SNP MP Mhairi Black says the women who complained about Alex Salmond have been “weaponised” during the “horrendous” inquiry at Holyrood.
She said she could not imagine the “horror of the experience” of the complainants, and argued the handling of their concerns should be the “real issue” under consideration.
The MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South spoke out as polls suggested the row that has engulfed Scottish politics in recent weeks may be having an impact on support for independence.
Ms Black said an unweighted ComRes survey for The Scotsman, which showed 52% now backed No compared to 48% for Yes, confirmed the SNP “still have work to do”.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, meanwhile, said vowed to press on with “no confidence” motions in First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney, saying there was “compelling and damning” evidence that parliament had been misled.
Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show, Ms Black had earlier suggested that the Scottish Parliament’s probe into the handling of complaints against Mr Salmond was being used to drive political agendas.
“I think the way that this inquiry has played out has just been horrendous,” she said.
“I can’t imagine the horror of the experience the complainants are having just now.”
The MP added: “The Scottish Government did make a mistake in terms of how they actually implemented this policy, and it’s actually quite refreshing I think to see, the first minister in particular, put her hands up and sincerely say, ‘yeah we could do better’.
“And that’s what the point of this inquiry should be, to figure out how can we make sure that this kind of mistake never happens again.
“And instead what we’ve had is just this barrage of conspiracy theories, attacks on our institutions, of clear political agendas taking precedence over what is a very serious issue.”
The Holyrood committee was set up after Mr Salmond received a £512,000 pay-out following the Court of Session civil ruling that the Scottish Government’s handling of the complaints was “unlawful” and “tainted by apparent bias”.
Separately, the former first minister was cleared of 13 charges, including sexual assault, indecent assault and attempted rape, following a trial last year.
Ms Black was asked why nobody in government had lost their jobs over the failures which led to Mr Salmond winning a judicial review over the civil service investigation into him.
“I think when you consider how the women at the heart of this have been weaponised for different narratives, that has been the most upsetting thing for me to see,” she said.
“And of course the government should face scrutiny, and I don’t see evidence to suggest that the government are trying to evade scrutiny, but it is important to let processes play out.”
I think when you consider how the women at the heart of this have been weaponised for different narratives, that has been the most upsetting thing for me to see.”
On the latest polling, Ms Black was quizzed on whether she was concerned that the controversy was damaging support for independence and the SNP.
“I think that has been at the back of the minds of any SNP supporter for a long time now, but I think the important point is that these polls just give a snapshot,” she said.
“And this particular poll isn’t comparable to previous polls, so I would take it with a pinch of caution.
“But ultimately it goes to show that we cannot take anything for granted.”
On The Sunday Show on BBC Scotland, Mr Ross said the Scottish Tories would be pressing ahead with votes of “no confidence” in Ms Sturgeon and Mr Swinney.
Asked whether the party had “pre-judged two inquiries”, the Moray MP said: “No, we’ve looked at the evidence and the evidence is compelling and damning that Nicola Sturgeon has lied to parliament.
“She has misled the Scottish people, and we know now the legal advice which we have got, and it is not the full legal advice, that the Scottish Government wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money on a case their own lawyers were saying was doomed to failure.”