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Former friends Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched a stunning attack on her predecessor Alex Salmond yesterday as an open war erupted between the two big beasts of the SNP.

Miss Sturgeon accused her former friend and mentor of creating an 'alternative reality' to paint himself as the victim of a conspiracy. She said Mr Salmond peddled the 'wild' claims to avoid confronting his own behaviour.

The scathing intervention came after Mr Salmond publicly accused Miss Sturgeon and her closest allies of plotting to oust him from public life.

Amid growing controversy north of the border, Mr Salmond's long-awaited evidence to a parliamentary committee was redacted on the orders of the Crown Office, headed by the Lord Advocate, a member of Miss Sturgeon's government.

Mr Salmond claims his full testimony would show that Miss Sturgeon misled the Scottish parliament over an investigation of sexual harassment claims against him. Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said the decision to order Mr Salmond's statement to be redacted raised 'real question marks' over the independence of government institutions.

James Wolffe QC, the Lord Advocate, last night denied any role in the decision, made apparently to prevent the identification of any of those who complained about Mr Salmond.

Former Cabinet minister Liam Fox also entered the fray, claiming the former SNP leader's allegations about Miss Sturgeon would be 'a damning indictment in a tinpot dictatorship'.

The Tory MP raised concerns in the Commons, saying the saga could bring politics in the whole of the UK into 'international disrepute'.

Yesterday's drama came after the explosive evidence Mr Salmond submitted to a Scottish parliamentary inquiry accusing Miss Sturgeon of misleading MSPs was censored. His written statement was redacted 16 hours after it was posted online after an intervention by the Crown Office, Scotland's prosecution service. As a result, Mr Salmond yesterday pulled out of appearing before the inquiry into the Scottish Government's unlawful investigation of sexual harassment claims against him. He is expected to appear tomorrow instead.

Miss Sturgeon launched a withering attack on Mr Salmond, who claims there was a 'malicious and concerted attempt' to damage his reputation and imprison him. They involve claims of sexual harassment while he was first minister.

She accused him of promoting 'wild and baseless' conspiracy theories, adding:
"There was no conspiracy theory and I sometimes think the preference perhaps of Mr Salmond is to make those claims without ever subjecting them to the proper scrutiny of the parliamentary committee looking into them.

"As for Alex Salmond, well maybe creating an alternative reality in which the organs of the state, me, the SNP, the civil service, Crown Office, police and the women who came forward were all part of some wild conspiracy against him for reasons I can't explain.

"Maybe that's easier to accept than at the root of all this might just be issues in his own behaviour. But that's for him to explain if he ever decides to pitch up and sit in front of the committee."
Mr Salmond won a judicial review in 2019 when Scotland's highest civil court found that the way the Scottish government probed sexual misconduct allegations against him was unlawful. He was awarded more than £512,000 to cover his legal fees.

He was later charged with 13 counts of sexual assault, including attempted rape. He was acquitted of all charges in March 2020.

Yesterday Miss Sturgeon insisted it was 'downright wrong' to suggest the Crown Office's intervention in the redaction was politically influenced.

One of the paragraphs removed alleges Miss Sturgeon breached the ministerial code by making an 'untrue' statement in the Scottish parliament in 2019 - which is unrelated to the criminal trial.

Miss Davidson told BBC Radio 4's World At One:
"This actually has gone far beyond Sturgeon versus Salmond... this has now got to the structure of democracy in Scotland and whether our institutions are robust or whether they have been corrupted.

"And that matters, and that should matter to everybody within the United Kingdom, whether they are in Scotland or not."