Police Scotland have launched an inquiry into the leaking of electronic messages related to the Alex Salmond trial.
We can reveal the Crown Office has instructed officers to investigate how messages appearing to show Nicola Sturgeon’s husband backing police action against the former first minister were made public.
Their existence came to light when they were passed to SNP MP Kenny MacAskill, who says he has given them to a Holyrood committee as well as the Crown Office.
Mr MacAskill said the messages were in a document he received anonymously recently.
One line of inquiry will be whether these messages were part of a dossier passed on to Mr Salmond’s legal team by the Crown as part of the disclosure process in his recent criminal trial.
Mr Salmond was cleared of all sexual offence charges in March this year.
Scots law states an accused person and his legal representatives are allowed only to use the disclosed information for the purposes of conducting the criminal proceedings.
It is a criminal offence for a person to knowingly use or disclose the information for any other purpose.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has instructed us to investigate the potential unlawful disclosure of material. Enquiries are at an early stage.”
The document received by Mr MacAskill – who served as Justice Secretary in Mr Salmond’s government – claims to show WhatsApp messages from Peter Murrell, Ms Sturgeon’s husband who is also the chief executive of the SNP.
According to the document, they seem to have been sent in January 2019 after Mr Salmond had appeared in court charged with sexual offences.
It was also the month in which a separate complaint was made about the former SNP leader to the Metropolitan Police. The Met later dropped the complaint.
One message appears to show Mr Murrell calling for pressure to be put on police over Mr Salmond’s case.
A second message appears to show the SNP chief executive supporting action by prosecutors in relation to the former first minister.
The developments are the latest twist in a saga which has driven a wedge between Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon.
Mr Salmond visited Ms Sturgeon at home to discuss the Scottish Government’s internal investigation into harassment claims made against him.
In evidence submitted to the Holyrood inquiry, Mr Murrell has said he knew Mr Salmond visited Ms Sturgeon at their family home but did not know why.
In his submission, Mr Murrell said he was aware that “something serious was being discussed” when the former first minister called in April and July 2018. Mr Murrell said his wife told him that she could not talk about the details of the meeting and he did not press her on it.
The Salmond inquiry
The Salmond inquiry is investigating the Scottish Government’s bungled internal investigation into the claims made against the former SNP leader. Mr Salmond made a successful legal challenge against the Scottish Government with a court concluding the government’s handling of the matter had been tainted with apparent bias.
The Scottish Government was forced to pay out more than £500,000 for Mr Salmond’s legal costs.
Mr MacAskill told the Daily Record: “I can confirm that I received an anonymous letter containing a document. I have notified both Alex Salmond and the Crown and have passed it to the inquiry committee at the Scottish Parliament.
“I would like the Scottish Parliament and the Crown Office to investigate the contents of this document.”
The SNP declined to comment. Mr Salmond was also approached for comment.