. I know what version of this he wants people to believe.
"What happened here with Alex Salmond is not different to any other person."
She insisted that serious allegations were reported first to the Scottish government and then to police and that they were investigated independently.
Ms Sturgeon conceded: "There have been mistakes made in this and there is a lot of learning."
Convener's slap-down of Tory MSP
Margaret Mitchell said: "Transparency, openness and accountability is what we established at the very beginning as essential to what any government needs to establish with the electorate.
"No-one so far has taken any responsibility at all for the catastrophic fallout of the Government's complaint handling that cost almost £1 million to the tax payer.
"The independence of our civil service matters. But what appears to be here is we've either got the most incompetent civil servants under the sun or, after 13 years, the independence or the lines have been blurred. Is that a possibility?"
Convener Linda Fabiani interrupted Ms Mitchell, saying: "I think some of your remarks have been inappropriate and there was an awful lot in there that was your own rhetoric, rather than questions."
Convener has her Jackie Weaver moment
In the closest we'll come to a Jackie Weaver moment, Convener Linda Fabiani has finally lost her patience with deputy convener Mitchell, who rambled for six minutes in her closing question having been asked to keep it brief.
Ms Fabiani said: "Ms Mitchell, I think some of your remarks have been repeated, and in your own rhetoric.
"Some of the language you used was inappropriate.
"I think it was difficult to see what you wanted answering."
'I have agonised over every decision and every step I took in this process'
Nicola Sturgeon was pressed on why she had not immediately reported her meeting with Alex Salmond, when he told her about the complaint, to civil servants.
She said she feared if she had done this she would have "compromised the independence, and the privacy, the confidentiality, of the process".
The First Minister said: "I have agonised over every decision and every step I took in this process. I have searched my soul on this on a personal level, a political level, a government level.
"On that particular decision I did not intervene, I did not try influence this process. If I had picked up the phone or told the civil service I knew, my worry was that that act in itself might have been influencing the process because suddenly you have got civil servants thinking, even just subliminally, thinking 'what does she think we should be doing about this?'."
Referring to the coronavirus pandemic, she added: "Before this year I would have said this was the most difficult set of decisions I have ever had to take.
"I think after this year that is probably not the case. But the personal, political, governmental nature of all of this made this a really invidious situation."
Ms Sturgeon added: "I don't say that to ask for a free pass, you expect first ministers to deal with difficult situations properly. But the combination of all of this was horrendously difficult, and I tried to reach the best judgments.
"I have to be able to satisfy myself that I did the things that I thought were right at the time as well as I could, and that is what I have thought a lot about. I believe I am sitting here saying I think I reached the best judgments I could."
Why did Sturgeon keep meeting Salmond?
Jackie Ballie said: "You met Alex Salmond on April 2, messages exchanged on June 1 and 3. Giving what you are saying about his behaviour, why did you keep meeting him?
Nicola Sturgeon responded: "I was dealing with a situation that involved the former first minister facing a government investigation. The former leader of my party, which has had huge implications for my party, and someone who I really cared about.
"I still feel, despite everything, a loyalty to him and that's why I made these decisions. The thing I was absolutely adamant about is I would not try to influence this process in the way he wanted me to because I felt that was inappropriate."
Labour MSP rapped for raking up old ground
Anyone following the hearing all day may be forgiven for thinking they're watching a repeat.
Jackie Bailie has been told to move on in relation to questions already asked of Nicola Sturgeon surrounding the precursor to the meeting on Mar 29.
Her snappy response to the convener was: "I'm not entirely satisfied with the responses I've had."
Seconds out, round four, ding-ding!
In the latest flare-up between Jackie Bailie and Nicola Sturgeon, the topic is whether the issue crossed from being a party personal issue to a governmental one.
Ms Sturgeon said: "I've gone through this three times now."
Ms Bailie snapped back: "Do it for the fourth."
Ms Sturgeon responded: "The reason I didn't report it because if I had reported it, I think I would have compromised the privacy and the independence of the process."
Sturgeon accused of knowing details before key meeting
Jackie Bailie has said Ms Sturgeon must have known of the details of complaints about Alex Salmond before their meeting on Apr 2 if she thought he might resign.
The First Minister said this wasn't the case, and added: "I had a belief that he had a problem and was being accused of something.
"Clear his name is my description of this right now, which may be part of me looking back on this."
Ms Sturgeon said she "knew there was a problem" and it was suggested that he might stand down to clear his name.
Sturgeon appears close to tears
The First Minster's fallout with Alex Salmond is "a matter of deep personal pain and regret for me", she told the inquiry.
Appearing close to tears, Ms Sturgeon added: "I think I probably should stop there."
Asked by Murdo Fraser MSP if she owed the Scottish people an apology for having previously told them they should trust Mr Salmond, Ms Sturgeon said: "I trusted him and I am not going to apologise for the behaviour of somebody else.
"I do not think it's reasonable to ask me to apologise for the behaviour of Alex Salmond.
"I think the only person who should apologise for behaviour on his part - which he was asked to do on Friday and failed to do - is Alex Salmond."
'I feel let down by Alex Salmond', says Sturgeon
Reflecting on how she now sees her mentor, the First Minister said of her predecessor: "I've learned things about Aslex Salmond that has made me rethink what I feel about him.
"I'm sure he's learned things about me.
"As I saw him on Friday lashing out against us.
"I don't think he realises that many of us, and me, feel let down by him." Asked if she would apologise for asking the public to trust Mr Salmond, she said: "I do not think it appropriate to apologise for someone's actions."
Sturgeon did not 'have words' with husband for fear of not getting her tea
Ms Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell said the meeting on Apr 2 at their family home was a governmental issue, as far as he was concerned.
Asked if she had words with him when she got home, Ms Sturgeon said: "I wouldn't have had words with him, because it would have jeopardised me getting my tea."
Then, returning to the serious matters at hand, she said: "He didn't know the basis of the meeting.
"That was his assumption on the basis that I wasn't telling him about what was going on.
"He wasn't in a position to judge the basis of the meeting."
She insisted that her husband was not used to the scrutiny of appearing before a committee panel, and by answering on assumptions he was merely "trying to be helpful".
Mar 29 meeting contradictions
The inquiry is now tackling the contradictions surrounding the meeting on Mar 29.
As a reminder:
March 29: Mr Salmond's former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, meets Ms Sturgeon at Holyrood and discusses the allegations. In her written evidence to the committee in 2020, Ms Sturgeon says she forgot about this meeting until "late January/early February" 2019.
Alex Salmond said he was "absolutely certain that the meeting was pre-arranged for the with regards to me and complaints".
Ms Sturgeon said: "I can't speak to what Alex thought about this situation. I had been told the night before - the Thursday - that Geoff may well be in Parliament and that I'd see him.
What is definitely the case, is in that meeting I agreed to meet Alex.
"My understanding is that Geoff had asked to see me."
But Duncan Hamilton and Kevin Pringle's evidence suggests the First Minister's office had requested the meeting.
Ms Sturgeon said: "I wasn't asking to be briefed on matters. Why would I have gone to such great lengths to conceal."
'Did I deal with it perfectly? Maybe not'
Mr Cole-Hamilton said that if the First Minister genuinely thought she was meeting Mr Salmond in a party personal space, and thought he was going to face the biggest threats in history - that the person who built the party was about to leave it - how some people might find it hard to believe Ms Sturgeon would not mention this to her husband.
The First Minister responded: "I can see how hard all this is for people to understand.
"All I can say is there's lots of different emotions, factors and considerations. I had been given the impression by Geoff resignation was a possibility. I can't recall the basis of that but didn't think it was a certainty, so it was one of the reasons I wanted to meet him and hear what the situation was.
"I wasn't - having not heard if that was a reality - set my party into crisis mode.
"I'm not sure that's impossible for people to understand."
She added: "I hope that there's not that many people that find themselves in the position of having to deal with serious complaints against someone that was so close to you.
"Did I deal with it all perfectly? Maybe not. But I dealt with it the best I could."
Sturgeon and her husband - the SNP chief executive officer
Alex Cole-Hamilton asked about Ms Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell, who is also the SNP chief executive officer.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: "You said as a rule you didn't discuss written government business with him, but was a different matter when it comes to party business.
"You said you believed Alex Salmond was possibly about to resign from the party, but said nothing to Mr Murrell about your concerns and he was just popping in for a chat, is that correct?"
The First Minister said: "I've heard you posit that if I thought Alex was going to resign I'd have to have a handle in place and everything - I didn't.
"I worried that something like that was the case but I wanted to speak to him first before I spoke to anyone else.
"If he had come into my house on April 2 and said 'I'm going to resign from the party', of course I would have told people so we could prepare for that.
"But he didn't tell me that and I decided I wanted to hear from him what he wanted to tell me."
'Why did I meet him again here?'
Nicola Sturgeon told the committee about two further meetings she had had with her predecessor after the one on April 2.
She said the first of these she had "arranged to meet him to say 'I have told the Permanent Secretary I am not going to intervene'."
As well as meeting him on June 7, she also said she saw Mr Salmond again for the "final time" around July 13.
She said: "If I am being very reflective, that is probably the meeting I think 'why did I meet him again here?'."
She added: "This is maybe the most ironic bit of all. Probably at that stage I was still a bit concerned about him.
"So, I am sitting here, facing all of this and being accused of being part of a grand conspiracy against him, actually some of what probably has led me into trouble is I was concerned about him."
Sturgeon did not play role in release of documents
Nicola Sturgeon said the decision not to hand over documents to the judicial review or the criminal case following a search warrant issued on the home of the permanent secretary to the crown office was made by an independent commissioner.
Despite this, the documents were made available to the committee.
She said: "I think there has been a suggestion made that 46 documents were inappropriately withheld from the warrant in the criminal investigation.
"Scottish Government officials have reviewed the documents that were listed in the submission made to the committee.
"Of these, 13 of them were released under the warrant and others didn't meet the specific terms of the warrant.
"Ministers and the permanent secretary had no role in determining which documents were in scope of the terms of the warrant.
"Where documents weren't handed over that would be because a judgment was made that they weren't within the scope of a warrant, but that was not a process I had any involvement in."
Sturgeon insists she did not intervene
Asked about her earlier submission that "perhaps I put him down more gently than I should have done", when Mr Salmond asked her to intervene, she said: "Given what he's said, did I make that clear enough?
"I'm not disputing evidence. But when I'm looking at things I've been accused of, I don't see that as intervening.
"If he left there with the impression that I was, then that clearly was not the impression I wanted to give him,.
"A crucial part in this is that I didn't intervene."
Salmond meeting 'will live with me forever', says Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon said that the meeting in her dining room with Alex Salmond "will live with me forever".
She doubled down on why she thought it was a party personal matter and not a governmental matter, and said t that she was worried he was coming to resign.
'Government are learning lessons on all of this'
Stuart McMillan said that both the Lord Advocate and former director of legal services were candid on the Government's failings on the locating and sharing of all the relevant documents with Mr Salmond as part of the review.
He asked: "How can it change so the Scottish Government are in better position to make information more available in terms of future documents?"
Ms Sturgeon said: "The Government are learning lessons on all of this. I can't give specific details on the technical aspects, but these are never simple things - the sheer volume of documents processed on a daily, weekly, basis is massive.
"I'm not an expert, but you use keywords to search and such. It didn't work at all times how it should have worked and these are part of the consequences we're now talking about, so these will be things we'll be seeking to learn from and improve."
Salmond's behaviour was 'not appropriate', says Sturgeon
The First Minister recalled being shown the details of the alleged sexual crimes of Alex Salmond.
She said: "He showed me the details he'd had from the permanent secretary.
"They were distressing and upsetting details, but then this was one of the incidents that he had apologised to somebody for at the time.
"He gave me his account.
"And my view, his account constituted behaviour that was not appropriate."
Sturgeon thought Salmond could resign to take control
While the First Minister conceded that perhaps it was never Alex Salmond's intention to resign his party membership.
But she admitted it had played on her mind.
She said: "The one thing you always know about Alex - he's capable of doing the unexpected.
"To be perfectly honest, that was something that stayed in my mind for longer - that if Alex had got to the point that it was just not possible that he would take hold of the narrative and handle it in a different way [he could have resigned from the SNP]."
What did Alex Salmond want out of the meeting?
Ms Sturgeon was then asked what she thought Mr Salmond's intentions were coming into that meeting.
She said: "When he got there, I think it was because he wanted me to intervene to bring about a process of mediation.
"I knew I was seeing him in the party space. He had a different objective coming into that.
"I thought it was not appropriate for me to intervene in the way he was asking me to do."
What did Sturgeon meet with Salmond?
We now move onto the issues of ministerial code.
Asked why she met with Alex Salmond, Ms Sturgeon said: "Basically because I was being told that he was facing an issue, he was distressed, as I was told he was considering resigning from SNP membership.
"That was the reason I chose to meet him. That was the basis.
"The decisions I took around that and not immediately noting that on the ministerial code - that was down to a consideration of how best I protected the independence of the process."
Sturgeon's 'concern' over 'government legal advice' being 'routinely asked for'
Nicola Sturgeon said there had been "really complex legal issues" behind the provision of legal information to the committee.
She said she would "reflect seriously" on what Jackie Baillie had said but that there were concerns about the release of the legal documents.
The First Minister said: "I get some of the frustration, I share some of the frustration."
Ms Sturgeon added: "Sitting here right now I am glad you have got the legal advice so that I can talk about it openly today.
"But I have a concern about getting into a situation where government legal advice is routinely asked for and published, because I think that will undermine the basis on which governments properly inform their decisions."
She said ministers had "genuinely-held views and concerns about the basis on which governments need to be able to take confidential legal advice".
Ms Sturgeon added: "When Alex Salmond was first minister, he held those views as strongly as I do now."
MSP never as frustrated as now in 22 years of parliamentary committees
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie spoke about "how frustrated" she had been as a member of the committee as they tried to get sight of the Scottish Government's legal advice.
"I don't think I have felt quite so frustrated in my 22 years of being on parliamentary committees as with this one," she said.
"We have waited for information from the Scottish Government, the stuff we have received has been partial and late.
"The legal advice has taken two votes in Parliament and a motion of no confidence in John Swinney before we saw it last night at six o'clock.
"And there is information missing."
Ms Baillie added: "We have waited till the 11th hour for the legal advice, we get partial legal advice."
She asked Ms Sturgeon: "Do you understand the frustration of the committee? Do you understand that it looks as though the Government doesn't want to give us critical information?"
Sturgeon's 'profound concern about confidence of Scottish women to come forward'
Nicola Sturgeon said there was a lot of work required to rebuild women's confidence in reporting allegations.
She told the committee: "I have a profound concern about what it means for the confidence women in Scotland have in coming forward, and the Government's actions are part of that. I don't deny that.
"I think all of us - every single one of us, after this is all over, has to think about how we repair some of that and build a culture again in Scotland where women do feel confident to come forward.
"I don't shy away from the Government's big responsibility in that."
Protecting complainants played part in conceding case, Sturgeon says
Ms Watt then asked if the protecting of the complainers and the complaints play a role in taking "quite a while" to concede.
Ms Sturgeon replied: "As long as this case was stateable and we thought we had an arguable, credible case - even although prospects had deteriorated - then the wider public interest came into play.
"In addition if we thought we had a chance of defending this, then that would be in the interest of the complainants.
"The interest of the complainers was a wider part of that - as long as the case was stateable, then we should continue to defend it."
Sturgeon 'stands by' decision to concede
Maureen Watt told Ms Sturgeon members of the committee were allowed to read the report from Sarah Davidson.
Ms Watt said the permanent secretary said: "The decision I took after reading this report, the decision I took was to concede".
She then asked if the permanent secretary had discussed this with the First Minister prior to making a recommendation to concede.
Ms Sturgeon said they had discussed on an ongoing basis.
The First Minister added: "I in no way am seeking to disassociate myself from this decision. I was involved in the deliberations, I was in agreement and stand behind the decision."
'If I had used my power to get him an outcome he wanted... it would have been wrong'
Nicola Sturgeon said on the issue of arbitration the issue was "would it have been right for me to intervene?".
She said: "He's a former first minister ... but he was also the person that was subject to complaints that were being investigated.
"He was seeking to get me to intervene in that process of investigation on his behalf in a way that would have departed from the terms of the procedure."
She added: "The point for me is would it have been appropriate for me to intervene on behalf of my friend and colleague and former boss in a process of investigation I wasn't meant to have part in?
"As First Minister, I think if I had done that ... if I had used my role, my influence, my power, to get him an outcome he wanted, not as a former first minister, but as the person who was subject to these complaints, I think that would have been an egregious breach of my power. I think it would have been wrong and deeply inappropriate."
Ms Sturgeon said: "For me, one of the hardest things, which is maybe why I let him down more gently than I intended to on that April 2 meeting, sitting and saying no to a friend who is asking you for help is a tough thing to do.
"It has had big implications for me and my relationship with him. But was it the right thing to do, absolutely, and I will maintain that for as long as I live."
'Tipping point' was Dec 11 to 19
Andrew Wightman asked the First Minister: "Would it be fair to say that the critical tipping point, the thing that changed everything, was the period December 6-19?"
Ms Sturgeon agreed but said she would narrow from the 11th onwards would be when it really started to go badly wrong.
Mr Wightman said: "Ministers decided to concede the case. As I understand it, there was discussion at 4pm on Hogmanay 2018, discussing how it should be conceded.
"The grounds for this was the inability to defend that documents had been produced after it was promised everything was, and that related to S10 of the procedure.
"Did the petitioner have any comments on the proposals ministers made on the joint minute?"
Ms Sturgeon said she was not involved but thought that would be the case.
Sturgeon fails to name the legal ground on which information not given
Jackie Bailie said there had been "endless letters" and "two votes in parliament" trying to get the information the committee wanted surrounding the legal guidance given to the Scottish government.
She asked Ms Sturgeon: "What is the legal basis on not giving us the information in question?"
The First Minister distanced herself from the issue, saying: "I have deliberately recused myself of ht handling of that."
Sturgeon will 'reflect' on committee's concerns of withholding information
The First Minister said: "I'm not going to sit here and say I'm not going to reflect seriously on that - because I will.
"I share a lot of this frustration because some of the information that has not been available - it's not down to the government.
"Every time that there has been information that mystique and intrigue has been built up around... it turned out it wasn't actually the case.
"People can take different takes on it.
"With any committee that feels that way, I will reflect on that."
Government has 'fully cooperated' with committee, insists Sturgeon
Jackie Bailie presses Nicola Sturgeon further on the alleged suppression of information.
She said it "looks like government doesn't want to give committee critical information".
Ms Sturgeon responded: "I've given you an explanation on the factors on that. I would take issue with avoiding trying to give information.
"Sometimes it's quantity, but often the legal complaints and orders in place - I think the government has fully cooperated with the committee."
Bailie-Sturgeon scrap continues after break
The spiky exchange between Jackie Bailie and Nicola Sturgeon has continued after the break.
Jackie Bailie said it felt like a "long time" since her and the First Minister last talked, even though it was around an hour ago.
Nicola Sturgeon replied: "Yes, and you misquoted me."
Ms Bailie responded to say that the First Minister "clearly had the resources" to check these things.
The convener was then forced to jump in, saying: "Could you two just get on with it, please?"
Sturgeon defends decision not to intervene as Salmond was 'powerful friend'
Ms Sturgeon again defended her decision not to intervene on Mr Salmond's behalf following the allegations against him simply because she was his "powerful friend".
She said: "I think there is a public interest, if somebody has serious complaints made against them and there is a procedure in place to allow that to be investigated, that that procedure is allowed to happen without political interference from somebody's powerful friend to try to divert the course it would take.
"I think that is absolutely in the public interest. That's the judgment I made - people can decide if I was right or wrong."
Sturgeon: Criticism 'raining down on my head' would be justified if I intervened
Nicola Sturgeon said it was not her decision not to go to arbitration in the case.
She defended her decision not to intervene in the matter, saying Mr Salmond had "suggested I should be intervening to help bring about that process of arbitration".
The First Minister said: "I think it would have been highly inappropriate for me to intervene on Mr Salmond's behalf to try to bring any particular outcome about. This was an investigation I was not part of, I had no role in, I wasn't even supposed to know about it.
"I would have been intervening on behalf of a friend and a colleague and an associate. The complainers didn't have the ability to come to me to ask me to intervene to get something they wanted in the process.
"I would have been giving him privileged influence in a process in which I wasn't meant to have a part."
She added: "If I was sitting here right now having down that, I think the criticism that would be raining down on my head would be absolutely and utterly justified."
'I didn't want him exposed - I didn't want any of this to happen'
Nicola Sturgeon repeated her opinion that the Alex Salmond review and criminal trial was something she never wanted to see.
She said: "He was a man I had revered since I was 20. I didn't want him exposed - I didn't want any of this to happen.
"But the idea I wanted any of this to happen, it was not a situation of my making.
"I tried to handle it in the best way I could."
She said that Mr Salmond had asked her to engineer the situation in his favour by intervening.
Ms Sturgeon said: "That would have been deeply inappropriate for me to do so."
Sturgeon will stand by decision not to intervene 'for as long as I live'
The First Minister said: "The question for me at this point is would it have been right for me to intervene.
"He was seeking to get me to intervene with the process on his behalf."
Ms Sturgeon said Mr Salmond was trying to get her to lead the review down a track that would result in him not having to face a point of decision.
She added: "In all of this there has been a lot of personal angst for me and others.
"For me, one of the hardest things was sitting and saying no to a friend who is asking you for help - it's a tough thing to do.
"Was it the right thing to do?
"Yes, and I will stand by that for as long as I live."
Arbitration would not have resolved issues, Sturgeon insists
Deputy convener Mitchell said: Somebody surely has to be held responsible, and what I'm not hearing is where the division of power is.
"You very graciously seem to be taking responsibility for it all.
"People need to know how this happened and why this was rejected.
She added that had the situation been different, Ms Sturgeon would have been criticised for not bringing the issue forward in a public forum - suggesting it was a political decision.
Ms Sturgeon sternly replied: "I'll give you my view straight. It goes to the heart of trust and integrity.
"You make a lot of assumptions there, and with respect you conflate a lot of different roles.
"You make an assumption arbitration would resolve all of this.
"The government was undoubted in their decision that arbitration was not an appropriate thing to do."
Delay accusation 'stretching the belief of even the most devout conspiracy theorists'
It was put to Nicola Sturgeon that there were accusations the government delayed the judicial review in order for the criminal case against Alex Salmond could "take over".
A clearly animated Nicola Sturgeon said: "It's absurd and bizarre.
"You can see the process that's been gone through. The idea we'd have done that - it would have involved the police.
"Anybody suggesting that is stretching the belief of even the most devout conspiracy theorists."
She curtly closed the answer saying: "I don't think absurdity should take the amount of time it's taking me to debunk it."
Salmond review not normal, concedes Sturgeon
The Convener has restarted proceedings.
We pick up where we left off - the judicial review.
Asked about the judicial review compared to previous experiences, Ms Sturgeon said: "Put to one side the catastrophic error - I suppose you'd have to ask litigators and government lawyers if it was anything out of the ordinary.
"I wouldn't say it was our of the ordinary for me... but this was the former first minister taking the government to court - a long term colleague and mentor taking the government to court.
"So it was not in that sense normal."
Break in proceedings
After a break - the First Minister is expected to be back on the stand at 2pm
'You were risking public funds in continuing with the action'
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser insisted the Scottish government's legal advice, published by ministers on Tuesday night, had shown by December 6 "if not before" that the risk of losing the court case brought by Mr Salmond was "very high".
He challenged Ms Sturgeon on this, saying: "You were risking public funds in continuing with the action."
The First Minister told him: "I think every time a government defends a legal action it is risking public funds, because there is never a guarantee you are going to be successful."
She added: "My understanding is that much of what went really wrong in the case, catastrophically wrong... was in that later stage of December, when it became clear, I believe not intentionally, that there was information and material that had not hitherto been disclosed."
But she said: "Up until as late as December 11 it was the opinion of law officers we had a stateable case with credible arguments."
'We thought we had a stateable case'
Nicola Sturgeon rejected suggestions the Government did not take the advice of senior lawyers in conceding Alex Salmond's judicial review petition.
Committee member Murdo Fraser MSP highlighted some advice which warned "the trumpeting would be far louder" if the case proceeded to a written judgment, saying the "least worst option would be to concede the petition".
Ms Sturgeon said: "The charge that has been made against me is that I wilfully allowed a judicial review to proceed against the legal advice, therefore I broke the ministerial code.
"With respect, as you now know, I was acting in accordance with the views of the law officers, not against.
"We thought we had a stateable case, counsel was not arguing at that stage - that changed later - we thought we had credible arguments to make, and we were also taking account of that wider interest in getting a determination on the many grounds of challenge that Alex Salmond had made to both the procedure and its application."
The all-important counsel note
Mr Fraser asked about the note on prospects that was prepared, where Ms Sturgeon said "counsel were confident about the case the Scottish Government had".
But in the note, counsel wrote: "We consider the defence to be perfectly stateable, but it would be wrong to say we do not see vulnerability."
Mr Fraser said he would not categorise that as confident.
Ms Sturgeon said that in all of the legal action the Government was involved in, she had never seen them advise they had 100% cast-iron prospects.
She added: "In the early days of minimum pricing, I think if you were to apply anything like the test you're applying to this prospect, we would have never done it. Particularly in those early days, the views on our prospect of success were really not that confident.
"But we thought we could argue it because of the importance of doing it. And that's just the nature of this. So in the context of all the legal opinions I've seen, that actually, is on the more optimistic end of the spectrum."
'I did not break ministerial code'
Nicola Sturgeon insisted she did not break the ministerial code.
She said that on Dec 11, the view of the law officers was not to drop the case against Mr Salmond because there were credible arguments.
The First Minister added: "The charge made against me is that I wilfully allowed a judicial review to proceed - and therefore broke the ministerial code."
She insisted she "was acting in accordance with the law officers", who had taken into account independent advice.
Sturgeon explains her role on judicial review
Murdo Fraser asked what the First Minister's role was in relation to the judicial review.
Ms Sturgeon said: "My formal role was, I was named as an interested party in the petition.
"I was involved in discussions about the prospects of success and the changing prospects as we went though.
"My involvement was greater at particular junctures. I wasn't being briefed every single day.
"It was not an unusual degree of involvement or oversite - I mean obviously given who was taking the Scottish Government to court it was slightly unusual."
Mr Fraser said it seemed the First Minister appeared to be quite well briefed throughout the process.
Sturgeon: Lawyers' advice was 'on the more optimistic scale'
Redacted legal advice published by the Scottish Government on Tuesday evening showed that lawyers advised them in September 2018 that there "is a real risk that the court may be persuaded by the petitioner's case in respect of the ground of challenge based on 'procedural unfairness'."
On December 6 2018 legal advisers told ministers that in their view the "least worst option" would be to concede the petition.
They wrote: "We understand how unpalatable that advice will be, and we do not tender it lightly. "But we cannot let the respondents sail forth into January's hearing without the now very real risks of doing so being crystal clear to all concerned.
Ms Sturgeon defended pressing forward, and said: "In all of the legal action that I've had ministerial oversight of, I don't think I've ever seen the advice being 100% there is a cast iron case, 'there is no chance of losing this'.
"This was at the more optimistic end of the scale of things I've seen."
'My head was spinning'
Recalling the Apr 2 meeting, the First Minister said: "My head was spinning. I was experiencing a maelstrom of emotions.
"There were a number of things in my head. A very strong instinctive view that I sholdn't intervene.
"These discussions do not take place in an antiseptic, sterile environment devoid of human emotion."
Sturgeon explains Apr 2 contradictions
Andy Wightman MSP put the following official statements from various parties to Ms Sturgeon.
Nicola Sturgeon: "I made clear to him (Mr Salmond) I had no role in the process and would not seek to intervene in it."
Alex Salmond: "She was anxious to assist"
Duncan Hamilton QC: "We discussed mediation and her (Ms Sturgeon's) words were 'if it comes to it, I will intervene'
Explaining the contradictions, Ms Sturgeon said: "I believe I did make it clear that I would not intervene.
"I also know that I was perhaps trying to let a long standing friend and colleague down gently and he left with a different impression.
"I'm not quibbling with the sentiments behind them... 'if it comes to it I'll intervene' - if it comes to what?
"Crucially, I did not intervene."
'I know, because I did it', Sturgeon says in heated exchange
The exchange between the First Minister and the deputy convener Margaret Mitchell got increasingly heated as confusion spilled into the inquiry.
Nicola Sturgeon said she believes that concerns from complainants were first raised in November 2017.
"The formal complaints were in January 2018," the First Minister told the committee.
"The procedure was in place from the 20th December. It wasn't published until February but it was in place and clearly being used.
"It was signed off on 20th December - I know that because I did it."
Complaints policy signed off on Dec 20
Nicola Sturgeon said the complaints policy was signed off on December 20.
Margaret Mitchell said Alex Salmond was disputing the sign-off date of the policy, saying it was signed off in February.
She added: "But the complainants made their complaint in January, before he is alleging the complaints procedure was signed off."
The First Minister said: "He certainly disputes a lot of this. But it was signed off on December 20, there were no changes made to it after that and it was published in February.
"Was that ideal? No, but the reason for that is there was other related work under way."
Nothing comes 'within a million miles' of backing up conspiracy claims
Nicola Sturgeon insisted she had seen "nothing that comes within a million miles" of backing up claims that Mr Salmond was the victim of a conspiracy within the SNP.
Speaking about messages sent by various people within the party, she said they showed "people supporting each other, people talking to each other".
She added there was "a bit of gossip about what was going on", saying: "This was a massive thing for the SNP, particularly for people who had worked closely with him."
But she stressed that people in the SNP were co-operating with police, saying: "Some of what has been misrepresented as trying to find or concoct evidence is actually people co-operating with the police at their request.
"I have seen nothing that comes within a million miles of backing up that central assertion Alex was making, that there was some kind of co-ordinated attempt, for whatever motive, and the motive seems to be on shifting sands as well, I have seen nothing that comes within a million miles of demonstrating that."
Nicola Sturgeon's opening statement in full
You can read the First Minister's statement below:
Press release could have looked like attempt to damage Salmond, admits Sturgeon
Mr Cole-Hamilton asked if the complainers were happy for the press release to go out.
Ms Sturgeon said she was not the decision maker in the process, but thought they had been told information was going to go out, but did not know if they had been asked their opinion or just advised.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: "Taking the press release and the leak together looked like a determined attempt to splash this information to damage Alex Salmond."
Ms Sturgeon said: "If you want to see it that way, you could certainly see it that way".
'It was not my press release'
Regarding the Daily Record leak, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: "The day before the leak, the Government was about to press release the fact of the investigation and were only stopped by legal action from Mr Salmond.
"Was that press release prepared with your consent?"
Ms Sturgeon said: "I was written to by the Permanent Secretary, on the 22nd August, telling me the investigation had concluded, that certain things had been upheld, that a decision had been taken to refer two matters to the police.
"That letter told me there was further consideration, putting into the public domain, some very limited information. It was not my press release."
Sturgeon defends Marr 'reverse of position'
Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "Your knowledge of these events really matters. And the fact you had to reverse your position of what you knew and when on Andrew Marr has raised some considerable doubt."
Ms Sturgeon said: "When Andrew Marr came back to ask me this, I think I made the point I felt two issues were being conflated.
"I thought the question I was answering was around the Scottish Government complaint, whereas what I had had previous knowledge of was the Sky query.
"Sometimes one of the other reasons here is different things have been conflated when they are actually separate."
Mr Cole-Hamilton asked about the confidentiality of complainers, saying they had had it corroborated that the name of a complainer was given to Geoff Aberdein, saying if it was true, "it was an egregious breach of confidentiality".
'I'd love to be in a position where I never have to think about Alex Salmond's behaviour'
On workplace culture, Ms Sturgeon said: "The point I agreed with Alex on Friday. This inquiry isn't into him - it's into me and the government.
"I'm not here - other than to rebut explain my own actions - to cast aspersions on Alex Salmond.
"I'd love to be in a position where i Don't have to think about the behaviour of Alex Salmond ever again.
"He was a tough guy to work with. Personally I didn't experience that very much... Sometimes that was justified, sometimes that wasn't."
'This stuff is deeply personal for me'
The First Minister said: "This stuff is deeply personal for me, and it is hard for me to talk about.
"At times if I have appeared as if I am cagey about it, that is one of the reasons."
She said: "I am really uncomfortable when I speak about this, we're talking here about serious allegations that have led to the breakdown in a relationship with somebody that was really important to me, on all sorts of levels. I do feel uncomfortable when I speak about this, on a human level."
Plot against Salmond not based on any semblance of fact, says Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon said: "A number of women came forward."
She suggested that they supported each other as fellow alleged victims of sexual harassment in the same way that Mr Salmond's support network would have rallied around him.
The First Minister added: "To this day, I don't know the identity of every single complainant in the criminal trial.
"The idea that this was some sort of concoction of plot, it's not based on any semblance of fact."
Sturgeon damned if she did, damned if she didn't
Nicola Sturgeon has told the inquiry that she was damned if she did and damned if she didn't when it came to the handling of the allegations.
She said: "Had I done the opposite, I would also be getting criticised.
"Perhaps that's just a reflection of the invidious position people have been put in."
She said she would be sat here today answering questions about why she decided to keep it private had she gone the other way.
Alex Salmond lodges formal complaint against source of leak
Some drama from outside the Holyrood inquiry.
With Nicola Sturgeon on the stand, Alex Salmond has lodged a formal complaint against the alleged leaker of the complainant's name.
The former first minister's spokesman said: "Mr Salmond has lodged a formal complaint with the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government under the civil service code, on the conduct of the official who is alleged to have breached civil service rules, by disclosing the name of a complainant in the Scottish Government process."
What did Nicola Sturgeon know when?
Nicola Sturgeon has gone through key dates and her what she knew when.
November 4, 2017: Ms Sturgeon is informed about an inquiry by Sky News relating to Mr Salmond's alleged behaviour towards female staff at Edinburgh Airport.
March 29, 2018: Mr Salmond's former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, meets Ms Sturgeon at Holyrood and discusses the allegations. In her written evidence to the committee in 2020, Ms Sturgeon says she forgot about this meeting until "late January/early February" 2019.
April 2, 2018: Mr Salmond meets Ms Sturgeon at her home in Glasgow and tells her that he is under investigation. In Mr Salmond's later written evidence, he states the First Minister "suggested that she would intervene in favour of a mediation process at an appropriate stage" but subsequently decided against intervening. Ms Sturgeon has argued she thought this was a party meeting, rather than a Government one.
On Nov 4, she said: "The Nov 4 Sky query left me for a variety of reasons with just a sense of unease. I can't put it any more strongly than that."
The Sky query was on a Saturday night, she spoke to Alex Salmond on the Sunday and on the Monday Ms Sturgeon was made aware that Mr Salmond and/or his legal team had been making phonecalls to civil servants.
On that, she said: "That, and the way that was raised to me, led to a sense of unease. Those phonecalls would have poked the hornet's nest. I had a lingering suspicion in the ether that could surface."
The following year, she said she came out of the Mar 29 meeting with "an awareness there was a complaint".
"There's no doubt I had suspicions of what that might be, but reading the permanent secretary's letter is when I knew the details."
Before Mar 29, Ms Sturgeon said she didn't know "specifically".
Sturgeon doubles down on not knowing who was responsible for leak
Ms Sturgeon expressed her regret about the leak, reiterating that she did not know who was responsible.
She told the committee: "If you had given me the chance of this whole, sorry matter never being in the public domain, legitimately, I would have bitten your hand off for that.
"I never wanted to be publicly commenting on allegations of this nature against Alex Salmond.
"No part of me wanted to be in that position.
"It's also the case that the Government didn't benefit in any way from this leak."
'Just think how implausible that is', Sturgeon says on spiking story
Ms Baillie said that she was told the Daily Record was leaked the information on Mr Salmond to spike an upcoming story about Ms Sturgeon.
Ms Sturgeon said that "was not even something I had even heard before", and that she was intrigued by the story, adding "that is a new part of the conspiracy I'm hearing for the first time".
She said: "Just think how implausible that is.
"That's an incredible coincidence, which is why it didn't happen."
Was leak investigated?
Ms Baillie asked if she investigated this alleged leak.
Ms Sturgeon said: "The clear view of the person who is being accused of this is that it didn't happen.
"I am not able to go into, for the legal constraints I am under, why that is the case."
Leak is 'matter of contention', says Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon was asked about the claim that a senior member of her team had leaked the name of one of the complainers to Geoff Aberdein, who had previously been Mr Salmond's chief of staff.
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.
Ms 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 Ms 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."
Salmond's own investigations led to second complainant, Sturgeon says
Nicola Sturgeon said Alex Salmond undertook his own investigation to discover the identity of one of the two alleged complainants against him.
The First Minister told the committee investigating the Scottish Government's botched handling of harassment allegations made against her predecessor: "Alex Salmond was open with me about the identity of one complainant, because he knew.
"He knew about the identity of one complainant because he knew about the incident, because he had apologised to the person concerned.
"I can't recall if the name of the other complainant was shared openly on April 2 (a meeting between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond at her Glasgow home in 2018).
"He also knew the identity of that complainant because I remember him talking about how he had gone through the Scottish Government Flickr (image-sharing website) account to find out who had been with him on particular days.
"He knew the identity of both complainants, in one respect because he knew about the incident and in the other respect through his own investigations."
Sturgeon agitated by leak questioning
An allegation that the Daily Record was given the Alex Salmond sexual allegation story in order to spike a second story about Nicola Sturgeon was also rebutted by the First Minister.
Clearly agitated by the line of questioning by Jackie Bailie MSP, Ms Sturgeon said: "Now, you can tell me about this story about me."
Thoughts of talking publicly about Salmond allegations made Sturgeon 'physically sick'
The First Minister said: "The thought of making comments on it horrified me. It made me feel physically sick.
"No part of me wanted to see that get into the public domain."
Leak never came from me, Sturgeon says
The Daily Record newspaper broke the news of the allegations against Mr Salmond via a tweet on August 23, 2018.
He denied misconduct and calls some of the allegations "patently ridiculous".
Asked today where that leak came from, Ms Sturgeon said: "I don't know where the leaks came from.
"I can tell you where they didn't come from - they didn't come from me, I'm as certain as I can be that they didn't come from anybody within my office.
"I heard Alex Salmond say that it must've come from someone who had access to the decision report.
"I was never sent it."
Sturgeon had 'no involvement' in handling of formal complaints
Ms Sturgeon said she had had no involvement in the handling of the formal complaints process.
Stuart McMillan said it would help to have the complaints handling process corrected, saying: "Clear mistakes were made in the division of the responsibilities of those tasked with that role and those tasked with the role of investigating complaints.
"Do you accept this went wrong and what can be done to avoid it in the future?"
Ms Sturgeon said she "unreservedly accepted" things went wrong.
She added: "We are reviewing these aspects right now. That will be an opportunity for us to consider why these things happened and what needs to be done to ensure that should a situation like this occur again, it wouldn't happen in the future."
Salmond knew both complainants, says Sturgeon
Mr Salmond met Ms Sturgeon at her home in Glasgow and told her that he is under investigation.
In Mr Salmond's later written evidence, he states the First Minister "suggested that she would intervene in favour of a mediation process at an appropriate stage" but subsequently decided against intervening.
Ms Sturgeon has argued she thought this was a party meeting, rather than a Government one.
Talking of that meeting, she said: "He seemed very certain that a complainant had been named.
"Alex Salmond was open with me about the identity of one complainant."
Regarding that complainant, Ms Sturgeon said Mr Salmond knew the name of the first complainant because there had been an incident he was aware of and he had apologised to her.
She said the second complainant was due to Mr Salmond's own investigations.
Ms Sturgeon said she remembers Mr Salmond saying he had gone through the government's Flickr account to see who had been with whom and when.
Sturgeon chuckles at suggestion she and Salmond had 'fundamental' disagreements
The First Minister chuckled as she told committee member Andy Wightman MSP that there were "fundamental" disagreements between her and Alex Salmond.
Asked if she believed there should be a procedure for retrospectively investigating complaints of sexual harassment against former ministers, Ms Sturgeon said: "Yes, unequivocally, absolutely.
"Politics perhaps more than any other walk of life, people in positions of political power are powerful people. Therefore it presumably is more difficult - not impossible - for people to bring forward complaints.
"If that ability to hold someone to account stops the moment you cease to be in that position of authority, clearly that is closing off the ability for you to be held to account should complaints come forward in the future."
She accused Mr Salmond of saying, in his previous evidence to the committee, that complaints against him should not have been investigated.
"I fundamentally disagree with that," Ms Sturgeon added.
Mr Wightman asked Ms Sturgeon is there was a "fundamental disagreement" on that, to which Ms Sturgeon, chuckling as she took a sip of water, replied: "On that point and, of course, others."
Sturgeon 'did not know' about 2013 Salmond incident
Andy Wightman said: "You've said that you received no concerns about Mr Salmond's behaviour before the Sky News inquiry.
"One of the civil servants whose complaint ended up in the court said to the journalist Danny Gravelly 'If I'd complained it wouldn't have been swept under the carpet, and would have suffered my career.
"'I never saw anyone in a senior position tackle the First Minister on his behaviour."'
He asked if the fact that civil servants had concerns was something Ms Sturgeon would take more seriously in the aftermath.
Ms Sturgeon said she would but hoped it was the case she had taken it seriously previously.
She added: "I made a comment about soul searching in my opening remarks. I did not know - I now know there is an incident Alex Salmond apologised for in 2013.
"I didn't know that at the time, of any concerns about his alleged sexual behaviour back then. I did not hear concerns about that back then and part of me wishes I had."
'I would never have wanted to get Alex Salmond'
“I would never have wanted to ‘get’ Alex Salmond”, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told a Holyrood committee, saying she had “no motive, intention, (or) desire” for such action against her predecessor.
The Me Too backdrop to Salmond allegations
Nicola Sturgeon said that the Me Too movement was the backdrop to the complaints against Alex Salmond.
Asked if the civil servants within the Scottish government were enthusiastic in relation to the movement, she said: "They were acting on the requests the cabinet had given them.
"I don't know about all of you - but I remember the Me Too stuff as really shocking.
"The fact people were coming forward and talking about this was... it was a watershed moment."
Ms Sturgeon said they as politicians had a duty to be ready for similar issues within governments.
She added: "I think it was right to try to do that. I think they were right and proper."
Policy change not influenced by media, Sturgeon says
Ms Watt then asked at the time of the commissioning of the procedure, was the First Minister aware of any of the concerns being raised about the behaviour of any current or former minister.
Ms Sturgeon responded: "At the time we commissioned it on October 31, no. I became aware through a media inquiry of an allegation about the former first minister some days after that."
Ms Watt asked if that influenced the way she looked at the policy.
Ms Sturgeon said it did not.
Finally, Ms Watt said: "Do you think this policy, which related to the civil service, should have been discussed in Parliament?"
Ms Sturgeon said: "That's obviously one of the implications, that this policy is a bespoke Alex Salmond policy and even in the days when we were besties, Alex Salmond has a tendency to see most things as being about him.
"I hope he takes that in the spirit it's intended. But it wasn't, no. I think to see it in that way, really ignores what was happening globally at that time.
"This was about the 'me too' revelations. Did the Sky thing then influence my views on it? No it didn't. The danger I think then would have been had I started to influence this policy in a way that somehow protected him.
"If I'd taken my red pen and crossed out former ministers then I would legitimately be sitting here right now getting a lot of criticism. The policy was not put in place because of Alex Salmond, but nor did I allow any considerations to influence the decisions I took on that."
Are informal handling of complaints satisfactory?
Ms Watt said: "It's clear from our evidence that, prior to the introduction of the procedure, complaints were sometimes handled informally. Do you think that was a satisfactory way of dealing with complaints or concerns?"
Ms Sturgeon responded: "Sometimes that will be a satisfactory way, as it will be satisfactory to the person who's complaining, they prefer to deal with it informally. So I wouldn't say it's never appropriate for that to be the approach that is taken."
She continued: "The second point goes back to Margaret Mitchell's question to me, that said there were concerns from trade unions about a number of ministerial offices.
"At the time as Deputy First Minister who had a role in fairness at work, that never came to me.
"So that does raise a question in my mind, to use Margaret's terminology, is the bar set too high, or is there an overreliance on informal resolution and it is the case - and I'm posing this as a question - is there, or was there an overreliance on informal procedures so that certain things that perhaps should have become more formalised and dealt with in a different way, were not.
"I think that is a legitimate question to be asked of the Government and certainly a legitimate one to be asked of us."
Claims were not discussed at cabinet, Sturgeon says
Maureen Watt asked: "Can you tell us if this policy was discussed at cabinet?"
Ms Sturgeon said: "It wasn't discussed at cabinet, I'd have to check minutes to see how many times, if at all, it was.
"The Permanent Secretary kept me up to date in terms of how the development policy procedure was progressing.
"I think the first draft of it I got sent was towards the end of November and I - at that point, the role of the First Minster as gatekeeper with the Permanent Secretary to complaints was removed, I had before that formally written to the Permanent Secretary as there was a view that because former and current First Ministers had been included, the inter-relationship that created with the ministerial code, meant there should be express ministerial authority for the procedures being developed, which I signed off on December 20."
What was unlawful and what was not? Sturgeon attempts to explain
Ms Sturgeon has attempted to clear up the wrangle over what was lawful and what was not lawful in the sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond.
The First Minister told the inquiry: "The procedure itself has not been declared unlawful.
"What went wrong here was when there were complaints to be investigated and they were activated.
"In the appointment of the investigating officer, a mistake was made.
"The investigating officer had had prior contact with those who made the complaints.
"I know that is difficult for people to grasp, but I hope I've explained that reasonably clearly."
Alex Salmond was a 'tough guy' to work for, says Sturgeon
Alex Salmond was a "tough" first minister of Scotland, his successor Nicola Sturgeon said.
She said that people who worked closely with him may have become immune to his challenging behaviour.
She told the committee: "Alex can be a tough guy to work for. It was challenging.
"If he was displeased with you, he would make it clear
"I have challenged him when I thought he might have been nearing or crossing a line.
She added that "those who worked close to him" may have become immune to his behaviour or at least "have a higher thresholds".
First Minister's 'deep regret' of how complaints were handled
Nicola Sturgeon repeated her regret at the handling of the complaints against Mr Salmond.
She said: "I am deeply regretful, deeply angry and will always feel incredibly bad for, principally, the two women who were let down, and the wider implications in terms of the cost to the taxpayer.
"But I am not trying to underplay that, in any way shape or form."
Sturgeon rejects 'delay, obstruction and obfuscation' claims
Nicola Sturgeon rejected allegations from committee deputy convener Margaret Mitchell that it had "faced delay, obstruction, obfuscation" from the Government in its requests for evidence, and said some documents remained outstanding.
Ms Sturgeon replied: "I would not accept the characterisation.
"The Government has made available substantial amounts of written and oral evidence. I am not aware of what you are referring to (which) you feel we have not handed over."
She added: "There is no intention on the part of the Government to withhold relevant information from this committee."
Today is about my actions, says First Minister
Ms Sturgeon said that today was about her actions.She said: "In one of the most invidious political and personal situations I have ever faced, I believed I acted properly and appropriately and that overall I made the best judgments I could.
"For anyone willing to listen with an open mind, that is what I will seek to demonstrate today."
'Being here makes me really sad'
Ms sturgeon said that being here "makes me really sad".
She said: "In all the legitimate considerations of this, sometimes the human elements of this situation are lost. Alex spoke on Friday about what a nightmare the last couple of years have been for him, and I don't doubt that.
"I have thought often about the impact on him. He was someone I cared about for a long time.
"And maybe that's why on Friday I found myself searching for any sign that he recognised how difficult this has been for others too. First and foremost to the woman who believed his behaviour to be inappropriate.
"But also to those who had campaigned with him, worked with him, cared for him and considered him a friend and now stand, unfairly accused of plotting against him.
"That he was acquitted by a jury of criminal conduct is beyond question. But I know, just from what he told me, that his behaviour was not always appropriate.
"And yet across six hours of testimony, there was not a single word of regret, reflection or a simple acknowledgment of that. I can only hope in private the reality might be different."
Sturgeon 'had lingering suspicion Salmond issues might rear their head'
Nicola Sturgeon said: "Since an approach from Sky News in November 2017 ....I had harboured a lingering suspicion that such issues in relation to Mr Salmond might rear their head. So hearing of a potential issue would not in itself have been a massive shock.
"What I recall more strongly about the conversation was how worried Geoff seemed to be about Alex's welfare and state of mind, which as a friend concerned me. He also said he thought Alex might be considering resigning his party membership.
"It was these factors which led me to agree to meet him and it was these factors that placed the meeting on April 2 firmly in the personal and party space."
She told the committee she wished her memory of the meeting on March 29 was "more vivid".
But Ms Sturgeon said: "It was the detail of the complaints under the procedure that I was given on April 2 that was significant and indeed shocking.
"That was the moment at which any suspicions I had or general awareness there was a problem became actual and detailed knowledge."
Salmond's anger was evident, says Sturgeon
Ms Sturgeon said Mr Salmond's anger was evident, but intervening in a process she was expressly excluded from would have been an abuse of her role.
She said the committee was also interested in the judicial review.
Ms Sturgeon said that while the Government had strong prospects of defending the challenge, that changed over a two-month period from October to December.
She said the emerging evidence from the role of the investigating officer "caused me and others to pause to check if we should continue to defend the case".
However, as late as December 11, the advice given was it was "very clear there was no need to drop the case".
Advice concluded: "We have credible arguments to make across the petition."
Ms Sturgeon said it was when that changed, the decision was taken to concede.
She added: "In any legal challenge a government faces, there is a balance of risk.
"That risk cannot be illuminated, but the task of ministers is to consider carefully all of the advice we receive and consider the broader public interest."
Maybe I should have thought more about 'fairness at work', concedes Sturgeon
The next issue is how complaints had to be filed due to a policy drafted in 2010 when Ms Sturgeon was deputy first minister.
Alex Salmond was first minister.
Then, it had to be made in writing.
Told that this was a "very high bar", Ms Sturgeon responds: "I heard Alex talk about the length of time. I had a wry smile about how involved he was involved in that.
It was developed with a lot of input. I'm not going to sit here and pretend I was actively involved in every part of it.
DidI spend that much time thinking about the importance of fairness at work - no, I didn't.
'I've waited a long time to be sitting here'
Next up, the First Minister is being pressed on why the legal advice wasn't handed over sooner after she said she would release any information that would help the committee.
She defends her actions, saying: "There was no intention as part of the Gov to withhold relevant information from this committee.
"The final point I would make is that I share some of the frustration.
"It's not intended to be a criticism of the committee, but I have waited a long time to be sitting here as allegations swirled about around me."
Making meeting public may have breached confidentiality, Sturgeon says
Ms Sturgeon explained that in her view, had she reported it, her meeting with Mr Salmond would have to be made public, potentially breaching the confidentiality of the process.
She said: "It was for those reasons I didn't immediately record the April 2 meeting, or the subsequent phone call in April 23, in which Mr Salmond wanted me to tell the permanent secretary that I knew about the investigation and persuade her to agree to mediation."
She added that it was worth noting the ministerial code placed a number of obligations on ministers.
She said: "My judgment on that changed when Alex said he was seriously considering legal action. I felt then that I had no choice but to inform the permanent secretary which I did on June 6, 2018."
Ms Sturgeon said she had no intention of intervening in the process saying "and I did not".
Sturgeon stands by previous remarks to MSPs
Nicola Sturgeon insisted she was standing by previous remarks to MSPs, when she said she first learned of the allegations against Mr Salmond on April 2 2018.
Ms Sturgeon said her predecessor had told MSPs that that meeting, in her home, had taken place on the basis of a "shared understanding" of what the discussions would be about.
But she said this was a "change in his position".
She told the committee: "When he arrived at my house he was insistent he speak to me entirely privately, away from his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein and Duncan Hamilton, who had accompanied him, and my chief of staff who was with me.
"That would have seemed unnecessary had there already been a shared understanding on the part of all of us."
'Terms excluded me from any investigation into a former minister'
Ms Sturgeon explained that S4.22 and 4.23 of the ministerial code seek to guard against undisclosed outside influence on investigations that ministers are involved in.
She said: "The situation as I saw it was the opposite of that. The terms excluded me from any investigation into a former minister. I had no role in the process and should not even have known that an investigation was under way.
"So in my judgment the undue influence that S4 is designed to avoid would be more likely to arise had those conducting the investigation been informed that I knew about it.
"I didn't want to take the risk that they would have been influenced even subconsciously by any assumption of how I might want the matter handled.
"Their ability to do the job independently would be best protected by me saying nothing."
Sturgeon accepts 'very serious mistake'
Nicola Sturgeon began her evidence to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints by making an affirmation to tell the truth.
She accepted that a "very serious mistake" was made when investigating the complaints against Mr Salmond.
As a result she said "two women were failed and tax payers' money was lost, I deeply regret that."
The First Minister said: "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."
The three key changes that led to the policy change
The first question is from the Convener, who asks about a key policy change on Dec 20, 2017.
Ms Sturgeon approved the "Handling of Harassment Complaints Involving Current or Former Ministers" procedure, on that date.
Talking today, the First Minister says that this change was made in three key stages:
Current ministers came to be added into it, the view being that all ministers should be dealt with in the same procedures
At a later stage, my First Minister's role as having a gateway role was removed so that the permanent secretary would make that decision on their own
Finally, the change made was that in a case involving former ministers, a first minister should not be told until the end of that process
'I refuse the age-old pattern of powerful men using connections to get whatever they want'
Closing her opening statement, Ms Sturgeon said: "I feel I must rebut the absurd suggestion anyone acted with malice."
She added: "A number of women made serious complaints about Alex Salmond's behviour. The government - despite the serious mistake - tried to make the right decisions... I refuse the age old pattern of powerful men using their connections to get whatever they want."
Sturgeon claims she did not intervene
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs she did not intervene in the process of the Scottish Government’s investigation into harassment complaints against Alex Salmond as doing so would have been an “abuse” of her role.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told a Scottish Parliament committee the meeting with Alex Salmond at her home on April 2 was "firmly in the personal and party space".
Mr Salmond had earlier asserted that there was "no doubt" it was about the Government's investigation of him.
Sturgeon agreed to Salmond meeting because of his mental health
Mr Salmond's former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, met Ms Sturgeon at Holyrood to discuss the allegations.
In her written evidence to the committee in 2020, Ms Sturgeon says she forgot about this meeting until "late January/early February" 2019.
Today, she says that she agreed to meeting with Mr Salmond because Mr Aberdein told her he was worried about Mr Salmond's state of mental health and that he was considering resigning from the party.
She said: "Given what I was told about the distress Alex was in, it was suggested to me that he intended to handle matters, it is likely that I still would have agreed to meet him as a friend and as his party leader."
Nicola Sturgeon apologises for 'serious mistake' in opening statement
Nicola Sturgeon has made her opening statement.
She said that the spotlight being shone on sexual harassment in the workplace was "long overdue".
The First Minister said the actions of her government was "absolutely right at that time".
She said: "When complaints were made about Alex Salmond... it was absolutely right we took them seriously.
"An individual's status, profile or connections shouldn't allow them to be swept under the carpet."
Ms Sturgeon said that "as a result of a very serious mistake", two women were "let down".
"I want to say sorry to the two women involved," she said, accepting her role of First Minister made her accountable.
Holyrood inquiry starts
We're underway at Holyrood.
Convener Linda Fabiani is reading out Covid and legal guidelines.
The legal advice: Lawyers told ministers conceding petition was 'least worst option'
Redacted legal advice published by the Scottish Government on Tuesday evening showed that lawyers advised them in September 2018 that there "is a real risk that the court may be persuaded by the petitioner's case in respect of the ground of challenge based on 'procedural unfairness'."
On December 6 2018 legal advisers told ministers that in their view the "least worst option" would be to concede the petition.
They wrote: "We understand how unpalatable that advice will be, and we do not tender it lightly.
"But we cannot let the respondents sail forth into January's hearing without the now very real risks of doing so being crystal clear to all concerned.
2021: The 10 dates that led to today
January 13: Mr Salmond rejects an invitation to appear before the committee in person on February 19, citing public health grounds.
January 20: Mr Salmond alleges the Scottish Government's "reprehensible" failure to release "crucial" documents had put him at a disadvantage in both his criminal trial and legal challenge against the Government's investigation. In written evidence to the committee, he says his legal team will ask the Lord Advocate whether the Government was in contempt of court over the "withholding of relevant evidence".
January 26: Mr Salmond refuses another offer to appear before the committee the following week.
January 27: The committee offers a final date - February 8 - for Mr Salmond to appear to give evidence.
January 29: The Crown Office confirms it has handed over evidence to the Holyrood inquiry. It allows the unprecedented step of MSPs issuing a notice to the Crown Office under part of the Scotland Act, demanding the release of documents detailing text or WhatsApp communications between SNP chief operating officer Susan Ruddick and Scottish Government ministers, civil servants or special advisers. It also asks for any documents linked to the leaking of complaints to the Daily Record newspaper in August 2018.
February 3: Mr Salmond brands the behaviour of the current Scottish Government a "disgrace", in a written submission to the inquiry. He accuses Ms Evans of having a "bias" against him. He also claims the "overwhelming likelihood" is that someone in the Government leaked details of the case against him to the press.
February 8: Mr Salmond declines to appear before the harassment committee over concerns about the committee not publishing his evidence. His submission, published elsewhere online, accused Ms Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code with "false and manifestly untrue" statements to parliament, which she denies. Mr Salmond's lawyers say he "cannot take his oath to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth" until a number of concerns were addressed, including the publication of the evidence by the committee and concerns about him being "in legal jeopardy".
February 25: Alex Salmond agrees to appear before the Holyrood inquiry after his evidence is published in a redacted form following a long drawn-out saga.
February 26: Mr Salmond gives evidence to the Holyrood committee. He says Scotland's "leadership has failed" and calls for the Lord Advocate and the head of Scotland's civil service, Leslie Evans, to resign over the handling of the complaints against him. He says he has "no doubt" Ms Sturgeon broke rules governing the behaviour of ministers, but stops short of saying she should resign.
March 2: The Scottish Conservatives call on Ms Sturgeon to resign after the Scottish Government published legal advice related to the botched investigation. Deputy First Minister John Swinney agreed to hand over the legal advice under threat of a no-confidence vote, and acknowledged "reservations were raised" by government lawyers about the way allegations about Mr Salmond were investigated. The Scottish Conservatives say they will submit a no-confidence motion in the First Minister.
2020: The seven big moments
February 26: The Scottish Parliament Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaint meets for the first time.
March 9: Mr Salmond's criminal trial starts at the High Court in Edinburgh.
March 23: Mr Salmond is acquitted on all charges. The jury returns not guilty verdicts on 12 charges, including attempted rape, and a further not proven verdict is returned on a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape.
August 18: The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints hears evidence from its first witness, the Permanent Secretary.
September 29: Committee convener Linda Fabiani warns their investigation is being "completely frustrated" by a lack of evidence from key witnesses, and accuses the Scottish Government of "obstruction".
November 4: The Scottish Parliament passes a motion demanding the Government reveals the legal advice it received during the judicial review.
December 18: The inquiry into the Salmond affair reaches an agreement with the Scottish Government over access to previously undisclosed material.
2019: The six key moments
January 8: A week before the full judicial review is due to start, the Scottish Government concedes defeat at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The Government's lawyers accept that investigating officer Ms Mackinnon has had previous contact with the complainers. The court concludes the investigation was "unlawful" and "tainted by apparent bias". Ms Evans releases a statement apologising to "all involved" and Mr Salmond calls for her to consider her position.
January 13: Ms Sturgeon refers herself to independent advisers to rule on whether she breached the ministerial code in her meetings with Mr Salmond.
January 15: MSPs agree to hold a Holyrood inquiry into the Government's handling of the complaints against Mr Salmond.
January 23: Police Scotland arrest Mr Salmond.
January 24: Mr Salmond appears at Edinburgh Sheriff Court and is charged with several sexual offences, including attempted rape, which he denies.
August 2: The Scottish Government pays £511,250 to Mr Salmond in connection with the judicial review.
2018: The 13 important moments
January: Two female staff members make formal complaints to the Scottish Government about Mr Salmond's conduct in December 2013 when he was first minister. An internal investigation is established and investigating officer Judith Mackinnon is appointed.
March 7: The Permanent Secretary tells Mr Salmond about the investigation.
March 29: Mr Salmond's former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, meets Ms Sturgeon at Holyrood and discusses the allegations. In her written evidence to the committee in 2020, Ms Sturgeon says she forgot about this meeting until "late January/early February" 2019.
April 2: Mr Salmond meets Ms Sturgeon at her home in Glasgow and tells her that he is under investigation. In Mr Salmond's later written evidence, he states the First Minister "suggested that she would intervene in favour of a mediation process at an appropriate stage" but subsequently decided against intervening. Ms Sturgeon has argued she thought this was a party meeting, rather than a Government one.
April 23: Mr Salmond calls Ms Sturgeon twice, asking her to encourage the Permanent Secretary to accept his mediation request.
June 7: Ms Sturgeon meets Mr Salmond in Aberdeen, ahead of the SNP conference.
July 14: Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond meet at the First Minister's Glasgow home.
August 21: The Crown Office passes complaints about Mr Salmond to police.
August 22: Mr Salmond is told the Government inquiry is complete.
August 23: The Scottish Government tells Mr Salmond's lawyers it intends to release a public statement about the investigation, but agrees not to until an interim interdict application seeking to block publication has been heard. The Daily Record newspaper breaks news of the allegations against Mr Salmond via a tweet. He denies misconduct and calls some of the allegations "patently ridiculous".
August 28: Mr Salmond lodges a petition for a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
August 29: Mr Salmond resigns from the SNP, but says he will apply to rejoin once he has cleared his name. He launches a crowdfunding appeal for the review, which quickly reaches more than £100,000.
September 14: Police confirm they have launched an investigation into the complaints against Mr Salmond, separate from the Government's investigation and the judicial review process.
2017: The three key moments
October 31: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon orders a review of the Scottish Government's "policies and processes for addressing inappropriate conduct" in the wake of the MeToo movement. The review is led by the Government's most senior civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans.
November 4: Ms Sturgeon is informed about an inquiry by Sky News relating to Mr Salmond's alleged behaviour towards female staff at Edinburgh Airport.
December 20: Ms Sturgeon approves the "Handling of Harassment Complaints Involving Current or Former Ministers" procedure.
They key dates
Nicola Sturgeon is due to give evidence to the Holyrood committee examining the Scottish Government's unlawful investigation of sexual harassment allegations made against Alex Salmond.
The inquiry was established after Scotland's former first minister successfully challenged the Government's apparently biased investigation, resulting in a £512,250 payout for legal costs.
Now, we'll bring you the key dates as the saga unfolded.
Did the Scottish Government publish legal advice it received over the Salmond case?
Deputy First Minister John Swinney agreed to hand over legal advice under threat of a no-confidence vote from opposition parties, and the advice was published on Tuesday evening.
Documents showed that lawyers warned the Scottish Government in September 2018 that there "is a real risk that the court may be persuaded by the petitioner's case in respect of the ground of challenge based on 'procedural unfairness"'.
On December 6 2018 legal advisers told ministers that in their view the "least worst option" would be to concede the petition.
Following publication of the legal advice, the Scottish Conservatives called on Ms Sturgeon to resign and said they would submit a vote of no confidence in her.
A spokesman for the First Minister said on Tuesday evening that to call a vote of no confidence in the middle of a pandemic, before hearing a single word of the First Minister's evidence, is "utterly irresponsible".
Is the committee inquiry the only investigation into the matter?
No. Ms Sturgeon is currently under investigation by James Hamilton QC, to establish if she breached the ministerial code.
Ms Sturgeon referred herself after being accused of misleading Parliament over when she knew of the complaints against Mr Salmond.
She previously said she had been told about the allegations by Mr Salmond himself during a meeting in her home on April 2, 2018.
However, it was later found that Mr Salmond's former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, had met the First Minister in her Holyrood office four days prior to that, where she was told of the complaints.
What were the issues with Mr Salmond's evidence?
Mr Salmond and the committee have been wrangling in recent weeks over evidence published by the inquiry.
Earlier this month the former first minister said he would not appear, after the committee decided not to publish his submission to a separate investigation into whether Nicola Sturgeon breached the ministerial code, over fears it may identify some of the complainers in Mr Salmond's criminal trial last year.
However, an alteration made to a court order by Judge Lady Dorrian meant the evidence could potentially be made public.
While the committee voted against publication, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) made the decision to publish anyway.
The evidence, which was released last Monday evening, was online for less than 24 hours before the Crown Office raised concerns with Holyrood about it, asking for redactions to be made.
In his submission, the former first minister accused some in the Scottish Government and SNP of a "malicious and concerted attempt to damage my reputation and remove me from public life in Scotland".
Ms Sturgeon said her predecessor did not have "a shred of evidence" to support his claims.
Last Tuesday the submission was re-released, with a number of paragraphs relating to the set-up of a meeting between Mr Salmond and his successor redacted.
Didn't Mr Salmond face trial on sexual misconduct charges?
Yes. The former first minister was cleared of 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh in March last year, after being arrested in January 2019.
How has the inquiry gone so far?
The committee has repeatedly voiced frustration with how slow the handing over of evidence has been from a number of parties.
The Scottish Government was accused of obstruction last year, with the committee saying it was "completely frustrated" with the lack of evidence.
Both the committee and the Scottish Government were at loggerheads over legal advice provided as part of the judicial review process.
MSPs wanted to know when the Scottish Government was advised it would likely lose the challenge raised by Mr Salmond, but ministers said handing over the advice would breach the ministerial code.
On two occasions, MSPs voted for the evidence to be released, with a deal eventually being struck in December to disclose the advice only to MSPs on the committee.
Why did Mr Salmond take legal action?
The former first minister did not feel his treatment by the Scottish Government was fair.
It was later found that the lead investigator of the complaints had prior contact with some of the female complainers, with Judge Lord Pentland saying the investigation was "tainted with apparent bias".
Why was the committee established?
The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up to look into the Scottish Government investigation of the allegations against the former first minister.
MSPs have so far taken evidence from civil servants, including repeated sessions from Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, trade unions and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell - who is Ms Sturgeon's husband - and Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC.
Mr Salmond himself gave evidence to the inquiry on Friday February 26, when he claimed the Scottish Government hoped his criminal trial would "ride to the rescue" and prevent its unlawful investigation of him suffering a "cataclysmic" civil court defeat.