THE Scottish Government has been accused of behaving in a "totally unacceptable" way over the release of documents to the Holyrood inquiry probing the investigation into harassment complaints made against Alex Salmond.

In a letter to deputy first minister, John Swinney, the committee convener Linda Fabiani says they have been drip-fed information and are often forced to find pertinent facts through attrition.

She said MSPs had “now received three timelines or chronologies from the Government and while each has contained more detail than the last, the committee is still finding out basic information during oral evidence sessions which it considers should have been contained in the timelines.”

She adds: ”For example, the 17 meetings with counsel was detailed in a freedom of information request, and the committee learned last week that there were meetings every few days on the handling of the judicial review, and on Tuesday the committee was informed there were daily meetings. 

READ MORE: Scottish Parliament committee 'frustrated' with Alex Salmond

“The existence of these meetings and basic information on what was covered at each is information the committee would have expected to receive in a timeline. Instead the committee finds itself in the position where it has to extract such information to inform its scrutiny through attrition as opposed to it being proactively offered up by the Scottish Government.”

The SNP MSP says the committee is also concerned “by the extent to which legal professional privilege is being applied.”

She says a recent witness said they could not share a report due to the Government choosing to assert legal professional priviliege.

Fabiani said: “According to the former director general, that report contains information other than legal advice such as the financial impact of the review in recognition of the permanent secretary’s requirement to demonstrate value for money in her actions on behalf of the Scottish administration. 

“The committee finds it difficult to understand why legal professional privilege is being applied to an entire document in this way and it raises serious questions for the committee about the criteria being applied by the Scottish Government when deciding to assert legal professional privilege including litigation privilege over entire documents or parts of documents.”

She also blasts the Government for taking so long to hand over papers, reminding Swinney that the committee first asked the Scottish Government “to retain all documents relating to the complaints handling process in its letter of 26 February 2019".

“The documents could have been processed from that time onwards.”

Instead, the Government only said last month that it intended to initiate legal proceedings to see which documents were or were not covered by a secrecy undertaking it gave to the courts.

“For the Scottish Government to be informing the committee in October 2020 that it needs to begin a process to identify documents that are not covered by the undertaking of the Court of Session and to initiate legal proceedings to release them is totally unacceptable. 

“The process to release these documents should have been progressed to identify this issue well over a year ago. 

“The committee confirmed in its letter of 12 October 2020 that it is not seeking, nor does it require the Government to seek, documents the court cannot release without a court order that relate to the specifics of the complaints raised against Mr Salmond. 

“The committee reiterates this and asks why, given this, the Scottish Government considers any documents reduced by the undertaking are necessary and relevant to the inquiry and if so, specifically which documents”