Hundreds of new documents have been submitted to Holyrood’s Salmond inquiry at the “11th hour”, the committee has confirmed.
MSPs criticised the Scottish Government over the move, claiming it was “part of a wider pattern of behaviour” related to the “continuing obstruction of the committee’s work”.
The committee heard hearing evidence on Tuesday morning from Scottish Government witnesses Judith Mackinnon, head of people advice, and Gillian Russell, director of health workforce.
Committee convener Linda Fabiani opened the public session by revealing the Scottish Government had submitted 300 new documents on Monday evening, with more to follow.
“I wish to highlight the position the committee is in today in relation to the written evidence to inform this session,” she said.
“Around 300 documents were received yesterday afternoon, and given the complexity of the legal restrictions on the committee’s work, parliamentary officials now require to process these documents before publication.
“We also anticipate around a further 100 documents from the government and the timescale for this is to be confirmed.
“These documents also require to be processed before their publication.
I speak for the committee when I say this is not a satisfactory way to proceed in effective scrutiny but we will persevere in the interests of progressing the task the parliament has tasked this committee to fulfil.”
“The deputy first minister’s letter on this matter highlighted that witnesses attending today are not in a position to answer any matter which is not in these documents where contempt of court is a consideration.
“On that basis the committee is asking questions today in the absence of written evidence that the government considers witnesses can answer questions upon.
“I speak for the committee when I say this is not a satisfactory way to proceed in effective scrutiny but we will persevere in the interests of progressing the task the parliament has tasked this committee to fulfil.”
‘It is beyond disappointing’
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, also a committee member, said the move by the government reflected a wider problem.
“I think think we should put on record that it was actually at 4.45 last night that the Scottish Government provided the documents to this committee,” she said.
“By anybody’s reckoning that is the 11th hour and 59th minute.
“The letter from John Swinney asking us not to reference certain information is extremely difficult for the committee, on the basis that we do not have the written evidence in front of us.
It is clear to me that this is part of a wider pattern of behaviour, and it disrespects both the committee and parliament.”
“And therefore it makes it difficult to ensure that the committee is sticking to the restrictions placed on us.
“We know, though, that that information was returned to the Scottish Government by Levy and McRae some weeks ago, so it is beyond disappointing that it is now, only now, being provided to committee.
“I think this committee needs to reserve the right to recall the witnesses that we have before us today when we have seen these documents.
“And can I express my anger at the continuing obstruction of the committee’s work by the Scottish Government.
“It is clear to me that this is part of a wider pattern of behaviour, and it disrespects both the committee and parliament.”