THE Scottish Government’s top official has been chastised by MSPs investigating a botched probe into Alex Salmond for failing to tell them how much it cost taxpayers.

It emerged last month that SNP ministers had to pay the former first minister £512,000 in legal costs after he brought a successful judicial review against them.

It followed the government admitting in court in January that it bungled its investigation of two complaints of sexual harassment against Mr Salmond made in 2018.

Because the investigating officer had been in contact with the complainers before her appointment, the entire process was deemed unlawful, unfair and “tainted by apparent bias”.

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A special Holyrood committee was set up after the judicial review - which was separate from the ongoing criminal proceedings involving Mr Salmond - to discover what went wrong.

Ahead of a meeting on Thursday, the committee today released a letter to the Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans, asking why it had to rely on media reports about the legal costs “in the absence… of any information from the Scottish Government”.

Convener Linda Fabiani wrote: “I note the recent media reports regarding the Scottish Government payment of the expenses of the civil litigation on the judicial review taken forward earlier this year... this is clearly an issue the Committee will be discussing.

“In the absence of the Committee having received any information from the Scottish Government, this will need to be based on what has been reported in the media.

“Therefore, if there is anything in the media reporting about which you have concerns, please let me know in advance of the meeting. It may be that the Committee will wish to seek some information as a follow up and so I may be in contact with you following the meeting.”

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Holyrood sources confirmed the letter reflected the committee’s annoyance at not being kept up to date and the government’s grudging, minimalist approach to disclosure.

The Government has previously revealed it also spent £118,523 on external legal advice for the judicial review.

It has been asked for comment.

Separately, Mr Salmond was charged in January this year with a total of 14 offences - two of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and a breach of the peace.

He strongly denies all the allegations and is expected to stand trial in early 2020.

Once criminal proceedings are no longer an issue, the committee is also due to examine Nicola Sturgeon’s part in the collapsed judicial review and why she kept in contact with Mr Salmond despite knowing her officials were looking at complaints against him.

Last month the First Minister spoke of her “personal pain and anguish” at being separated from her predecessor.

She told an Edinburgh Fringe audience she missed Mr Salmond after the sudden change in their 30-year relationship, and he had been a “really important, dominant person” in her life.