Nicola Sturgeon denies her husband Peter Murrell perjured himself at the Alex Salmond inquiry

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NICOLA Sturgeon has denied her husband perjured himself at the Alex Salmond inquiry.

The First Minister defended SNP chief executive Peter Murrell after being questioned about the truthfulness of his evidence at FMQs.

“Yes, Peter Murrell did tell the truth,” she said.

Under threat of compulsion, Mr Murrell returned to testify to MSPs on Monday after giving contradictory evidence at his first appearance in December.

Last year, he said he both had and hadn’t been at home when Ms Sturgeon held a fateful meeting with Mr Salmond there on April 2, 2018, and had and hadn’t known it was taking place the previous day.

In December, he also said the meeting had been about “a Scottish Government matter”, which despite Ms Sturgeon saying it had been a party matter.

However on Monday he said that had merely been “speculation on my part, having read the First Minister’s evidence”.

Mr Murrell also insisted his wife hadn’t told him why Mr Salmond was coming to their Glasgow house, despite her tellings MSPs she feared he was about to resign over a scandal.

Mr Murrell said all he knew was the former FM was “popping in for a chat”.

After his evidence, opposition MSPs called for the Crown Office to investigate whether he had made false statements under oath, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

The inquiry is looking at how the Scottish Government botched its probe into sexual misconduct claims made against Mr Salmond by civil servants in 2018.

The former FM had the exercise overturned in a judicial review, showing it has been “tainted by apparent bias”, a Government flaw that left taxpayers with a £512,000 for his costs.

He was later charged with sexual assault but cleared on all counts at a High Court trial last March.

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At FMQs, Tory leader Ruth Davidson asked Ms Sturgeon: “He was certain that the meetings were on Government business. Did Peter Murrell tell the truth under oath?”

Mr Sturgeon replied: “Yes, Peter Murrell did tell the truth. Of course, he is perfectly capable of standing up for himself and does not need me to do that.

“I will, assuming that the committee does not postpone my appearance again, get my opportunity to set out to it my account next Tuesday. 

“I relish that opportunity. It is perhaps clear to everyone why the Opposition parties are so keen to drag Peter Murrell into a process that he had no part in, and to damage him. 

“Perhaps they know how integral he has been during the past 15 years to the electoral success of the SNP and, conversely, to the electoral defeats of those parties.

“Their motive is very transparent, indeed.”

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Ms Davidson said that if Mr Murell was right in saying the meetings were government business, Ms Sturgeon must have been wrong to say they were a party matter.

She said: “There is a pattern here: a ruling party of government acting as though it is beyond reproach, a chief executive changing his story, a suddenly forgetful First Minister, votes in Parliament ignored and promises of co-operation broken.

“Officials who have been coached at taxpayers’ expense have been forced to change their evidence, and lawyers have shut down key witnesses and statements.

“The Parliament – the country – should not have to put up with that.”

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Ms Sturgeon, who is due to testify to the inquiry on Tuesday, said: “I believe that it is important to subject myself to scrutiny and to make sure that the Government is subjected to scrutiny.

“But it is also important to have the opportunity to tackle head-on some of the ridiculous conspiracy theories that people such as Ruth Davidson have, in my view, been all too quick to indulge. 

“I call on anybody who has anything that would help with the process of the committee to sit before the committee and do what I am going to do, which is to put an account on the record, under oath. I am not the one who is refusing to do that.

“I undertook all my meetings, as I have said before, in my capacity as party leader. 

“I will set that out again orally.”

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