The Treasury's top civil servant threatened legal action after receiving an advanced copy of a book published by Alex Salmond, MPs have heard.


SNP former leader Mr Salmond told the Commons Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the permanent secretary to the Treasury, informed the Scottish Sun's editor that he was "considering matters for legal option for redress".

But the MP for Gordon said the articles and his book went ahead with no further contact from Sir Nicholas's legal representatives.

Mr Salmond's book on the campaign for independence, The Dream Shall Never Die: 100 Days That Changed Scotland Forever, was published earlier this year with extracts appearing in the Scottish Sun.

In March, the former first minister called for Sir Nicholas to resign after a report by MPs said his "perceived impartiality" had been compromised during the run-up to last September's Scottish independence referendum.

The Commons Public Administration Select Committee criticised the publication of advice Sir Nicholas gave Chancellor George Osborne that a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK would be "fraught with difficulty".

The committee said the civil servant's letter was made public "because it suited ministers' political objectives in respect of the Scottish referendum".

Speaking during the committee stage of the European Union Referendum Bill, Mr Salmond sought assurances over the measures in place to prevent the "huge and serious potential imbalance" of government ministers breaching purdah and civil servants breaching impartiality during an in-out referendum.

He said: "I should say Sir Nicholas Macpherson threatened to reach for his lawyers when he saw an advanced copy of a book I published recently, available £12.99 in all good book shops.

"But he was considering matters for legal option for redress, he said in a letter to the editor of the Scottish Sun newspaper.

"I'm pleased to say in the interests of freedom of speech that the articles went ahead as did the book and as yet we haven't heard from Sir Nicholas's legal representatives or from Sue, Grabbit and Runne, or whoever the permanent secretary of the Treasury uses these days."