ALEX Samond’s lawyers have accused the SNP of potentially defaming them and their client by twisting the truth ahead of a crunch parliamentary vote. 

In a message to the Holyrood inquiry into the Salmond affair, David McKie of Glasgow-based Levy & McRae raised the warning about an SNP research briefing circulated among the party's MSPs.

The briefing is meant to help the MSPs in a Tory-led debate today on whether the Scottish Government should disclose its legal advice about the Salmond affair. 

Mr McKie said he did not wish to intervene in parliamentary business, but the statement implied criticism of both Mr Salmond and his firm, and did not give “the whole picture”.

He said: “On one view it is defamatory of both our client and us as it suggests that we have delayed and been uncooperative.”

He also said the Scottish Government had only recently released documents which could have helped Mr Salmond "greatly" in his legal fight with ministers, despite a court disclosure process that should have uncovered them. 

“We are considering the legal consequences of this with our client and with counsel. We have asked the Government for an explanation but they have not replied,” he said.

In addition, the Government had swamped the firm with more than 2000 pages it said it wanted checked for disclosure, many of which were “completely irrelevant”.

However 289 of the Government’s documents had been approved by Levy & McRae for release, and these ought to be with the inquiry by now, Mr McKie said. 

He added the firm had “not received even the courtesy of a response” when it asked the Government for financial support in sifting the documents. 

The cross-party inquiry is looking at how the Scottish Government botched an in-house probe into allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against Mr Salmond in 2018.

The former first minister had the exercise set aside in a judicial review at the Court of Session, 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.

After the Government’s case collapsed in January 2019, Ms Sturgeon gave an undertaking to parliament to “provide whatever material” the inquiry requested.

But her officials and ministers have since tried to block witnesses and withhold evidence.

In particular, the Government has refused the committee’s request for the legal advice on which it mounted its doomed defence of Mr Salmond’s civil action.

Ministers have cited “legal privilege” for doing so, despite waiving it for three judge-led inquiries on contaminated blood, historical abuse and Edinburgh’s trams. 

After MSPs demanded release of the advice in a non-binding vote earlier this month, Ms Sturgeon said she would consult ministerial colleagues about the issue.

However, and despite a further request from the inquiry, it has not been released, and the Tories have tabled a new motion demanding release for a vote today.

It leaves Ms Sturgeon faces a second parliamentary defeat on the issue, with Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross threatening legal action if the material is withheld.

In his letter, Mr McKie took issue with the SNP's briefing to its MSPs ahead of today’s vote.

This said the Government’s evidence to the inquiry had been delayed “not due to Scottish Government’s failures but because other parties had not agreed on its release”.

It went on: “As had been made clear to Committee, the Scottish Government has been undergoing a process of seeking agreement from the former First Minister’s representatives, Levy & McRae, to the release of these documents.

“The DFM [deputy First Minister John Swinney] made clear in his letter that ‘That process was due to be completed on Friday 20 November, but we now understand that more time will be needed for them to complete their review of the documents’.”

Mr McKie told the inquiry: “Our client’s intention has been drawn to the attached, which is an extract of what we understand has been circulated to MSPs in a research briefing by the SNP in advance of a parliamentary debate today.

“We have no wish to intervene in parliamentary business, but the statement implies criticism of our client and our firm and does not provide the whole picture. 

“On one view it is defamatory of both our client and us as it suggests that we have delayed and been uncooperative.”

Mr McKie said the Government had had more than 18 months to prepare its evidence, yet it was not until November 2 that it gave Levy & McRae 400 doucments running to more than 2000 pages, and requested Mr Salmond’s approval for their release to the inquiry. 

He said: “The process of redacting these documents had already taken the Government many months.

"In correspondence we agreed to attempt to complete the exercise by 20th November, but making clear that we may require more time.

“It soon became apparent to our client that a significant number of these documents are completely irrelevant to the Committee’s remit.

“Additionally, neither we nor our client had received a material number of these documents before. This was in spite of formal recovery processes in both the Judicial Review and a warrant served on the Government in the criminal case [which led to a trail in March in which  Mr Salmond was acquitted of sexual assault]. 

“A number of these could potentially have been of great assistance to our client. We are considering the legal consequences of this with our client and with counsel. 

“We have asked the Government for an explanation but they have not replied.”

Mr McKie said that four batches of documents had been approved for release between 13 and 19 November, making a total of 289 that ministers were free to pass to the inquiry. 

The remaining 101 documents are expected to be checked by November 27, although two “remain missing”.

He said: “This exercise has taken a huge number of hours of both our client’s and our time. 

“This work to assist the Committee is being financed by our client who is a private citizen and not even the subject of this Inquiry.  

“We have requested financial support from the Scottish Government to complete this exercise but not received even the courtesy of a response. 

“We have not received a substantive reply to any of our letters. The Scottish Government indicated that they would reply to us by last Friday, but they have not done so.

“Our client has sought help on this exercise with funding from the government and his requests have been completely ignored and not even addressed.

“Our client is clearly suffering a significant disparity between the legal resources to the government and those available to our client, representing a major inequality of arms.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “Stating facts is not defamatory in Scotland.”