THE UK’s information watchdog has found “no evidence” to back up Alex Salmond’s belief that Scottish Government officials leaked sensitive material about him to the media.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) spent 14 months checking the matter after a request from the former First Minister.

Although it flagged some “concerns in relation to the Scottish Government’s data protection practices”, the ICO found no evidence of anything unlawful.

It said the matter was now closed and it would take no further action.

The ruling was made on March 10, on the second day of Mr Salmond’s trial on sexual assault charges, but has not been reported until now because of the proceedings. 

Mr Salmond was acquitted of all 13 charges he faced at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday after a two-week trial.

In court, Mr Salmond described allegations against him as “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose” and “exaggerations”.

After the verdict, he said he wanted to bring new evidence into the public domain which he was unable to present during the trial for legal reasons.

His defence team had wanted to lead evidence about a “concerted effort” to “discredit” the former SNP leader as payback for him scoring a legal victory over the SNP Government.

In 2018, the civil service held its own in-house investigation into two complaints of sexual misconduct against Mr Salmond relating to his time as First Minister.

In August that year, the Government’s top official, the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, told Mr Salmond she was about to make the findings public.

Mr Salmond tried to prevent this through legal action, but the story came out in the Daily Record regardless.

Mr Salmond said at the time he felt the story had been leaked to the paper to damage him, and he asked Ms Evans to investigate what had happened.

At a press conference on 24 August 2018, he said: “I’ve asked Leslie Evans to launch an inquiry to find out, because clearly that is a serious breach of confidence.

“I explicitly deny, absolutely, any semblance of criminality. Obviously the leak that was given to a single newspaper was designed to put things in that direction.”

In January 2019, the Scottish Government insisted it had found no evidence of a data breach, and said its investigation had been “kept entirely confidential throughout”.

Mr Salmond then reported the matter to the ICO and asked it to investigate.

An ICO spokeswoman said: “After conducting thorough inquiries with the Scottish government, the ICO found no evidence that a third party or an employee from the Scottish government unlawfully obtained or disclosed personal data relating to Mr Alex Salmond.

“We also found no evidence that Mr Salmond’s personal data was processed unfairly.

"However, during the course of our investigation, we identified some concerns in relation to the Scottish government’s data protection practices, and we have given them recommendations to improve their compliance with data protection law.

"This matter is now closed and we won’t be taking further action.”

After the in-house investigation became public, Mr Salmond launched a successful judicial review at the Court of Session over the Government’s handling of it.

SNP ministers were forced to admit that the probe had been flawed from the outset because the investigating official had been in prior contact with the complainers.

This rendered the whole process unfair, unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”.

The cost to taxpayers in legal fees for both sides was around £1m.

Mr Salmond’s defence team had wanted to present evidence that this “shambles” had spurred efforts within government to discredit Mr Salmond.

However Judge Lady Dorrian did not allow most of it in case the trial strayed off course.

Some of Mr Salmond’s supporters have suggested he was the victim of a conspiracy embracing the state and the SNP.

A Scottish Government spokesman said of the ICO ruling: “We note the Information Commissioner’s findings.