The Lord President, Lord Carloway, has declined an invitation to meet members of Holyrood's Justice Committee in connection with their inquiry into the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service.

A letter from the Lord President's private office to the committee clerk, now published on the committee's web page, states that it "would not be constitutionally appropriate" for him to have an informal meeting with the convener or members of the committee, as suggested in an approach from the committee. Any such meeting would require to be a public one, "for reasons of transparency, and because any comments or criticisms of COPFS should be made in a forum which allows COPFS to respond properly where that is considered to be advisable".

However the letter continues that having reviewed the remit of the inquiry, and the questions on which the committee seeks views, "the Lord President is of the view that he cannot make any contribution which would be of assistance to the committee beyond the written submission by [Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service]".

It states: "It is difficult for the Lord President to comment on the overall efficiency and effectiveness of COPFS as, sitting as a judge, he sees only a part of the work of COPFS; in effect the end product of the Crown's work" – a "limited perspective" from which it would be "inappropriate to draw conclusions".

Lord Carloway has taken the view that the same applies to any serving judge or sheriff, or any who have retired but remain eligible and available to sit in court.

Party representatives at Holyrood are reported as expressing concerns at potential witnesses possibly being placed under pressure not to appear, and the possible "stifling" of free speech.