THE Scottish Government has missed the deadline to deliver vital documents to the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair by at least a month.

It means MSPs will be forced to start their witness hearings in mid-August without all the information in front of them.

The development is another blow to the already strained relations between the cross-party committee and Nicola Sturgeon’s top official, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans.

The committee had warned Ms Evans it needed to see information dating from early 2018 by the end of July at the latest in order to prepare for its oral evidence sessions.

It said her proposed timetable of late August “does not meet the committee’s requirements”.

However in a newly released letter, Ms Evans said the Government’s work preparing the files remained “unlikely to be complete before end-August”.

Ms Evans said the hold-up was down to “complex and time-consuming” work, including the manual checking and legally required redaction of “large volumes of documents”.

She said civil service work on coronavirus was also a factor.

The committee is investigating how the Government botched its in-house probe into complaints of sexual misconduct made against Mr Salmond by two civil servants.

The complaints, made in early 2018, led to an investigation ultimately overseen by Ms Evans, which Mr Salmond successfully overturned in a judicial review.

In January 2019, he forced the Government to admit in court that its probe had been unfair, unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”.

The collapse of the Government’s case left taxpayers with a £500,000 legal bill for Mr Salmond’s costs, and the Holyrood committee is now investigating what happened.

Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond, who always denied wrongdoing, are due to give evidence under oath.

MSPs has asked for files on how the complaints policy applied to Mr Salmond was developed, how the Government handled the judicial review, and how it investigated the complaints against Mr Salmond.

The first two tranches have now been delivered to MSPs, but the files relating to the complaints probe have been delayed, despite the material being two years old and the committee setting out its general intentions at the beginning of 2019.

Ms Evans also raised objections to civil servants and Ms Sturgeon’s special advisers, including her chief of staff, testifying before MSPs.

She said the civil service code restrained what staff could say, and suggested the Government instead prepare its own chronology of events showing which officials were involved at each stage in the affair.

She also suggested undertaking academic research into the “culture” of the Government, which the MSPs are also examining.

Neither offer is likely to go down well with the inquiry, which does not want the Government setting limits to its work.