THE Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair has asked the Scottish Court Service for access to documents it needs after running out of patience with blocking by SNP ministers.

After complaining bitterly yesterday about Government ‘obstruction’, the inquiry today tried to bypass ministers by writing directly to the courts’ Principal Clerk instead. 

It said access was “essential” to completing its work.

The cross-party committee of MSPs asked for access to a raft of documents from Mr Salmond’s successful legal battle against the Scottish Government in 2018 and 2019.

These include all evidence lodged by both the former First Minister and the Government, affidavits, pleadings, disclosed documents, and all information about costs.

The inquiry is looking at how the Scottish Government botched an in-house probe into sexual misconduct claims made against Mr Salmond in 2018. 

Mr Salmond had the exercise set aside in a judicial review at the Court of Session, forcing ministers to admit it had been unfair, unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”.

The collapse of the Government’s case in January 2019 left taxpayers with a £512,250 bill for Mr Salmond’s costs, and the Holyrood inquiry is investigating what happened. 

The Government also spent another £118,523 on external legal fees.

On 17 January 2019, Nicola Sturgeon gave an undertaking to parliament to “provide whatever material” the inquiry requested.

She said:  “That is the definition of full, thorough and open inquiries. My commitment is that the Government and I will cooperate fully with it, which is, I think, appropriate.”

However her officials and ministers have since tried to block witnesses and withheld swathes of evidence, citing “legal privilege” despite waiving it for three judge-led inquiries. 

Although the Government, in agreement with Mr Salmond, has belatedly offered to share more court evidence with the inquiry, MSPs remain frustrated that it is not enough.

In an email to Gillian Prentice, Director and Principal Clerk of Session and Justiciary, inquiry convener Linda Fabiani said both the Government and Mr Salmond appeared “content for the Committee to have access to court records provided that all relevant legal restrictions are complied with.” 

She said: “The Committee notes the Scottish Government’s intention to release certain documentation and take steps before the Court where needed.

"However, given the importance of these proceedings and the time constraints on the Committee in fulfilling its remit, the Committee has decided to approach the Court directly for confirmation on the position in relation to access to court documents in this case. 

“We consider that having sight of some of the court documents is essential to enable the Committee to meet the terms of its remit.”

“I would therefore be grateful if you could please confirm: 

“1) Whether, or to what extent the Court is able to make the court process in this case available to the Committee. 

“2) If so, details as to which documents and in what manner access to them might be provided.”

Ms Fabiani attached a list of 9 classes of documents the inquiry wanted to see.

Tory MSP Oliver Mundell, the son of former Scottish Secretary David Mundell, was today ordered to leave the Holyrood chamber after accusing Ms Sturgeon of lying.

He said she had lied by failing to keep her promise and refused to retract the unparliamentary language when asked to do so by Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh.

Mr Mundell said later: “Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly told the Scottish Parliament, over and over again, that she would ‘co-operate fully’ with the inquiry and ‘provide whatever material’ was necessary.

“So unless the First Minister provides whatever material the Salmond inquiry requests, as she promised, then she has plainly lied to Parliament.  

“Even the SNP MSP in charge of the committee, Linda Fabiani, has accused her own party leader and the SNP government of obstruction.

“Key documents must be released or the Scottish public will never get answers about what happened and how £500,000 of public money was wasted .”

The Scottish Government has emphatically rejected the suggestion that Ms Sturgeon misled parliament.