Sturgeon hands over WhatsApp exchanges with Salmond to inquiry

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has given a screenshot of WhatsApp exchanges between herself and Alex Salmond to the Holyrood inquiry about the botched investigation into harassment allegations against her predecessor.

The messages show two requests over whether Mr Salmond was available for phone calls, which Ms Sturgeon previously said was "setting up a conversation" to discuss allegations Mr Salmond behaved inappropriately towards female staff at Edinburgh Airport.

She first revealed the messages in an interview with Sky News last month, reading out the messages live on air after claims she had withheld communication relevant to the Holyrood committee's remit.

Sturgeon and Salmond WhatsApp message
Sturgeon and Salmond WhatsApp message

The First Minister acknowledged they contained an "oblique reference" to claims of inappropriate conduct by Mr Salmond but the messages were "not a big revelation".

The partially redacted exchanges took place between November 5 2017 and April 22 2018.

Ms Sturgeon asked: "Hi – when you free to speak this morning?"

A minute later, Mr Salmond replied: "10am."

That evening, at 6.58pm, Ms Sturgeon texts again with the message: "Any developments?"

Mr Salmond does not respond.

On the following day, Ms Sturgeon wrote: "You free for a word?"

There was no written reply once more.

Ms Sturgeon again messaged on November 9 but that text and Mr Salmond's first reply have been redacted due to falling outside the remit of the inquiry.

But Mr Salmond sent a second message, which read: "Ps the other matter is done and dusted with source identified".

He then sent another message on November 10 but that too is redacted.

The final text of the exchange came from Mr Salmond on April 22.

He wrote "it would be very helpful if I could call you on WhatsApp between 10.30am and 12", although the screenshot cuts off any remaining content of the message.

Salmond steps down from top job
Salmond steps down from top job

When challenged about the messages last month, Ms Sturgeon said the claims were a diversionary tactic by her "annoyed" predecessor, whose lawyers were accusing her of holding back certain messages the pair exchanged.

She said: "I was setting up a conversation that I have told the parliamentary inquiry about, it's hardly a big revelation.

"Later that week, incidentally, I messaged him to say 'no wonder you didn't want to tell me'.

"That's just after I find out that he's agreed to host a regular show on Russia Today and it reflects my incredulity at that decision.

"I think his response to me then makes an oblique reference to the Sky News query so that may be what he's talking about."

Asked why Mr Salmond would want these messages to be released to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, Ms Sturgeon suggested the former first minister may want people to believe the allegations are "all a big conspiracy" to deflect from his conduct.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I'm afraid that's not the case. Every day I've tried to do the right thing and not cover it up, and I think the reason perhaps he is angry with me – and he clearly is angry with me – is that I didn't cover it up.

"I didn't collude with him to make these allegations go away and perhaps that is at the root of why he is as annoyed as he appears to be."

Mr Salmond was acquitted of 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh in March.

The court case followed a legal battle in which he was awarded more than £500,000 when the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled a Scottish Government investigation into his conduct was unlawful.