Alex Salmond has said there is a failure of leadership in Scotland as he attacked Nicola Sturgeon and claimed there has been a “calculated and deliberate suppression of key evidence” to a Scottish Parliamentary committee.

In his opening statement to a Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment claims made against him, Scotland’s former first minister accused his successor Ms Sturgeon of using a Covid press conference to “effectively question the result of a jury”.

He is testifying on the botched Government investigation which was found to be “tainted by apparent bias” after it emerged the investigating officer had prior contact with two of the women who made complaints.

He will face questions about his claims current First Minister Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament and breached the ministerial code.

Mr Salmond told MSPs that the leadership of Scotland had failed, and the Scottish Government’s actions are no longer true to the principles of openness, accountability and transparency.

He said: “I watched in astonishment on Wednesday when the First Minister of Scotland – the First Minister of Scotland – used a Covid press conference to effectively question the results of a jury.”

He said the failures of leadership surrounding the investigation into his conduct are “many and obvious”.

“The Government acted illegally but somehow nobody is to blame,” he added.

“Scotland hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.

“The importance of this inquiry is for each and every one of us to help put this right.”

The former first minister told the committee: “This inquiry is not about me, I have already established the illegality of the actions of the Scottish Government in the Court of Session, and I have been acquitted of all criminal charges by a jury in the highest court in the land.

Alex Salmond
Mr Salmond, centre, is appearing in person before the Holyrood committee (Andy Buchanan/PA)

“These are both the highest courts in the land, the highest criminal court and the highest civil court.

“The remit of this inquiry is about the actions of others, whose investigation into the conduct of ministers, the Permanent Secretary, civil servants and special advisers.

“It also requires to shine a light on the activities of the Crown Office.”

He went on to claim that the committee in its inquiry has been “systematically deprived of the evidence it has legitimately sought”.

Mr Salmond rejected calls from his successor Ms Sturgeon that he should provide evidence to back up his claims of a conspiracy.

He stressed it was the Scottish Government which had been “found to have acted unlawfully, unfairly and tainted by apparent bias” by the Court of Session.

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond
Nicola Sturgeon, pictured with Mr Salmond in 2014, will give evidence to the committee next week (Andrew Milligan/PA)

He said: “I note that the First Minister asserts I have to prove a case, I don’t. That has already been done. There have been two court cases, two judges, one jury.

“In this inquiry it is the Scottish Government, a Government which has already admitted to behaving unlawfully, who are under examination.”

He said the previous two years and six months – during his investigation and criminal trial – had been a “nightmare”, but “we can’t turn that page, nor move on, until the decision-making which is undermining the system of government in Scotland is addressed”.

Questioned by Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, Mr Salmond said he did not believe Ms Sturgeon has been involved in a “cover-up” of complaints against him.

He said: “I’ve seen it pursued on the committee that somehow Nicola Sturgeon was covering up – that’s not the case, my charges against Nicola Sturgeon don’t include that.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton added: “I want to ask, laying aside the charges of which you have been acquitted, and the allegations that you deny, of the behaviours that you have admitted to, some of which are appalling, are you sorry?”

Mr Salmond replied: “In my statement I pointed out the Government’s illegality has had huge consequences for a number of people, and specifically mentioned the complainants in my opening statement.

Alex Salmond
Mr Salmond was questioned at length by the committee (Andy Buchanan/PA)

“Over the last three years, there have been two court cases, two judges and a jury, and I’m resting on the proceedings of these cases.”

Labour’s Jackie Baillie asked the former first minister if the name of one of the complainers had been shared at a meeting his then chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, had been present at.

Mr Salmond said it had, adding: “My former chief of staff told me that.”

The former first minister also claimed a leak to the Daily Record newspaper which broke news of the allegations against him was “politically inspired”, as he called for police to act.

He added: “I think it does require further police investigation – I do believe I know the identity but I’m not here to speculate on individuals that I cannot substantiate.”

Mr Salmond, who was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault in the criminal trial, was awarded a £512,250 payout after he successfully challenged the lawfulness of the Government investigation into harassment claims made against him.

Ms Sturgeon has previously insisted there is “not a shred of evidence” that there was a conspiracy against Mr Salmond and she has denied lying to Parliament.

The current First Minister is scheduled to appear before the committee to give evidence next Wednesday.