ALEX Salmond has been invited to repeat his explosive evidence against Nicola Sturgeon in person to MSPs next week.

The former first minister has been asked to appear on Tuesday before the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s legal battle with him.

However moments after the invitation was confirmed, it emerged Mr Salmond's lawyer had warned his client may not appear for legal and health reasons.

David McKie of Glasgow-based Levy & McRae said the prospect of his client giving evidence while constrained from telling the whole truth by a threat of prosecution was “highly problematic”.

He also questioned how practical it would be for him to appear in person at parliament given the Covid pandemic and an “underling health condition”, an apparent reference to Mr Salmond's lifelong asthma.

However many MSPs suspect Mr Salmond will be unable to resist putting the knife into his estranged predecessor in person given their bitter feud.

The development emerged moments after the inquiry confirmed it had invited Mr Salmond to give evidence in person next week.

MSPs are looking into how the Scottish Government botched its probe into sexual misconduct allegations made against Mr Salmond in 2018.

Mr Salmond had the exercise seat aside in a judicial review by showing it was “tainted by apparent bias”, a Government error that left taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his legal costs.

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It emerged last week that Mr Salmond had, in a written submission, accused Nicola Sturgeon of repeatedly misleading parliament - both in the chamber and to the inquiry.

He said she had therefore broken the Scottish ministerial code, which is regarded as a resignation offence.

Ms Sturgeon rejected the claims.

But Mr Salmond said he was willing to repeat his accusations to the inquiry under oath, and tonight it wrote to him asking him to attend on Tuesday. 

Convener Linda Fabiani said MSPs “would prefer you to attend in person at the Scottish Parliament as an effective way of exploring your evidence in as much depth as is necessary”. 

However shortly afterwards the inquiry also released a letter from Mr Salmond’s lawyer sent last Friday in which he warned an appearance may not happen.

Mr Salmond has previously said he would like to present evidence obtained for the defence of his criminal trial last year, at which he was cleared of multiple counts of sexual assault.

However the Crown Office has threatened him with prosecution if he shares the material as it was only meant to be for used for his trial.

In his letter, Mr McKie urged the parliament to seek the material from the Crown Office instead.

He said: “Our client is now effectively being forced into a position of being asked to take an oath to tell the ‘truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’, but being simultaneously advised by those acting in the name of the Lord Advocate that he would be committing a criminal offence if he does so.

"That cannot be a tenable position.”

He went on: “Our client is entitled to a rational explanation as to why that material has not  been sought by the Committee or provided by agencies of the state. So too is the public. 

“The idea that he gives his evidence before that material is produced is highly problematic. 

"Some of it goes right to the heart of the issues your Inquiry faces, including testing the credibility of witness evidence already led.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon's government sent Alex Salmond accusations to Crown Office despite 'retribution' fears of accusers

Mr McKie said the various concerns “clearly call into question the likelihood of our client  being able to give evidence on 19th January.

"Furthermore, our client has written separately to your Clerk to establish how, realistically, an evidence session in person is going to be possible given current restrictions given that he has an underlying health condition.

"There would be considerable media attention, as there was at his trial and during  the judicial review. 

"Managing that attention in the current health environment will be a matter for careful consideration.

"These are practical issues which we can discuss with  your Clerks, but the priority at this stage is to unlock  the  very  important issues set out above and help the Inquiry reach conclusions on the full evidence.”

But in her invite to Mr Salmond, Ms Fabiani said the inquiry was forced by time pressure - and in particular the looming Holyrood election on May 6 - to press on.

She wrote: “On the substance of your evidence, the Committee appreciates that you would wish to access evidence from the criminal trial in order to go into more detail when you appear before the Committee. 

"However, the Committee is now in the position where if it does not complete evidence taking in the very near future it may not be able to report to Parliament in advance of purdah rules coming into force.

"The Committee must fulfil the task that Parliament has set it and that must include reporting its findings on this important inquiry before the Committee is disbanded in advance of the general election.

"On that basis 19 January is the date that is being offered to you."

READ MORE: Alex Salmond affair: Nicola Sturgeon's top official Leslie Evans denies hiding 'smoking gun' evidence

If he accepts, Ms Sturgeon is then expected to give evidence in the final witness hearing a week later.

It tees up a potentially extraordinary pair of sessions in which the SNP’s two most successful leaders trade blows, with inevitable fallout for the party. 

READ MORE: Alex Salmond affair: Nicola Sturgeon's top official Leslie Evans denies hiding 'smoking gun' evidence

After the Government’s defence of the judicial collapsed collapsed in January 2019, the First Minister revealed she had three meetings and two phone calls with her predecessor while he was being investigated by her own officials in spring and summer 2018.

She insisted she took the meetings in her capacity as SNP leader, rather than as government business, and so no officials were present and no minutes taken.

Opposition parties claim Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code by failing to report these meetings fully and timeously to the relevant officials.

Mr Salmond has accused Ms Sturgeon of repeatedly misleading parliament about these events.

In particular, Mr Salmond claimed in his written submission that the first of the five contacts, at Ms Sturgeon’s home on 2 April 2018, was arranged with her in advance and that she knew full well that it was to discuss the Government’s misconduct probe rather than a party matter.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon's government sent Alex Salmond accusations to Crown Office despite 'retribution' fears of accusers

He said Ms Sturgeon and his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein arranged it in Ms Sturgeon’s Holyrood officer four days earlier, 29 March 2018.

Ms Sturgeon later told claimed she had “forgotten” about this earlier meeting, saying it had been a busy day at Holyrood, despite it concerning sexual allegations against her mentor.

Mr Salmond said in his submission: "In her written submission to the Committee, the First Minister has subsequently admitted to that meeting on 29th March 2018, claiming to have previously ‘forgotten’ about it. That is, with respect, untenable.

"The pre-arranged meeting in the Scottish Parliament of 29th March 2018 was “forgotten” about because acknowledging it would have rendered ridiculous the claim made by the First Minister in Parliament that it had been believed that the meeting on 2nd April was on SNP Party business (Official Report 8th & 10th January 2019) and thus held at her private residence.

"In reality all participants in that meeting were fully aware of what the meeting was about and why it had been arranged.

"The meeting took place with a shared understanding of the issues for discussion - the complaints made and the Scottish Government procedure which had been launched.

"The First Minister’s claim that it was ever thought to be about anything other than the complaints made against me is wholly false. 

"The failure to account for the meeting on 29th March 2018 when making a statement to Parliament, and thereafter failing to correct that false representation is a further breach of the Ministerial Code."

Ms Sturgeon said on Monday that she did not consider she had breached the ministerial code, but ultimately it would be for others to judge.