The Scottish Government is being urged to clarify whether key data relating to its collapsed harassment probe into Alex Salmond has been deleted.
The head of the Holyrood committee probing the case has now written to Nicola Sturgeon and the head of the civil service in Scotland demanding any personal information, including the ex-First Minister's emails and mobile phone records, are retained.
The court of Session found the Scottish Government had acted unlawfully over the way it handled two complaints about Mr Salmond’s conduct in January, resulting in ministers conceding defeat after a legal challenge brought by the ex-First Minister.
Mr Salmond has since charged with separate criminal allegations, including attempted rape.
A specially established Holyrood committee has been set up, headed by Nationalist MSP Linda Fabiani, to look into the collapse of the Government’s initial case. It has agreed to suspend its deliberations until the criminal case is disposed of, but is concerned about the prospect of vital information being deleted by the Government.
Read more: Alex Salmond case: Former SNP leader’s statement in full
Leslie Evans, the head of the civil service in Scotland, has already told the committee that staff who may hold information relevant to the probe have been instructed not to delete it.
But Ms Fabiani’s letter today states: “In relation to halting the deletion process, can you confirm whether documents which may be relevant to the inquiry have been deleted before this halt was ordered and what steps are being taken to recover this information.”
MSPs also want “sight of the instructions” that were issued to officials ordering the retention of this information.
Ms Fabiani says she wants to know whether “the instructions given were absolutely clear that any information that may be either directly or indirectly relevant to the inquiry, and whether in electronic or hard copy form, must be preserved.”
The letter adds: “The Committee would further be interested to know whether these instructions also cover personal communication such as emails and mobile phone data. It is the Committee’s expectation that this information will be preserved and so it is seeking assurances that instructions to this effect have been issued.”
A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said: “The First Minister will comply with the request from the committee.”
And a Scottish Government spokeswoman said Ms Evans had received the letter and “will co-operate fully”.