Nicola Sturgeon is facing a 'cash-for-votes' scandal after an SNP minister overruled officials
Emails released to the Tories under freedom of information laws show mandarins were concerned the announcement of cash for housing could breach strict "purdah" rules in the run up to last month's council election.
But Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing ignored the advice and pressed ahead unveiling the windfall for 29 crofters on April 25.
It comes just days after Scotland's most senior civil servant was embroiled in cover-up claims after officials admitted blunders in an £8million funding deal for Glasgow in the days leading up to the May 4 ballot.
The Scottish Government's permanent secretary Leslie Evans ruled the cash boost for shortly before the SNP replaced Labour as the largest party on the city council did not break election rules.
But it was revealed that civil servants and Ms Sturgeon's official spokesman privately admitted it had been the "wrong call".
Senior officials also called it "an error of judgement", only for Ms Evans to omit their concerns in a letter to a Conservative MSP Douglas Ross dismissing an official complaint.
Leslie Evans (centre) ruled the cash boost for shortly before the SNP replaced Labour
Mr Ross today said the latest disclosure left Ms Sturgeon's administration "mired in sleaze" as he stepped up demands for a probe into the spending spree.
Her government is now mired in sleaze
Conservative MSP Douglas Ross
He said: "It is now clear that Nicola Sturgeon’s government indulged in a systematic breaking of the rules prior to last months’ local government elections.
“Nicola Sturgeon must end her silence over this affair.
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"After 10 years in power, her government is now mired in sleaze."
Today's documents show that Mr Ewing insisted the announcement was legitimate because it did not involve councils.
Ms Sturgeon's official spokesman privately admitted it had been the 'wrong call'
But on April 19 one official advised against making it public before the poll, writing: "The funding is particularly relevant to a couple of council areas and could therefore be argued to potentially have a bearing on the local election campaign, particularly with crofting issues having been very topical recently."
Guidance for civil servants issued in January stated that "particular care" should be taken in the weeks preceding elections, noting: "It needs to be borne in mind that the activities of the Scottish Government could have a bearing on the local election campaigns."
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Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of Scottish National Party and First Minister of Scotland
Conservative MSP Douglas Ross said: 'Nicola Sturgeon must end her silence over this affair'
The Scottish Government tonight insisted the grants were a matter of "routine business" within ministers' responsibilities.
A spokesman added: “The grants were being given to individual crofters and there was no local government involvement in the funding.”