SCOTLAND’S former top civil servant has been told he’s wrong not to tell MSPs if he ever raised harassment concerns about Alex Salmond with Nicola Sturgeon.

Peter Housden refused to answer the question last month when he appeared in front of the Holyrood committee probing the Scottish Government’s botched probe into allegations made against the former First Minister. 

He said he wasn’t able to “go into specifics in terms of individuals.”

Housden, who served as the Scottish Government’s Permanent Secretary between 2010 and 2015, claimed he was bound by the provisions in the Civil Service Management Code, in respect of confidentiality.

But in a letter to the ex-mandarin, the committee convenor, Linda Fabiani, says the question asked “was sufficiently general to mean that, answering the question would not put you in breach of the confidentiality rules placed upon you.”

Fabiani added: “The Committee therefore repeats the question to you and asks for a response in writing by Monday 26th October.”

She continued: “The Committee has an important job to do, but it is not seeking to persuade you that this outweighs the importance of the terms of the Codes for you. The Committee is simply arguing that your interpretation of the Codes and how they interact is overly cautious. 

“The Committee also notes in making this request that you refer to the element of the Civil Service Code that requires officials, serving and retired, to provide as full account as possible of their actions in the pursuance of Government policy to Committees of the Parliament to enable committees to effectively hold the Government to account.

“Since you helpfully answered in detail on a number of other matters the Committee considers you should revisit your initial judgement that the general confirmation being sought to this particular question cannot be provided.”

During the exchange, the Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell asked Housden if he spoke “to the Deputy First Minister about any of those harassment complaints?”

Housden told the Tory: “I am not able to go into specifics in terms of individuals.”

Mitchell replied: “I do not think that that is a specific. The Deputy First Minister had a role in the process, so it is merely a question.”

Housden said he was “not able to identify, due to the duty of confidentiality, people to whom I spoke.”

In his evidence he said Salmond could display “bullying and intimidatory” behaviour towards staff while he was First Minister.

He said he was “well aware” that other officials were being shouted at.

However, he said no formal complaints were submitted while he was in the role, with most concerns being handled internally without the need for further action.

“I knew that the former First Minister could display bullying and intimidatory behaviour…I knew the situation we were dealing with,” he told the committee.