THE official at the heart of the Scottish Government’s botched sexual misconduct probe into Alex Salmond has apologised for misleading parliament about it.

Judith MacKinnon said she had “inadvertently” provided an incorrect answer when she gave evidence under oath to the Holyrood inquiry into the affair on Tuesday. 

Labour complained about the growing extent of "selective amnesia" among civil servants.

Ms MacKinnon was the investigating officer (IO) on the probe, which was started in early 2018 after two civil servants made formal complaints against Mr Salmond.

The former First Minister had the findings set aside in a judicial review after showing that the exercise had been unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”.

The Government’s own procedure stated that the IO “will have had no prior involvement with any aspect of the matter being raised”.

However Ms MacKinnon was appointed despite having prior contact with both Mr Salmond’s accusers, who are known as Ms A and Ms B.

That error left taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for Mr Salmond’s legal costs.

On Tuesday, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie asked Ms MacKinnon: “Did you tell either of the complainants that you were going to be appointed the investigating officer before the appointment actually happened?”

Ms MacKinnon replied: “I did not. I did not tell them that. At that point in time, I did not know that that would be the case.”

However in a follow-up email to the Inquiry, Ms MacKinnon changed her evidence, admitting she did tell Ms B she was “likely” to be the person who interviewed her if she proceeded to make a formal complaint.

Ms MacKinnon said: “I have inadvertently provided an incorrect response to a question asked by Ms Baillie about whether I had advised any of the complainants that I was going to be appointed as the Investigating Officer prior to that appointment being confirmed. 

“I am writing to you now at the first opportunity to correct the record. 

“Having reviewed the answer I provided against my records, I can confirm to the Committee that in an email I sent to Ms B, I gave an indication that I would likely be the Investigating Officer. 

“In that email, I provided Ms B with advice about the process that would apply if a formal complaint was received. 

“As part of that advice, I indicated that she would be interviewed and that the interview was ‘likely to be led by myself’. 

“Although I did not explicitly say that I was to be appointed as the Investigating Officer, I gave a clear indication that it was likely that I would be. 

“Please accept my apologies for inadvertently providing an incorrect answer and I would be grateful if the record could be updated to reflect the correct information provided in this letter.” 

In her email, Ms MacKinnon had thanked Ms B for talking to her and "set out a couple of options" for her to consider about submitting a formal complaint.

She wrote: "We would then interview you (likely to be led by myself... could be by phone) to take a formal statement, and other individuals you may name in your statement. You would have an opportunity to review the statement."

HeraldScotland: Judith MacKinnon email to Ms BJudith MacKinnon email to Ms B

After Mr Salmond won his civil case in January 2019, he was charged with sexual assault, leading to a trial this year at which he was acquitted on all counts.

His supporters claim the two events point to a high-level Government and SNP plot to stop him making a comeback and rivalling his successor.

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

Ms Baillie said: "It is shocking that senior civil servants come before the committee and, despite being on oath, fail to give candid answers. 

"Some suffer from selective amnesia and others have to subsequently correct their evidence to the committee because they got it wrong the first time. 

"The Scottish Government needs to start treating this inquiry seriously."