NICOLA Sturgeon's meetings with Alex Salmond are to be the focus of an investigation over whether she breached a code of conduct over a sexual misconduct probe into the former First Minister.

James Hamilton, a member of an independent panel of advisers, will hear evidence from both politicians on how the Scottish Government handled the initial sexual harassment claims.

The parliamentary inquiry was set up in January 2019 after the Scottish Government conceded that an internal investigation of sexual misconduct complaints against Salmond had been unlawful and paid out £500,000 in expenses to the former SNP leader.

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Salmond took the Scottish Government to court over the way it dealt with the allegations, and the Court of Session ruled in January 2019 its actions had been “unlawful”.

Sturgeon, who served as Salmond’s deputy for seven years, likened the breakdown in their relationship to the grieving process.

Salmond was cleared of all criminal charges against him in a High Court case earlier this year.

One of the controversies is that Sturgeon and Salmond met on multiple occasions during the internal Government probe, and also spoke on the telephone.

She also had a meeting which included Salmond's former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein.

Sturgeon said in 2019 she would refer herself to a panel of experts in relation to the Ministerial code of conduct.

This was put on hold after Salmond was charged, but following his acquittal the Scottish Government confirmed the referral will commence.

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In a statement, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “On 31 January 2019, I advised Parliament that the Ministerial Code referral had to be paused to avoid any risk of prejudice to live criminal proceedings. Since the conclusion of those proceedings, the attention of the Government has been focussed on leading Scotland’s response global health emergency. In light of the progress that has been made we are now able to re-commence the referral.

“The referral will be led by James Hamilton, who is a standing member of the panel of independent advisers. Mr Hamilton is a former Director of Public Prosecutions in Ireland and has been an independent adviser since January 2013.

“Mr Hamilton will now proceed with the referral and report as soon as he is able. The report will be published in line with the terms of the remit.”