A THIRD tranche of legal advice to the Scottish Government over the Alex Salmond inquiry reveals that counsel were concerned about internal communications and what they might reveal.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the release yesterday of the latest documents “comprehensively disproves” claims that they had carried on with the case despite legal advice.

However, a letter from Roddy Dunlop QC and Christine O’Neill to the Government noted: “The petitioner may apply to the Court for an order requiring disclosure of information relating to the process by which Ms A and Ms B first approached Scottish Government and eventually made their formal complaints about the petitioner.

“If that order was granted it would be necessary to disclose internal emails and notes concerning that issue.

“We have advised that there is certain material we have seen that might, if recovered, be used by the petitioner to attempt to impugn the integrity of the process.”

The same letter went on to reveal for the first time that the two original complainers were each given sight of the draft procedure for handling complaints. It reads: “We note from the material provided to us today that in the informal discussions that took place with Ms A and Ms B in December 2017 they were given sight of the draft Procedure (as it then was) for their views on whether it would have been a helpful process for them to have had access to in 2013.

“The petitioner might, if that was known, seek to argue that it was unfair that the complainers were invited to comment on the Procedure at a time when they were considering making complaints that would be dealt with under that Procedure.”

Swinney said the advice had been released in recognition of the “overwhelming public interest in rebutting the false allegations made about the advice informing decision-making in the judicial review”.

He said: “These documents are clear. Our legal advice was optimistic about the Government’s prospects for success at the start. It became gradually but progressively less optimistic over time.

“It was only in December that the advice concluded that our case was no longer stateable and we should concede. Indeed, as late as 11 December, ministers were advised that we should continue.

“Within a matter of days of being advised that the case was not stateable, we have taken the decision to concede. That was right and proper.

“Significantly, however, this comprehensively disproves claims that we had continued the case in defiance of legal advice. That is categorically untrue and these documents put that beyond doubt.”

A source close to Salmond said: “We note that John Swinney has slipped out this evidence on a Friday afternoon, two days after the First Minister gave her evidence.

“No wonder, as the November 3 letter from Roddy Dunlop QC and Christine O’Neil QC confirms that there was ‘certain material’ which ‘if recovered’ could damage the Government’s case.

“Is the Committee and the public ever going to see all that material?”