THE HOLYROOD inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair has explosively accused key witnesses, including Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, of obstructing its work.

In a furious statement, the inquiry said it had become “completely frustrated with the lack of evidence and, quite frankly, obstruction it is experiencing”.

It cited a lack of evidence from the Scottish Government, Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon’s husband, the SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.

The inquiry, which has held only five witness session since August 18, has now effectively suspended further hearings because of a lack of cooperation.

It held a private session on September 22, another today, and said it has been forced to make its next session, on October 6, private as well because a hearing was impossible. 

SNP convener Linda Fabiani said: “The Committee continues to be completely frustrated with the lack of evidence and, quite frankly, obstruction it is experiencing. 

“We had hoped to be in a position to hear further oral evidence, but with responses still outstanding from the Scottish Government, Chief Executive of the SNP and the former First Minister, all of this means that we simply cannot proceed at this stage.

“We have no choice but to meet in private again next week (6 October) to review the evidence we have received to date. But I would urge all those we have approached to engage productively with the Committee so it can get on with the task in hand.”

Labour said the committee was being treated with "contempt" by the Government annd others.

The Scottish Tories accused Ms Sturgeon of misleading parliament by promising transparency then failing to deliver it.

The cross-party 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” because the lead investigating official had been in prior contact with his accusers.

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 Holyrood inquiry is investigating what happened. 

Ms Sturgeon told parliament at the time that the inquiry could have whatever material it wanted, but her Government has since withheld evidence and tried to block witnesses.

The Government has refused to hand over swathes of evidence from the judicial review on the grounds of “legal privilege”, a privilege it has refused to waive despite doing so in the recent past for three judge-led inquiries.

Shortly after he won his civil case, Mr Salmond was charged with sexual assault, leading to a criminal trial earlier this year at which he was acquitted on all 13 counts.

Last week, his legal team said the former First Minister had been threatened with prosecution if he shared evidence to the inquiry obtained during his trial defence.

Mr Salmond felt some of the material was relevant to the inquiry, but the Crown Office had warned his lawyers “in the strongest terms” it would be a “criminal offence” to use material supplied for a trial offence for another purpose.

Mr Salmond’s lawyer, David McKie of Glasgow firm Levy & McRae, said that lack of context hamstrung Mr Salmond’s ability to give any evidence at all to the inquiry.

He warned MSPs: “Our client cannot realistically therefore provide a statement or documents which are partial and piecemeal. 

“Any meaningful statement necessarily will involve reference to a large amount of the material which he is not permitted to release.”

Last month, Mr Murrell submitted evidence saying Ms Sturgeon met Mr Salmond at the couple’s Glasgow home in April 2018, but “she couldn’t discuss the details” with him.

He said: “Nicola told me she couldn’t discuss the details. The nature of Nicola’s job means that when she tells me she can’t discuss something, I don’t press it.”

However Ms Sturgeon told MSPs in January 2019 that she had agreed to meet Mr Salmond in her home in her capacity as SNP leader, rather than on government business, raising questions about why Mr Murrell, as the top SNP official, should have been kept in the dark.

At the April 2018 meeting, Mr Salmond told Ms Sturgeon he was being investigated by her officials over sexual misconduct and wanted it stopped. 

Mr Murrell told the inquiry he didn’t learn the subject of their conversation for another four months, after the existence of the Government’s probe was revealed in the media.

Mr Murrell also told the inquiry that he was “unaware” of SNP ministers using SNP channels of communications for official business.

This was in spite of substantial publicity, during the 2019 SNP autumn conference, about Ms Sturgeon using only her personal SNP email, not her government one, since 2015.

Four other cabinet secretaries and one minister have also been confirmed to use their personal SNP accounts in correspondence with Government officials.

Unconvinced by the statements on the April 2018 meeting or the emails, the inquiry wrote to Mr Murrell on September 9 asking him for more information “as soon as is practicable”.

Ms Fabiani asked him to check with a series of named colleagues to see if the SNP held communications related to the misconduct complaints against Mr Salmond.

These included Ms Sturgeon, her chief of staff, SNP chief operating officer Sue Ruddick, and SNP compliance manager Ian McCann.

Ms Fabiani wrote: “If you did not confer with colleagues in this regard I would ask that you now do so and submit further written evidence to the Committee, providing details of any and all communications requested in my original letter that may be relevant. 

“Again, the information we are seeking includes, but is not limited to, emails, minutes, notes, texts, papers and WhatsApp messages from all levels of the SNP.” 

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “The SNP have treated the Salmond inquiry with contempt. They act like requests for key documents are beneath them.

“Nicola Sturgeon has undoubtedly broken her promise to release all materials that the inquiry requested.

“She made that commitment on January 17 but if she won’t release these documents, she has misled parliament.

“It now appears that this inquiry will be a whitewash.”

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, who sits on the inquiry, said: “Quite frankly, the Scottish Government and others are treating this committee as a laughing stock.

“It is all too clear that the government’s commitment to transparency was little more than a bad joke and that they are determined to prevent the committee from executing its vital task.

“The Scottish Government and, indeed, many others involved in this affair have demonstrated contempt for this committee and its aims.

“The secrecy must end and the Scottish Government and others must stop treating elected representatives as annoyances.”