UNION leaders have raised fresh concerns over the treatment of civil servants during Holyrood's inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair. 

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA trade union, which represents senior civil servants, said the behaviour of some MSPs has "fallen short" of the standards expected. 

He said civil servants had been subjected to remarks about selective memory and have had their comments misquoted or embellished.

MSPs have also retweeted articles making "derogatory comments about civil servants and their evidence", he said.

Mr Penman raised the concerns in a letter to Linda Fabiani MSP, convener of the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints. 

He wrote: "I am sure you can understand that this could lead to a perception that some of the committee members are reaching a conclusion while the process is still in train and falls below the standards civil servants should expect of parliamentarians who are conducting such an important inquiry. 

"This can only damage the credibility of the process and any potential conclusion it may reach.

"This is, if course, also being done in the full knowledge that civil servants are unable to publicly defend themselves."

A cross-party committee of MSPs is looking into how the Scottish Government botched a sexual misconduct probe into claims made against Mr Salmond in 2018.

The former first minister had the exercise set aside through a judicial review, showing it had been unlawful, unfair and “tainted by apparent bias”.

The Government’s mistake - to appoint an investigating officer who was in prior contact with his accusers - left taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his costs.

Mr Salmond was cleared of multiple sexual assault charges at the High Court in Edinburgh earlier this year. 

In his letter, Mr Penman raised concerns about comments made during the questioning of civil servants, as well as committee members' media responses and social media activity. 

He said: "I want to make clear at the outset that FDA is not seeking to hamper the scrutiny of the Government or the civil service. 

"We have a responsibility however, to raise concerns if we believe that the scrutiny is beyond the scope of what is expected of a parliamentary committee and where the conduct undermines the values of an impartial and professional civil service."

Mr Penman said it is "not possible under the civil service code for personal reflections or private opinions to be offered on matters which are properly the responsibility of the Government".

He said: "Witnesses have indicated that they do not recall our would have to check facts, yet have been subject to comments about selective memory or concerns expressed about why they cannot recall or respond at that given time. 

"Given the obligations of providing evidence under oath, the fact that it is a considerable time since conversations and engagement took place and the sheer quantity of documentation, these comments, for public consumption, fall below the standards civil servants can rightly expect from a parliamentary committee. 

"Our understanding of the operations of a committee who ask witnesses to swear an oath is that members of that committee will ask questions in an impartial factual manner to gather evidence and provide clarity on evidence. 

"However it is clear that members of the committee frequently offer personal opinion, seek to make political points or personal remarks, including when purporting to summarise evidence - as I experienced myself when I gave evidence - and have misquoted or embellished a response on official record made by one witness when then questioning another witness.

"The committee has sought to introduce a quasi-judicial approach to these hearings yet it would appear the obligations and standards that follow only apply selectively to witnesses and not the committee itself."