The Scottish Government has been accused of a “democratic outrage” after defying a deadline for handing over key evidence to the Alex Salmond inquiry.
Furious committee members claimed ministers were now “hiding evidence” and throwing Holyrood into “disrepute” by failing to disclose crucial legal advice.
Linda Fabiani, the convener of the inquiry into the botched government probe into allegations against Mr Salmond, had previously demanded an end to “disrespectful” delays in receiving information.
Ministers have repeatedly refused to reveal the guidance they received but, in a parliamentary debate last week, MSPs called for the Scottish Government to waive its legal privilege and “publish all the legal advice it received”.
A deadline for the evidence to be handed over was set for Friday, but Deputy First Minister John Swinney responded by saying it was still under consideration.
In a letter to the committee, he said: “We always seek to respect the decisions that are taken by parliament.
“I am, therefore, considering the implications of the motion, with my ministerial colleagues, consistent with our obligations under the ministerial code.
“During the debate, MSPs raised a number or arguments for why legal professional privilege should be waived in this particular case and we are considering each of these carefully, alongside wider considerations.”
Murdo Fraser, a Conservative MSP and inquiry committee member, said: “The SNP are taking something that was already a scandal – losing £500,000 of taxpayers’ money – and they’re now throwing our entire parliamentary system into disrepute.
“They are defying the will of the Scottish Parliament and ignoring a cross-party committee of MSPs headed by an SNP convener.
“For 18 months, they have deliberately blocked the committee’s work and dragged their feet handing over scraps of information.
“Hiding evidence is the definition of a cover up and, at this point, how can the government claim this is anything else?
“It’s an unlucky Friday the 13th for anyone who values accountability and transparency.”
‘A democratic outrage’
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour deputy leader and a committee member, said the missed deadline was “extraordinary”.
“By failing to hand over the legal advice today the deputy first minister has shown utter contempt for the committee and the wishes of the Scottish Parliament,” she said.
“This is no longer mere obstruction. This is a democratic outrage.
“The committee is due to hear evidence from the lord advocate and the permanent secretary on Tuesday and will do so with one hand tied behind its back.
“The lengths to which the Scottish Government is willing to go to hide essential information from the committee and protect its reputation are clear.
“The committee must show the same determination in uncovering the truth behind this sordid episode.”