Answers to critical questions will determine if Nicola Sturgeon keeps her job

Nicola Sturgeon had said that it was time for Alex Salmond to ‘put up or shut up’ over his allegations that she had been part of a ‘malicious’ conspiracy against him and that she’d misled the Scottish Parliament

But after he delivered a withering denunciation of her leadership in his marathon evidence session at Holyrood on Friday, it is now the turn of his former friend and protege to be grilled by the same committee of Scottish politicians.

Ms Sturgeon is due to give evidence on Wednesday – the last witness to appear before the committee whose proceedings started last August, and of the questions she will have to answer, the main one, which could force her resignation, is:

1. Why did she mislead Holyrood about the date she first heard about the allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denied, against Mr Salmond?

She told MSPs that she first knew about it on April 2, 2018 when Mr Salmond called at her Glasgow home, by arrangement, with his former chief of staff and legal advisor. But that chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein revealed in evidence to the committee that he had been ‘brought in’ to the situation by a senior Scottish Government official, and had told Ms Sturgeon about the allegations against Mr Salmond at a meeting in her office three days earlier, on March 29?

When challenged about this discrepancy about the different dates, Ms Sturgeon said she had ‘forgotten’ about the earlier meeting, a statement that was met with derision when she admitted it to Holyrood. But there are other questions Ms Sturgeon must answer.

2. Why did it take her 18 months to apologise to the parliament for misleading it?

3. Will she resign if the independent inquiry, being conducted by an Irish barrister, into her behaviour concludes that she did mislead the parliament?

4. Was she aware, as has been claimed, that the identity of a complainant who’d alleged sexual misconduct against Mr Salmond had been revealed to him, in breach of the convention that potential victims’ names are kept secret? And did she authorise this action?

5. Was she part of a ‘malicious’ conspiracy to wreck Mr Salmond’s position in public life?

The former First Minister has claimed that Ms Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, who is chief executive of the SNP, had been guilty of pressuring witnesses into giving evidence against Mr Salmond, as had two other senior SNP officials – Sue Ruddick, the party’s chief operating officer and Ian McCann, the party’s compliance officer.

So did Ms Sturgeon know of a series of text messages which had been sent to possible complainers by senior SNP staffers? One of these, which has appeared in the public domain, said that if the police can’t find evidence against Mr Salmond then they should ask what they need ‘and I’ll get it for them.’

Mr Salmond says that he is unable for legal reasons to reveal the content of other text messages but believes he will be able to in the near future.

Was a Scottish Government anti harassment policy, which covered the behaviour of former ministers and First Ministers and approved by Ms Sturgeon, aimed at Mr Salmond?

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