MSPs on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee voted 5-4 that the first minister gave an “inaccurate” account of a meeting with her predecessor during the live investigation, a source told the PA news agency.
This would amount to misleading the Scottish parliament.
The decision is likely to increase pressure on Ms Sturgeon to stand down before May’s election, although it is unclear whether the act was deemed a resignation-worthy offence.
A Scottish parliament spokeswoman said the committee, which heard lengthy evidence from Ms Sturgeon two weeks ago, was still considering its report. It is expected to be published in the coming days.
James Matthews, Sky News’s Scotland bureau chief, said the committee said she had given “an inaccurate account of what happened and she has misled the committee on this matter”.
Mr Salmond was awarded more than £500,000 in 2019 after the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, ruled that the way the complaints were handled by the Scottish government was unlawful.
The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up after this ruling.
Conservative MP David Davis used parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons this week to read out messages that he suggested showed a “concerted effort by senior members of the SNP to encourage complaints” against the former first minister.
According to Mr Davis, the messages disclosed by a whistleblower “demand serious investigation”, with one alleging the investigating officer in the case complained of interference by Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff.
The message is alleged to have been sent by Judith Mackinnon, the officer, to the government’s communications director on 6 February 2018, almost two months before Ms Sturgeon claims to have first known about the investigation of her predecessor.
A spokesperson for Ms Sturgeon said: “The first minister told the truth to the committee in eight hours of evidence, and stands by that evidence.
“It is clear from past public statements that opposition members of this committee had prejudged the first minister at the outset of the inquiry and before hearing a word of her evidence, so this partisan and selective briefing – before the committee has actually published its final report – is hardly surprising.
“The question of the first minister’s adherence to the ministerial code is being considered independently by James Hamilton, and we expect to receive and publish his report soon.”
As well as the committee’s inquiry, James Hamilton, a former director of public prosecutions in Ireland, has been investigating whether there was a breach of the ministerial code.