Nicola Sturgeon has broken her silence on the storm surrounding MP Michelle Thomson, who is under police investigation.
The First Minister said she had “no knowledge” of the accusations against Mrs Thomson, who resigned as the SNP party whip following the announcement of the probe into her links with a fallen solicitor.
But Ms Sturgeon refused to condemn the former SNP business spokeswoman while the investigation is ongoing.
Mrs Thomson has been linked with property deals involving Christopher Hales, a solicitor who was struck off by the Scottish Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal (SSDT) for professional misconduct involving 13 transactions in 2010 and 2011.
Prosecutors have now instructed police to carry out an investigation into “alleged irregularities” relating to property deals in the year 2010/11 following a complaint by the SSDT.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I had no knowledge of these accusations until, like everyone else, I read (about them).
“There are serious issues that have been raised here. Michelle Thomson maintains that all of her business dealings are entirely within the law.
“She has decided that she wants to step aside from the SNP until this investigation is concluded and I think that’s the right thing for her to do.”
Mrs Thomson has insisted she always acted within the law.
The First Minister added: “There is now an investigation being conducted by the police into property transactions. I don’t think it is appropriate for me to go into detail about aspects of those.
“We have to allow that investigation to take its course.
“I don’t want to be in a position where any elected representative is having to step aside because there is an investigation of any nature into aspects of their business dealings.
“Clearly that is not a situation I would have chosen to happen.”
Mrs Thomson also withdrew from the SNP whip on her account, Ms Sturgeon added.
“I think she has done the right thing in that respect. Serious issues have been raised and those issues deserve to be properly and fully investigated,” Ms Sturgeon said.