SCOTLAND’S top prosecutor has told MSPs he was out of the loop when his department urged the censoring of Alex Salmond’s evidence to a Holyrood inquiry.

Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said he was not consulted on the matter and only got a copy of controversial letter written by the Crown Office, the department he heads, after it was sent to parliament.

Mr Wolffe, who is also a member of the Scottish cabinet, was answering an urgent question amid claims the Crown Office had “strong armed” the parliament to protect Nicola Sturgeon.

On Monday, the parliament’s cross-party management body, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) published evidence from Mr Salmond to the inquiry in which he accused Ms Sturgeon of repeatedly misleading parliament - a resignation offence she denies.

Immediately before and after it did so, the Crown Office reminded the SPCB of the risk of breaching a court order relating to Mr Salmond’s criminal trial last year.

In the second letter, after publication, the Crown Office raised “grave concerns” about the material, even though it is already available elsewhere in the public domain.

In response, the SPCB removed, redacted and republished Mr Salmond’s evidence on Holyrood’s website, deleting five sections related to whether Ms Sturgeon misled MSPs.

Other claims that she did so remained untouched.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon denies leaning on Crown Office over censored Alex Salmond evidence

It led to MSPs claiming the parliament had buckled and created a “crisis of credibility”, as well as Tory claims the Crown Office was in effect part of a cover-up. 

In her urgent question to the Lord Advocate, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie asked if he had been consulted on the Crown Office letter to the parliament about Mr Salmond’s evidence.

Mr Wolffe, a former Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said: “No, I was not. The decisions in relation to this matter were made by senior professional prosecutors acting independently, as they always do, without reference to the law officers [the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General].

“Can I take the opportunity to add this: Scotland’s public prosecutors take difficult decisions which some may find unpopular.

“They take those decisions objectively, professionally and in the public interest, and they act independently of any other person.”

Asked if he had been “aware of that was going on” even if he hadn’t been consulted in advance, Mr Wolffe said: “I received a copy of the letter for my information after it had been issued.”

He said he was “not going to get into the substance of the issues here” in case he breached the court order, which was made to protect the anonymity of complainers.

He said: “The Crown’s sole interest in this matter - sole interest - is to secure respect for that court order.

"It has not sought and will not seek to limit the evidence which the committee may have available to it, nor to interfere with the work of the committee.

“Ultimately it’s for the parliamentary authorities to determine what they may lawfully publish within the bounds of the order laid down by the court.

“The Crown, as it does with any case where it apprehends that a contempt may take place, raises issues and concerns and it’s sole purpose in doing so is to ensure compliance with the order laid down by the court.”

READ MORE: Sturgeon says Salmond prefers 'alternative reality' of conspiracy to confronting his own behaviour

Ms Baillie said afterwards: “It is simply unacceptable that the Lord Advocate refused to answer the questions put to him with any detail.

“The news that he was not consulted about the letter from the Crown Office to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body brings us no closer to understanding the Crown Office’s actions.

“The fact of the matter is that the Parliament is not getting straight answers from a Lord Advocate who appears to have viewed this afternoon’s session in the chamber as a necessary chore and not a chance to engage with the Scottish Parliament in a spirit of democratic accountability.”

The Holyrood inquiry is looking at how the Scottish Government bungled a probe into sexual misconduct claims made against Mr Salmond in 2018.

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

He was later charged with sexual assault but cleared of all counts at a High Court trial last March.

He has claimed the prosecution was driven by people close to Ms Sturgeon who resented his victory in the civil case and wanted to damage him and remove from public life, "even to the extent of having me imprisoned".

He said SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, Ms Sturgeon's husband since 2010, was among the plotters.