MEMBERS of the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair have called for an emergency meeting following a legal ruling that could pave the way for his appearance before the committee next week.
It comes after senior judge Lady Dorrian agreed to vary a court order made during the former first minister’s criminal trial last year.
The Spectator magazine had challenged the scope and terms of the order.
It is hoped the latest move will lead to the publication of evidence by Mr Salmond and his appearance before the committee in person next week.
Mr Salmond’s team are understood to view it as a big step forward.
In a letter to the Holyrood committee, his lawyers said: “Our client hopes that today’s decision will enable publication of the relevant evidence and thereafter an early oral evidence session.
“Our client remains keen to attend.”
Mr Salmond was cleared of multiple counts of sexual assault following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh last year.
MSPs on the Holyrood inquiry are looking at how the Scottish Government botched its probe into sexual misconduct claims made against the former first minister by two civil servants in 2018.
Mr Salmond was due to give evidence earlier this week but a row broke out after the inquiry narrowly vetoed publishing a submission by him.
The submission contains multiple accusations against First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, including that she repeatedly misled parliament and so breached the Scottish ministerial code – a resignation offence which she denies.
The decision appeared to rule out Mr Salmond ever testifying in person, as he had made publication of the submission a precondition of an appearance.
The Spectator aimed to ensure the submission could be considered and published.
Ronald Clancy QC, who was representing the magazine in its High Court application, said there was a concern the Holyrood inquiry was being “overcautious”.
He said there is a “perfectly legitimate public interest” in publishing evidence relating to alleged breaches of the ministerial code.
He said: “We have a positive indication from the committee that they are interested in clarification of the scope of the order.”
Lady Dorrian said her written reasons for slightly varying the court order will be published by the start of next week.
These could prove crucial in influencing the Holyrood committee’s decision.
Ms Sturgeon is currently due to give evidence to the inquiry on Tuesday.
Scottish Labour interim leader and committee member Jackie Baillie said: “This decision presents the committee with the opportunity to publish the evidence and question Mr Salmond – we must seize that opportunity with both hands.”
She added: “It is the duty of the committee to get to the bottom of this fiasco and understand why the Scottish Government’s procedures were so flawed and why the women involved were badly let down.
“I have called for an emergency meeting of the committee tomorrow and I hope that colleagues will allow publication of the evidence and invite Mr Salmond to attend in person.
“Failure to seize this opportunity would be most unfortunate for the credibility of the committee and its work.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, who is also a member of the committee, said: “We have been saying from the outset that our committee will not be able to do its job properly unless we are able to question Alex Salmond in person.
“While we await the full details of the revised order and what implications it will have, I am satisfied that we now have grounds to compel Salmond to attend.
“I would expect SNP members to agree that this must happen, as suggested yesterday by Nicola Sturgeon herself.”