ALEX Salmond has raised the prospect of a new court action against Nicola Sturgeon’s administration.

The possibility of the challenge emerged after a letter of complaint by the former First Minister’s lawyer to the Scottish Government was made public on Tuesday.

Salmond's solicitor wrote to the administration on Saturday following the publication of a newspaper article.

A story in the Daily Record published that day had claimed that Salmond was blocking the release of certain papers to a Holyrood probe.

The former First Minister’s solicitor David McKie said this claim was “misleading and defamatory” and suggested the information had come from a "data breach".

The development emerged in correspondence published on Tuesday by the Holyrood inquiry set up to investigate how the Scottish Government had handled complaints made against Salmond.

The former First Minister challenge that process in a judicial review and the Scottish Government investigation was ruled to be unlawful and tainted by apparent bias. The flawed probe cost the taxpayer more than £500,000 and led to the committee being set up to find out what went wrong.

McKie wrote to the Holyrood inquiry to tell them of the complaint made over the weekend to the Scottish Government and enclosed the letter he had sent to civil servant Lesley Fraser.

Highlighting the Daily Record article the lawyer said: “The material contained in that article relates exclusively to our letter of 18th August 2020, which was marked private and confidential.

“The information in the article can only have come from the Scottish Government. It was information sent only to the Scottish Government in a letter marked ‘private and confidential’.

“The data breach is a clear contravention of the law. We are appalled that correspondence with the Scottish Government on matters as sensitive as those involved in this case cannot be sent with any confidence that they will be treated appropriately and in good faith.

“Furthermore, the breach appears to have been selective and deliberately misleading.

“It has resulted in a highly defamatory and misleading article being published about our client. That, doubtless, was the intention.

“We therefore ask you undertake an immediate investigation and to identify all parties who received a copy of our letter. That will assist in identifying the source of the data breach.”

McKie told the Holyrood committee convener Linda Fabiani in a separate letter published on Tuesday about the complaint and the request for an investigation into “the data breach”. He added that some material which the government had indicated it intended to produce to the inquiry represented a clear breach of court orders and constituted “a clear contempt of court”.

The solicitor added that the Daily Record article suggested that the former First Minister was objecting to the release of papers the committee had asked for - when, he maintained, he was not.

He wrote: “Our client’s position is clear: he seeks to facilitate the

maximum lawful disclosure of documents whilst respecting and, if necessary, enforcing the orders of the court.

“In contrast the government appears prepared to risk contempt of court by offering documents the committee has not asked for while simultaneously refusing to provide the committee with material it has asked for, and can lawfully provide, such as the external legal advice on the Judicial Review.”

“Hopefully on both aspects common sense will prevail without the need for a return to the court.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have already replied to Levy & McRae to say we have no evidence of any leak of their client’s data or correspondence on this matter from the Scottish Government.

“The Scottish Government has cooperated fully with the Committee and will continue to do so.”

Meanwhile, the Holyrood committee yesterday heard from Scotland’s former top civil servant Sir Peter Housden. Housden, who was Permanent Secretary between 2010 and 2015, said no formal complaints were raised during that period and there was “no indication” of sexual harassment. He told MSPs: “I knew the former First Minister could display bullying and intimidatory behaviour.”

Asked if he witnessed Salmond shouting at or bullying any staff members, Housden said: “I was well aware – in the way I have described – that those behaviours took place. I had a number of conversations with people who had been on the receiving end of that and they indicated many conversations about what we could do to prevent their re-occurrence.”

Although he said the former First Minister’s office “ran really well” much of the time, he added it was “punctuated by these kind of behaviours that were a problem”.

But at the end of his time at the top of Scotland’s civil service, Housden said there were “no bodies buried” in relation to serious bullying or sexual harassment concerns. The inquiry continues.