THE SNP advised former party staff on how to report concerns of bullying and harassment days after sexual misconduct allegations involving Alex Salmond were published.

An email from SNP headquarters, which focused on the party’s “duty of care”, was sent to a range of individuals including ex-staff who worked for the party when Salmond was leader.

An SNP source described the communication as “gratuitous” and a “fishing expedition” that was “clearly focused” on Salmond.

A second insider said the email was another factor behind the poor relationship Salmond now has with Nicola Sturgeon, who succeeded him as SNP leader and First Minister.

Salmond is defending himself against claims by two women who alleged he sexually harassed them when he was First Minister. The allegations, which were made in January, triggered an internal investigation by the Scottish Government, following which a referral to Police Scotland was made.

Salmond, who has denied sexually harassing anyone, strongly criticised top Government civil servant Leslie Evans for what he regards as a flawed probe.

He is also seeking a judicial review of the Government’s handling of the allegations and a four-day hearing will be held at the Court of Session.

Although Salmond’s public bitterness has been directed at Evans, it is also understood he is angry with Sturgeon over the internal probe and its aftermath. He met his successor on several occasions during the Government examination of the claims and has refused to deny suggestions he asked her to drop the investigation.

It has now emerged that SNP headquarters, run by Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, wrote to staff three days after lurid details of one of the sexual misconduct allegations against Salmond came to light.

Salmond was not named in the email, but the context was explicitly in relation to recent media coverage.

The senior headquarters figure wrote: “The past few days have seen new stories concerning allegations of sexual misconduct. I appreciate that seeing such reports can be upsetting and distressing.”

The staffer was responsible for taking forward measures to protect the “health, safety and wellbeing” of employees: “We take our responsibility, whether you are current staff or a former employee, extremely seriously.”

She continued: “In terms of the communication channels for reporting concerns, the SNP is firm in its belief that allegations of bullying and harassment must be taken seriously and that anyone who considers that they have been subject to such behaviour must feel able to come forward.”

One of the routes offered was to raise a concern outside of party structures by contacting a solicitor from legal firm Kennedys Scotland.

She also noted that individuals could report “any matter” on a confidential basis to headquarters employee Ian McCann. It is understood the email was sent to a range of individuals including current staff and former employees who worked for the party or parliamentarians at one point.

However, the distribution list is believed to stretch back to at least 10 years, at which point Salmond was leader. Weeks after the email was sent, a Sunday newspaper reported that several complaints against Salmond had been lodged with the SNP and had been passed to an independent lawyer. The article did not say specify the nature of the allegations.

An SNP source told this newspaper that the email looked like a “trawl” and questioned the timing. However, another insider said the email was simply “good HR”. Sturgeon sent a similar email to party staff last year after lawyer Aamer Anwar said sexual harassment was a “ticking time bomb” at Holyrood.

A spokesperson for Salmond said: “Alex’s team are entirely focused on the Judicial Review where initial procedural hearing is coming up very shortly. We will do our talking in the Court of Session. Alex was a member of the SNP for 45 years. In that entire time there was not a single complaint about his personal conduct.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “As set out in our statement on August 27, 2018 and in line with our obligations as a responsible employer, Nicola Sturgeon said that the party would recirculate details of the independent arrangements in place to report inappropriate behaviour by any member of the SNP.

“A similar email was circulated on October 31, 2017 following allegations of harassment by unnamed Members of Parliament.”