THE Permanent Secretary told the Alex Salmond inquiry a policy to tackle harassment complaints made by civil servants against ministers and former ministers was “absolutely not” designed to “get” the former First Minister.

Leslie Evans was giving evidence on the opening day of a Holyrood probe investigating the flawed handling of sexual harassment claims made against Salmond.

Her denial came as MSPs were examining the timeline of the development of the new procedure and when Evans became aware of a complaint against the former First Minister.

Committee member and LibDem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton noted one of the women who had complained, Miss B, had first notified officials of her complaint against the former First Minister around November 7 2017 – adding this was "at the height of the development of the policy".

Evans said that a "concern was raised by a whole range of people in November 2017".

She stated: "As a backdrop with #MeToo, historical high-profile cases taking place, we were receiving concerns from staff. That was in a separate but concurrent stream of work which the HR team were undertaking."

READ MORE: Alex Salmond inquiry: Leslie Evans apologises for 'procedural failure'

She continued: "I was made aware of contact that had taken place between Mr Salmond and certain Scottish Government members of staff in very early November.

"He had contacted them because he wanted to talk to them about a piece of media work which was going on, which was being undertaken by Sky News.

"I was told by two different sources, one of them extremely concerned, that they had received this contact and they were a bit bewildered and unhappy about it.

"I didn't know what was said, I didn't ask, I didn't think it was appropriate to know.

"I mentioned that, that Mr Salmond had been in touch with staff about an Edinburgh Airport incident that Sky News were investigating, I did mention that to the First Minister.

"I told her about that, I said I was concerned mostly because the staff were anxious about it. I was also concerned it could become a story."

Evans said at the same time as "I was told that there were other people who were coming forward with concerns – not complaints".

She stressed she did not "have a recollection about Miss B asking for a complaint to be shared with me", saying instead she had a "recollection of a concern".

Cole-Hamilton then pressed her on whether the policy on harassment by former ministers was "designed to get Alex Salmond".

The MSP said: "The optics of this are not great. Was this targeted policy which only applied to harassment complaints against former ministers engineered to fit any complaint?

"Was it designed to get Alex Salmond?"

Evans told him: "Absolutely not."

During her opening statement to the committee Evans issued an apology on how the complaints against the former First Minister were handled.

The inquiry is examining how the policy was formulated and implemented and what lessons can be learnt for the future.

It does not about the criminal case against the former First Minister.

With Salmond having been cleared of alleged sexual offences by a High Court jury in March this year, the proceedings began with committee convener SNP MSP Linda Fabiani stressing: "The committee will not revisit the separate matter of the criminal proceedings brought against Mr Salmond, nor reinvestigate or consider the substance of the complaints originally made to the Scottish Government."