THE Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair has rejected a Scottish Government bid to block civil servants from giving evidence. 

The cross-party committee insisted Nicola Sturgeon’s chief of staff and other officials should give individual statements, rather than be referenced in a single Government overview.

The inquiry also demanded the Government’s top official, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, give oral evidence next week alone, rather than assisted by her aides.

The move will allow MSPs to grill Ms Evans uninterrupted, denying her chances to pass the buck or obfuscate in cross-talk. 

The inquiry also said it would allow witness to bring lawyers, given the need to avoid breaking legal restrictions related to Mr Salmond’s separate criminal trial.

The inquiry’s demands are included in a letter sent to Ms Evans this week, and mark yet another front in the committee’s war of attrition with Ms Sturgeon’s top official.

Yesterday, the inquiry threatened the Government with compulsion powers after it withheld swathes of evidence on generalised legal grounds.

MSPs expressed their “frustration and disappointment” in a blistering letter to Ms Evans. 

The committee is looking at how the Government botched an in-house probe into sexual misconduct claims made against Mr Salmond in 2018. 

Mr Salmond had the exercise set aside in a judicial review at the Court of Session, forcing ministers to admit it had been unfair, unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”.

The collapse of the Government’s case in January 2019 left taxpayers with a £500,000 legal bill for Mr Salmond’s costs, and the inquiry is investigating what happened. 

The MSPs are also considering whether Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code by meeting Mr Salmond while he was under investigation by her own officials.

As part of their inquiry, MSPs want to take written and oral evidence from officials about the complaints policy used against Mr Salmond.

Ms Evans previously said civil servants could not give personal evidence, only evidence on behalf of their ministers, and suggested the Scottish Government provide an overarching narrative and timeline showing which officials were involved and when instead.

Last week, Ms Evans said Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff should be included in this narrative, as she was not able to provide information about her government work on a personal basis.

However the chief of staff could write to the committee about her work for the SNP. 

However in a newly released letter, inquiry convener Linda Fabiani said the committee were not satisfied with Ms Evans’s reply and insisted officials give their own individual evidence.

In relation to written evidence, Ms Fabiani said she had already “made it clear” that if MSPs wanted evidence from individual officials they would “seek it directly”.

She added: “I also made it clear that the Committee was not content for the actions of the First Minister’s Chief of Staff to be added to the timeline of actions by Government officials. 

“I have discussed these matters further with the Committee. 

“While the Committee agrees that a timeline is a helpful reference, it wants to confirm at this point that further evidence from individual officials providing a factual account of their involvement in the development of the policy and in the judicial review, as originally requested, will also be required. This includes from the Chief of Staff. 

“The Committee is clear... that civil servants can give evidence to Parliament, in person or in writing, on an individual basis on how their actions contributed to delivery of a particular policy, in this instance the development and use of the complaints procedure. 

“The Committee requires a factual account of individual actions, in person and in writing, and will proceed on that basis. 

“This is separate to the points you have made in previous correspondence on the ability of Parliament to take evidence from officials on their personal perspectives.”

In relation to oral evidence, the committee complained the Government had yet to supply its promised timeline despite being set a deadline of August 7.

It also told Ms Evans it wanted to take evidence from “you and senior civil servants individually rather than on the same panel”, starting with Ms Evans on August 18. 

“As you will be aware the protocol between the Government and Parliament committees enables a committee, in exceptional circumstances, to specify particular Government officials it wishes to hear from,” Ms Fabiani added. 

Shortly after Mr Salmond won his judicial review case, he was charged with sexual assault - he was acquitted of all 13 counts in March.

A lifelong court order prevents any of his complainers being identified.