First Minister Alex Salmond has warned against making public servants feel as if they could not do their jobs without fear of recrimination.
His comments came during a heated second appearance before the Holyrood inquiry into Donald Trump's golf plans.
Finance Secretary John Swinney will have the final say on the £1bn golf resort, which was turned down by a committee of Aberdeenshire Council.
Mr Salmond also told MSPs again that he had always acted within the rules.
He told the Scottish Parliament's local government committee, which is probing the handling of the Trump application, that he had never spoken publicly or privately about the merits of the application as first minister.
He added that he had expressed support for the golf course plans - with some caveats - at an election hustings, before he was an MSP or a minister.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Nicol Stephen has been the most vocal critic of the government's involvement with the plans, claiming its handling of them "smelled of sleaze".
Mr Salmond is excluded from the decision-making process because Mr Trump's plans are in his Gordon seat, but said he had done nothing wrong in meeting all sides on the issue in his role as a constituency MSP.
Scotland's top civil servant, Sir John Elvidge, has also ruled that all civil servants involved in the planning application had obeyed the rules.
Mr Salmond expressed concern about parliament and public life being led into an "impossible position", where people would find it difficult to pursue their responsibilities.
He said: "I do hope we don't get to that stage, because what we'll lose if we do is something much wider and much larger than the proceedings of any one committee.
"We'll actually get to a position where people are unable to behave, even properly, in public life for fear that someone, somewhere is going to suggest they think something improper might have happened because the perception might be in somebody's mind of that, even when none of the evidence, when explained, substantiates that position."
The committee convener, Labour MSP Duncan McNeil, pointed out: "The report will be the committee view at the end of the day, not Duncan McNeil's view, not Alex Salmond's view."