THE Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair has published the so-called ‘smoking email’ which the former First Minister’s supporters claim is evidence of a conspiracy against him.

The email was sent by Nicola Sturgeon’s top official on the day that Mr Salmond won a judicial review action against the Scottish Government.

The civil servant who received it initially denying doing so, but has now changed her evidence to the inquiry.

Mr Salmond showed a Government probe into sexual misconduct claims made against him in 2018 had been unfair and “tainted by apparent bias”, and was ultimately awarded £512,000 in costs.

The probe had been overseen by the Government’s top official, permanent secretary Leslie Evans.

On 8 January 2019, the same day that Mr Salmond declared victory outside the Court of Session, Ms Evans texted former Government’s head of HR, Barbara Allison.

She wrote: “Battle maybe lost but not the war.”

Ms Evans has said under oath that she was ”not referring to any individual when I sent that".

However Mr Salmond’s supporters believe the email shows senior figures in the Government wanted to keep trying to ruin the former First Minister.

Ms Allison also told the inquiry she thought the "battle" referred to Mr Salmond's specific legal action.

A few days after Mr Salmond won his civil case he was charged with sexual assault, resulting in a trial earlier this year at which he was acquitted on all counts.

The email sent by Ms Evans was sent to the inquiry by former Government’s HR director Barbara Allison, who had initially denied receiving it.

Last month, Ms Allison was asked by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie of she had received the email, which was referred to in paraphrase in preliminary hearings before Mr Salmond’s trial.

Ms Allison said: “No.”

Ms Baillie replied: “That is interesting”.

A week later, Ms Allison admitted she may have received the email after all, saying merely that she had “no recollection” of getting it and had answered accurately “to the best of my knowledge”, but had been on holiday at the time, and would double-check her records. 

Ms Allison wrote again to the committee yesterday ahead of being recalled to give oral evidence today, saying she had asked the Crown Office for a copy of the material retrieved from her mobile phone in the context of the criminal trial, and had received it last Friday.

This showed she had indeed received the email. 

Ms Allison wrote: “I would like to take the opportunity to correct the unintended inaccuracy in my previous statement. 

“I received this message on 8 January 2019 and I sent a reply on the same date. The text of the message and my reply are noted below: 

L Evans ‘Thanks Barbara – battle maybe lost but not the war. Hope you are having lovely & well deserved break. L’ 

B Allison ‘Thanks Leslie. It is lovely here. My mind and thoughts are with you all there tho. Best wishes. Bx

“I trust this is of assistance to the committee.” 

Ms Evans’s text, which was refer has fuelled claims Mr Salmond was the victim of a politically motivated plot by senior people in the Government and SNP to stop him making a comeback and rivalling his successor.

Ms Evans denied this when recalled to give an oral evidence last month. 

She said: “I think that has been misinterpreted as having some kind of conspiratorial element to it. Can I clearly say that is not the case?

”I was not referring to any individual when I sent that text. I was referring to a long-term commitment of mine, and indeed of the Scottish Government, as you will see from its policy documents, to ensure that equality lies at the heart of what it does.”

Asked by Tory MSP Murdo Fraser if she had been “at war with Alex Salmond”, Ms Evans replied: “No.”

Ms Sturgeon has also dismissed the conspiracy theory as a “heap of nonsense”.

The inquiry is today taking evidence from Judith MacKinnon, the investigating officer in theprobe, whose prior contact with Mr Salmond's accusers led to the collapse of the Government's case.

She denied having any doubts about being appointed investigating officer in January 2018 despite her contacts, which she said were appropriate.

She also strongly denied pre-judging the claims against Mr Salmond.