ALEX Salmond was demanding and difficult to work for, but also “visionary and dynamic”, the Scottish Government’s former HR director has told a Holyrood inquiry.

Barbara Allison said the former First Minister would “express his displeasure” if people failed to meet the high standards he expected while in office. 

“It was a bit of a rollercoaster”, she told MSPs.

She said she never heard of sexual misconduct concerns about Mr Salmond while he was FM, though she did in late 2017 when two female civil servants raised them.

Nor had she heard of any concerns being escalated to the status of formal complaints while she was in charge of HR.

However she said she was a “huge believer" in resolving office friction informally.

Ms Allison, who was Director of People from 2009 to 2016, is now the Scottish Government’s director for communications, ministerial support & facilities.

She gave evidence today immediately after Sir Peter Housden, who was Mr Salmond’s top official for four years, said his former boss could be “bullying and intimidatory”.  

The cross-party inquiry is examining the Scottish Government’s botched an in-house sexual misconduct probe into 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 investigating official, who should have been fresh to the case, had in fact been in prior contact with the two female civil servants who complained about Mr Salmond.

Ms Allison said she had known and spoken to the two civil servants concerned.

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

Mr Salmond was acquitted of 13 counts of sexual assault in March this year, but evidence emerged of inappropriate and drunken behaviour with female staff.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton asked Ms Allison about the “bullying” by Mr Salmond which Sir Peter said occasionally punctuated the smooth running of his office.

She replied: “I was aware that Mr Salmond could be demanding and could de difficulty to work for. 

“He expected high standards and if he didn’t get that then he would express his displeasure.

“I would like to say, in fairness, that people also expressed that they enjoyed working for him. He was visionary. He was dynamic. It was a bit of a rollercoaster. 

“So I think there's lots of shades of grey.

“There were rumours of [him being] demanding and difficult, but I think people had different experiences.”

Earlier today, Sir Peter told the inquiry he was aware of “concerns” about Mr Salmond’s conduct, but had never heard of sexually inappropriate behaviour or “egregious acts”.

He said: “I  knew that the former First Minister could display bullying and intimidatory behaviour. I knew the situation we were dealing with.”

Sir Peter said he did not witness any bullying by Mr Salmond, but was “well aware” from conversations with his principle private secretary and others that it occurred.

Last week, Sir Peter’s successor as permanent secretary, Leslie Evans, said she had been shouted at by SNP ministers, but it was “not a daily occurrence”.

She also told the Holyrood inquiry such behaviour had not crossed a line into bullying.