THE Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair is demanding to know whether the Scottish Government has been censoring evidence to it for “political” reasons.

The inquiry tonight wrote to the Government’s top law officer, Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, asking if redactions were made on strictly legal grounds.

It asked if redactions were done objectively by officials, rather than the withholding of part or whole documents being “commented on and cleared at a political level”.

The inquiry also asked him whether he was aware of other relevant evidence that the Government could have shared with the inquiry but has withheld.

Ministers and special advisers regularly comment on freedom of information requests, and there is a concern they may have been intervened on inquiry evidence too.

The cross-party committee is investigating how the Government botched a probe into complaints against Mr Salmond in 2018.

The former First Minister had the exercise set aside in a judicial review by showing it was “tainted by apparent bias”, a Government flaw that left taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his legal costs.

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In a letter to Mr Wolffe, inquiry convener Linda Fabiani said MSPs had been reviewing evidence ahead of their final witness sessions and wanted some “confirmations” from him.

She asked for details of the process the Government followed to redact its documents, including how the inquiry was given the maximum information possible. 

She asked Mr Wolffe if he or others acting on his behalf approved the redaction criteria and if there had been legal oversight to ensure “no unnecessary redactions have been made that would prevent the committee from seeing evidence of relevance to its remit”.

She also asked for confirmation that the process of agreeing what should and should not be provided took place “at official level, overseen by legal advisers, as opposed to the nature  of redactions (or withholding of whole documents) being considered, commented on and cleared at a political level”.

Finally, Ms Fabiani asked if anything had been wrongly denied to the inquiry.

She said the committee “would appreciate confirmation from you that there are no further  records the Scottish Government is aware of that are not being provided to this inquiry that  the Government is in a position to share”.

It was a recurring feature of the judicial review that the Scottish Government failed to turn over all the evidence it should have, leading to punitive costs being awarded against it.

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On a separate issue, Ms Fabiani also asked for an explanation of why the Scottish Government chose to send the investigating officer's report about the misconduct complaints to the Crown Office.

This took place against the wishes of the complainers.

She said: "The Committee would be grateful for any further information/ explanation of this decision, including whether you had any involvement and whether you can provide your view on the  deliberations that informed this decision.

“The Committee also seeks any further information/ explanation, including from your perspective on the investigating officer’s final report being offered to the Police as evidence”.

The police turned down the report in case it prejudiced their own investigations.

The inquiry has asked Mr Wolffe to respond by 9am on February 9, the day Mr Salmond gives oral evidence.