The full cost of the controversial episode emerged in a Parliamentary answer provided by Nicola Sturgeon to MSPs.
The Information Commissioner had ordered ministers to reveal whether or not advice had been sought on Scotland’s EU membership, but ministers went to the Court of Session to appeal the ruling.
First Minister Alex Salmond appeared to indicate in a TV interview that evidence of a legal opinion did exist, but Ms Sturgeon told Parliament in October last year that the Government had not sought advice and the legal fight was abandoned.
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “Now, we finally know that £20,000 of taxpayers’ cash was wasted on the SNP’s folly of going to court to try and hide information that never even existed.
“Yet, we still have no idea of the content of the SNP’s legal advice on a separate Scotland’s membership of the EU.
“We are also in the dark on what meetings, if any, the Scottish Government has had with the EU and other bodies, since Nicola Sturgeon’s promised meeting with EC President Jose Manuel Barroso never happened.”
In May, External Affairs minister Fiona Hyslop confirmed that legal advice on a separate Scotland’s membership of the EU had now been received, but refused to reveal its contents.
However, Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew has previously said it is in the public interest that such information is released because of the significance of the independence issue.
The SNP have claimed that Scotland would automatically remain part of the EU after independence. But opponents say it would find itself outside the EU and would have renegotiate its membership which could mean signing up to the troubled euro currency and joining the Schengen “open borders” agreement with the rest of the continent, which the UK is currently exempt from.
Mr Lamont added: “The SNP have raised the bar high by saying that all the facts on independence will be revealed in the White Paper.
However, if they fail to tell voters what their legal basis is for an independent Scotland being part of the EU, it could result in yet another expensive court case.”
• The Scotsman Conferences is hosting a series of events capturing the many facets of the Scottish independence debate. 3 December sees a formidable line up of expert speakers tackle “The Independence White Paper: A Business Plan for Scotland?” For more details on this and other great events please visit www.scotsmanconferences.com