NICOLA Sturgeon misled parliament over the Alex Salmond affair, MSPs have reportedly concluded.

Sky News said the Holyrood inquiry into the affair found the First Minister gave "an inaccurate account" of her actions and so misled the cross-party investigation.

However it stopped short of saying she did so "knowingly", the threshold for resignation under the Scottish Ministerial Code.

It is understood the inquiry split down party lines 5-4 on the issue earlier today, and decided Ms Sturgeon broke the code on the balance of probabilities.

The decision is likely to increase pressure on Ms Sturgeon to stand down before May's election.

It is understood the inquiry concluded Ms Sturgeon misled parliament over a meeting she had with Mr Salmond at her Glasgow home on April 2, 2018.

The first minister initially insisted she did not know what Mr Salmond wanted to discuss with her, then changed her story in light of other people's evidence.

She has consistently said she did not offer to intervene in a Government sexual misconduct probe into Mr Salmond, despite Mr Salmond asking her to help resolve the matter quietly by mediation. 

"As First Minister, I refused to follow the age-old pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his  status and connections to get what he wants," she told the inquiry in her oral evidence earlier this month.

However other witnesses said Ms Sturgeon did offer to intervene in the probe.

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It is understood the inquiry concluded the First Minister gave a misleading account of the meeting and did not believe her denials of offering to help her old friend.

The cross-party committee is looking at how the Scottish Government bungled its probe into sexual misconduct allegations levelled against Mr Salmond in 2018.

The former First Minister had the exercise set aside in a judicial review by showing it had been tainted by apparent bias, a flaw that left taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his costs.

After the Government's defence collapsed, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs she had three meetings with Mr Salmond in 2018, while he was under investigation by her officials.

She insisted she took the meetings in her capacity as SNP leader, and so no Government records were kept.

She said the first she knew Mr Salmond was under investigation was when he told her himself at her home on April 2, 2018, and that she hadn't known what he wanted to discuss, 

although she thought he might be about to resign over a sexual scandal.

However it later emerged Mr Salmond's former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, had told her about the Government probe in her Holyrood office, on March 29, 2018.

Ms Sturgeon claims she "forgot" about this first meeting, despite the explosive content, and that it had been fleeting and opportunistic.

Mr Salmond has claimed Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code by misleading Holyrood about the nature of both meetings.