Scotland’s top civil servant has suggested data relating to the Scottish Government’s collapsed harassment investigation into Alex Salmond may have been deleted.
Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans has said that “automated systems” mean civil servants’ emails are deleted after 14 months in a letter to the Holyrood committee examining how complaints against Mr Salmond were handled by the government.
The committee had asked the Scottish Government to make sure that information, including electronic messages which might be relevant to their work, was retained.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
In her letter, Ms Evans said: “You asked whether documents which may be relevant to the committee’s inquiry were deleted before the instruction was given and what steps are being taken to recover this information.
“It is not possible technically to tell what has been automatically deleted or to retrieve material which has already been deleted from the system.”
Ms Evans added that steps had been taken to ensure that individuals who were involved in Mr Salmond’s case have such material retained and gave her “full commitment” that information would be preserved.
Earlier this year the Court of Session found the Scottish Government acted unlawfully over the way it handled two complaints about Mr Salmond’s conduct.
MSPs on a specially-convened committee are conducting an inquiry into the government’s handling of the case.
Lib Dem committee member Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Deleting electronic communications that are more than 14 months old when the inquiry is looking into a complaint made 15 months ago is deeply troubling.”
Mr Salmond is also facing separate criminal charges, including attempted rape. The former first minister strongly denies any wrong doing.