An attempt by MSPs to obtain material related to Alex Salmond’s criminal trial has been rejected by prosecutors.
The Crown Office said there was currently no “legal basis” that would allow the release of the information to a Holyrood committee.
However, one possible route to accessing some of the material was highlighted to the committee investigating the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond.
The MSPs had previously written to Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC to ask for material that may be relevant to their investigation into the failed civil court battle with the ex-first minister.
The move raised the prospect that previously unseen documents, emails and phone messages might be published, should the Crown Office agree to the request.
But procurator fiscal Kenny Donnelly has now responded, saying “you have identified no legal basis that would allow COPFS (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) to disclose any material which it holds to the committee”.
He added: “If COPFS were to provide such information for other purposes then there is a significant risk that this would undermine public confidence both in the police and in COPFS and that members of the public would be discouraged from providing such information which is necessary for the investigation and prosecution of crime.”
However, Mr Donnelly said that specific documents could potentially be released under a “Section 23” request, which “may provide the necessary legal basis”.
He added before any release of information, consideration would have to be given to the “relevance of the document to the work of the committee, the interests of the owner of the document or anyone named in it having regard to the specific nature of the material sought, and the public interest in maintaining public confidence and cooperation in providing the police and prosecutors with information necessary for the effective investigation and prosecution of crime”.
Mr Salmond was acquitted of all 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh after an 11-day trial earlier this year.
The Salmond inquiry is examining the way complaints were handled, including the former first minister’s successful judicial review against the Scottish Government.
Mr Salmond defeated the Scottish Government at the Court of Session when it was decided the complaints process was tainted with apparent bias.
The Scottish Government’s defeat led to more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money being paid out for Mr Salmond’s legal costs.
On Monday it emerged that Nicola Sturgeon had called for new Scottish Government harassment policy to include former ministers two days after one of Mr Salmond’s accusers met one of her close aides.
Newly published correspondence confirmed one of the two women, who went on to make a complaint against Mr Salmond, had meetings with Ms Sturgeon’s principal private secretary, John Somers, on November 20 and 21 2017.