JOHN Swinney has suggested he is helping the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair by withholding information it has asked to see.

The deputy First Minister implied giving MSPs only partial legal documents would lessen the burden on them.

Mr Swinney last night released some of the Scottish Government’s legal advice behind its doomed defence of its legal fight with Mr Salmond in late 2018.

He did so, after months of delays, only after he was threatened with losing his job in a no confidence vote at Holyrood.

But the Scottish Tories say they will keep pushing the vote because some of the legal advice had been withheld, despite two Holyrood votes for full disclosure last year.

A cross-party committee of inquiry is looking at how the Government bungled a probe into sexual misconduct allegations made against Mr Salmond in 2018.

The former First Minister had the exercise set aside in a a judicial review in January 2019, showing it was “tainted by apparent bias” and getting £512,000 in legal costs.

READ MORE: Hidden legal advice showed Government advised to concede Alex Salmond case

The Government’s key mistake was to appoint an investigating officer, Judith McKinnon, who had been in substantial prior contact with Mr Salmond's two accusers instead of someone unconnected, as the Government's own complaints procedure stipulated.

The legal advice released showed the Government’s external legal advisers thought Mr Salmond’s case was weak in September 2018, but by late October what proved to be the fatal flaw in the Government’s case - Ms McKinnon’s prior contact - had been identified.

By early December, external counsel advised conceding, which finally happened in January 2019.

However no material from November 2018 was released by Mr Swinney, despite ongoing discussions about the case inside government.

Asked about the November gap on BBC Radio Scotland this morning, Mr Swinney said he had given the inquiry “landmarks” in the case, thus minimising its paperwork.

He said: “There’s obviously discussions take place, but what I’m trying to say to you is we’ve been open about setting out the landmarks of the case.”

Interviewer Gary Robertson put it to him: “Landmarks that you and the Government have decided are the landmarks, Mr Swinney. If you’re being open, publish everything, let the committee decide.”

Mr Swinney said: “There are very clear identifiable landmarks that show the deterioration in the prospects of success. The Government has been wholly open about the publication of that material.”

Mr Robertson asked: “There were no landmarks in November? Was there nothing in November about that deterioration? Nothing happened at all?”

Mr Swinney said: “Well, there will be other legal transactions.”

Pressed on why he wasn’t publishing them, Mr Swinney replied: “When you last interviewed the convener of the harassment committee, one of the points she made was that the committee was having to wade through vast volumes of documentation provided by the Government. So what I’ve done in this case, because of the time urgency, is provide the landmarks, which openly show…”

Mr Robertson said: “So you’re helping the committee by not publishing the documents, Mr Swinney?”

READ MORE: John Swinney criticised for moaning about a metaphor amid Alex Salmond scandal

Not denying it, he replied: “What I’m showing is the deterioration in our position from September, late October, December and then the end of December.

"I think that’s a transparent way to illustrate the setting out of the legal arguments.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “The evidence published so far is devastating to the First Minister and the government. 

“But we still only have the limited amount of legal advice that ministers were willing to release when John Swinney’s job was on the line.

“What has been provided is not enough. It does not respect the two votes of the Scottish Parliament or the requests of the Salmond inquiry committee. It is devastating – but there is more.

“So we will first press ahead with a Vote of No Confidence in John Swinney to get the legal advice that’s still hidden. We believe that is necessary to send the message that the Scottish Parliament decides what evidence it needs, not the Scottish Government, and to reveal the true extent of the government’s mistakes and dreadful, costly decisions throughout this process.

“Once the full legal advice has been released, we will put our motion of No Confidence in the First Minister to a vote and MSPs across the chamber can judge the First Minister’s conduct, with all the evidence before them.”