The Scottish Tories will attempt to embarrass Nicola Sturgeon into publishing secret documents about the Alex Salmond affair by seeking the formal backing of Holyrood for their release.
Oliver Mundell, the Scottish Tory MSP, has submitted a Holyrood motion calling for the legal advice the Government received about a judicial review brought by Mr Salmond, with members of all other Holyrood parties opposition set to support it.
Mr Salmond challenged the fairness of a civil service probe into complaints of sexual harassment against him, bringing a judicial review against the government he led for seven years.
He won the case after the Scottish Government abandoned its defence just before public hearings were set to get underway, with a judge ruling the investigation had been “tainted by apparent bias”. The case cost taxpayers more than £500,000 after the Government was ordered to pay Mr Salmond’s legal costs.
MSPs investigating the affair suspect that the legal advice would have informed ministers that it was unlikely they would win the case, The Daily Telegraph understands. The Scottish Government has refused to release the documents, citing a convention that legal advice is not usually made public.
While it would not be binding on the Scottish Government, refusing to cooperate with a Holyrood vote would be politically difficult for the SNP, as they have repeatedly attacked the UK Government for failing to respect the will of the Scottish Parliament on other issues. It is understood that the Scottish Greens, the most likely ally for the nationalists, are likely to back the call for publication.
Mr Mundell said: “We are calling for cross-party support from MSPs across the chamber to back our motion and ask the Scottish Government to publish the legal advice they received for the Alex Salmond judicial review.
“The Scottish Government has treated this inquiry as a joke and kept key documents hidden, and the Scottish Parliament has been misled repeatedly and blatantly.
“We are calling on MSPs to stand up for the reputation of the parliament. The legal advice must be published, so we can find out exactly how £500,000 of public money was wasted.”
If a majority of MSPs indicate support for the motion, the Tories will seek to bring forward a full parliament debate and vote calling on the government to release the legal advice.
The vote could also provoke a rare backbench rebellion from some SNP MSPs, with Mr Salmond still enjoying support from sections of the party and his bitter feud with Ms Sturgeon dividing the party grassroots.
While it is a convention that legal advice is not usually released by governments, the Scottish Government has previously made exceptions.
The Holyrood committee investigating the handling of complaints against Mr Salmond is to resume on Tuesday, when two senior civil servants give evidence.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Successive Scottish and UK Governments have not disclosed the source or content of legal advice other than in the most exceptional circumstances.
“Legal privilege is inherent to the functioning of good government and the rule of law. It’s important that the legal advice which ministers and their officials receive is full and frank, and not affected by concerns about it subsequently becoming public.”