ALEX Salmond has taken legal steps - including contacting the Crown Office - over a new book about his bitter rift with Nicola Sturgeon

The former SNP leader said he had consulted his lawyers over Break-Up, by the Courier editor David Clegg and The Times's political editor Kieran Andrews, which is due to be published tomorrow.

Salmond, now leader of the pro-independence Alba party, said he considered the book potentially breached the criminal law. He said legal reasons prevented him from giving details.

He also said he was “actively considering” the legal remedies available in the civil courts, a potential reference to a defamation action.

In a statement, Salmond, who was First Minister between 2007 and 2014, said he had referred extracts from the book to the Crown Office for “criminal investigation”. 

He said: “I had previously considered that following two Court cases and a Parliamentary Inquiry it would be best to make no further comment on any of these matters.

“The upcoming publication of a book and extracts now reported make that impossible. 

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“Thus I have taken the following course of action.

“First, after consultation with my lawyers, I consider that the book potentially breaches the criminal law in a number of ways and I have reported my concerns to the Crown. 

“The Crown Office has previously taken action against others. 

“Now it must now display the impartiality and independence which lies at the heart of public prosecution in pursuing these breaches. 

“For legal reasons I cannot say any more on this issue for now.

“Secondly, I have instructed my lawyers also to report to the Crown the outrageous decision of some to publish leaked extracts of the Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans’ findings in the original unlawful investigation. 

“This appears to me to be in clear defiance of Lord Pentland’s ruling in January 2019 which reduced her decisions and the investigation on which those conclusions were based as ‘unlawful’, ‘unfair’ and ‘tainted by apparent bias’. 

“Any leaking is in direct contravention of that order and thus undermines the entire purpose and outcome of the successful judicial review.

"As such it is an attack on the administration of justice itself. The original leak of the existence of the report in August 2018 was considered prima facie criminal by the ICO [Information Commissioner’s Office].

“In responding to the allegations against me I have at all times respected the lawful processes and integrity of the Courts. I have trusted in those legal processes.

"I won two Court cases in the highest courts in the land both civil and criminal, where a judge found in my favour and jury of 9 women and 6 men acquitted me.

“There are some who still wish to ignore the considered decisions of judges and the jury who actually heard the evidence and replace them with press smears based on malicious leaks and ludicrous gossip. That stops now.

“I have therefore instructed my legal team to write to the appropriate investigating authorities in order that these matters, including potential criminality, be comprehensively investigated.

"Separately, I am also now actively considering afresh the legal remedies available in the civil courts.”

The former First Minister's statement followed the serialisation of the book in the Times and Sunday Times in recent days, culminating this morning in an extract about the Scottish Government's botched misconduct probe into him in 2018.

Salmond had the findings of the probe into misconduct complaints filed by two civil servants set aside, or "reduced", in a judicial review action in 2019 with taxpayers having to pay the former First Minister's £500,000 costs.

The Scottish Government accepted the findings were unfair, unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias” because of prior contacts between the investigating officer and the accusers.

The extract from Break-Up published this morning contains material related to the government probe, including comments from its top official, permanent secretary Leslie Evans, who was ultimately in charge of the inquiry and delivered her final conclusions to Salmond. 

It is the first time any details of the Scottish Government investigation have been published.

A few weeks after winning the judicial review action, Salmond was charged with multiple sexual assaults, leading to a criminal trial last year at which he was cleared on all counts.

During the Holyrood inquiry into the Government's flawed probe, which MSPs concluded in March, he claimed senior figures in the SNP, including Sturgeon's husband, the SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, had tried to ruin him, even to the extent of having him jailed, to remove him as a threat to his successor.

Sturgeon described his claims of a plot against her predecessor as 'nonsense'.

Salmond launched the Alba Party in March this year with the aim of getting dozens of extra pro-independence MSPs elected via the regional list system. However, Alba got only 1.7%  of the vote and no MSPs. It now has its sights on the council elections next year.

The book's launch comes just days before Alba and the SNP both hold their conferences across the weekend of September 10 to 12.

A spokesman for Biteback said this evening: "Biteback are aware of Alex Salmond’s recent statement on Break-Up by David Clegg and Kieran Andrews. Naturally, we have taken expert legal advice on the book’s content prior to publication."

A spokesman for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: “Where the Crown becomes aware of issues of potential contempt of court, these will be considered carefully and action will be taken if considered appropriate.

“In all matters relating to the investigation and prosecution of Alex Salmond, and in subsequent issues, COPFS has acted with impartiality and fairness to apply the law professionally, independently and in the public interest.”

A court order remains in place to protect the identities of the complainers in the case against Salmond.

Along with others in the justice system and in the media, the Crown has a responsibility to protect the administration of justice and respect the terms of this order.