The scottish national partys chief executive, who is the husband of first minister nicola sturgeon, has acknowledged sending a 2019 text message that said it would be good to be pressurising police over accusations of sexual misconduct by alex salmond, his wifes predecessor as first minister and snp leader.

Mr salmond was in march acquitted at the high court in edinburgh of all of 13 sexual offence charges against him. supporters of mr salmond have suggested he was the victim of a conspiracy by allies of ms sturgeon, an idea the first minister has dismissed as a heap of nonsense.

The tensions have deepened divisions within the once highly disciplined snp just as opinion polls have shown rising support for its goal of scottish independence and that the party is heading for a landslide in the election for the parliament in edinburgh set for next may.

The scottish sun newspaper reported last month that the day after mr salmonds first appearance in court, peter murrell, the snp chief executive, had sent an snp colleague messages suggesting there should be pressure on the police to pursue the former first minister.

In evidence published on wednesday by a scottish parliamentary committee, snp chief executive mr murrell said the messages had been presented in a way that suggests a meaning that they do not in reality have.

Totally agree folk should be asking the police questions, the scottish sun quoted one message as saying. report now with the [procurator fiscal] on charges which leaves police twiddling their thumbs. so good time to be pressurising them. would be good to know [the metropolitan police force] looking at events in london.

Mr murrell said his intention had been to make clear that questions regarding the criminal case against mr salmond should be addressed to the police and not the snp.

I acknowledge that i did not express myself well but...directing people to the police was the only responsible thing to advise, he wrote in his submission to the committee, which is investigating the scottish governments handling of the complaints against mr salmond.

The handling of the allegations against mr salmond has become a political minefield for ms sturgeon since her scottish government accepted in 2018 that an initial civil service investigation into them had been tainted by apparent bias.

The scottish conservatives said mr murrells position as snp chief executive was untenable. the first minister must sack peter murrell or her judgment is gone, the opposition party said in a tweet.

Ms sturgeon also came under pressure on wednesday over her own evidence to the committee in which she said that in previous accounts about when she heard about the allegations against mr salmond she had forgotten about a meeting with the former first ministers former chief aide in march 2018.

Ms sturgeon had previously suggested in parliament that she learnt of the allegations from mr salmond at a meeting the following month.

The first minister wrote that she now recalled that the march meeting covered the fact that alex salmond wanted to see me urgently about a serious matter, and i think it did cover the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature.

Murdo fraser, a scottish conservative member of the scottish parliament, accused ms sturgeon of misleading parliament.

We are expected to accept that nicola sturgeon, the first minister renowned for her grasp of detail, has the memory of a sieve when shes told that her mentor of 30 years is facing allegations of sexual misconduct, mr fraser said.

In her evidence, ms sturgeon said she had acted in good faith throughout. over the last couple of years, i have faced accusations of conspiring against alex salmond and also of colluding with him, she wrote. i reject in the strongest possible terms both of these suggestions.

The snp convener of the parliament committee, linda fabiani, last month complained that it was completely frustrated by a lack of evidence and obstruction by the scottish government, snp and mr salmond.