First Minister’s Question Time


  • The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): 

    We turn to First Minister’s questions, but before I call Jackson Carlaw to ask the first question, the First Minister would like to make a brief statement.


  • The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon):

    Presiding Officer, before I take questions, I am grateful for the opportunity to make a very short statement.

    Members will be aware that I have accepted the resignation of Derek Mackay as finance secretary. Derek Mackay has apologised unreservedly for his conduct and recognised, as I do, that it was unacceptable and falls seriously below the standard required of a minister. I can also advise that he has this morning been suspended from both the SNP and our parliamentary group, pending further investigation.

    However, I also wanted to formally confirm to Parliament that the Government will proceed, as planned, with the Scottish budget this afternoon. It will be delivered by the Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, Kate Forbes, and it will set out our plans to sustainably grow our economy, support our public services and step up action to tackle the climate emergency. All of that continues to be the very clear focus of the Scottish Government.

  • The Presiding Officer: 

    Thank you, First Minister. We turn to the first question, from Jackson Carlaw.

  • Finance Secretary (Resignation)
    • 1. Jackson Carlaw (Eastwood) (Con):  Thank you, Presiding Officer. I had fully intended to ask questions on other matters this afternoon, but the First Minister’s short statement does require follow-up by way of questions.

      Given the evidence of the texts that are now in the public domain, what does the First Minister believe the behaviour of her former finance secretary does for the reputation of her Government, this Parliament and Scottish politics generally?

    • The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon): I think the conduct is unacceptable and I will not make any attempt to say otherwise or to minimise in any way its seriousness. Based on what I knew about this last night, it was clear to me then that Derek Mackay’s conduct fell far short of what is expected of a minister. Indeed, he offered his resignation to me and I accepted. It was not an option for him to remain in Government.  This morning, of course, I have read the full transcript that was published in The Sun, and it is on that basis that he has also been suspended from both the SNP and the parliamentary group pending further investigation. Having taken that action, which I think is appropriate in the circumstances, it is now not just reasonable but important to allow that further investigation and consideration to take place without me pre-empting it. I hope that members will accept that course of action.
      Jackson Carlaw: As Mr Mackay has 26,000 followers on Twitter alone, many parents will be concerned about what assurances the First Minister has received that this is the only example of his unacceptable behaviour and whether she believes that any assurances received are credible.

      The victim in all this is a 16-year-old boy and I have heard no mention of his welfare. What contact has either the SNP or the First Minister’s office had, or will they be having, with him and/or his family at any point, and what support has been offered?

    • The First Minister:  I say very clearly that I am not aware of any further allegations or any conduct of a similar nature, but I should stress that I was not aware of this until last evening. I very much hope that Jackson Carlaw will accept that. I very much want to make clear—I hope that members would accept that this is my view without me saying it, but I think that it is important that I do say it—that I do not condone in any way, shape or form conduct of this nature. I, and, I think, all politicians have to reflect on the need for us to say that when it is our opponents who are accused of such behaviour and also when it is people on our own side, in our own parties. I think that all of us have to be consistent in that, and I will always strive to be so.  Of course there is the issue, which is raised by these particular allegations and what is published in the newspaper this morning, of the welfare of a 16-year-old boy. I am not aware of the identity or the contact details of the family. If the family or the individual concerned wanted to speak to me, I would of course be happy to speak to them. That is my position.  All parties have in recent times faced difficult allegations about their own members. We all have to be prepared to apply high standards when allegations are about our own colleagues, and make sure that the action that we are demanding of our opponents is action that we apply ourselves. That is what I will strive to do. Whatever questions are posed to me today, there will be no sense in which I seek to minimise the serious nature of what we are discussing.
    • Jackson Carlaw: I take that to be confirmation that neither the Scottish Government nor the Scottish National Party has had any independent contact with the young man or his family: their identity is not known, so that would not be possible.  The First Minister has previously said in the chamber that

      “the internet can often be an unsafe place for young people. All MSPs can play our part in our communities in raising awareness and helping to educate parents about the steps that they can take to keep their children safe online.”—[Official Report, 14 September 2017; c 19-20.]  The Parliament has taken issues of exploitation seriously. I ask the First Minister whether the reputation of Scottish politics and of the Parliament can be maintained with the full confidence of the public, or even of Mr Mackay’s constituents, if he remains a member?

    • The First Minister: Clearly, there are issues that Derek Mackay will need to reflect on. I am responsible for the actions that I take, firstly as First Minister in terms of the Scottish ministerial code. Based on what I knew last night, as I have already said, it was clear to me that Derek Mackay’s remaining in Government was simply not an option. In any event—to be very clear—he offered his resignation, because he recognised that as well. The fuller detail of what appeared in the newspaper this morning having been seen, further action has been taken in terms of his membership of the SNP and of our parliamentary group.  There is a point to make that, no matter how upset and shocked we all are when faced with such situations, there is also a need for due process, and therefore Derek Mackay has been suspended pending further investigation—I believe that it is right and proper to allow that to happen. I do not in any way want to pre-empt the outcome of that investigation.

      Clearly, there are very serious matters for me as First Minister to have had to deal with, contend with and respond to over the past few hours, and there will be matters that Derek Mackay himself is, I am sure, reflecting on, and will continue to have to reflect on.

    • Jackson Carlaw:   First Minister, I appreciate the difficulty. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children defines grooming as follows:

      “Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a … young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them … young people can be groomed online … by … someone who has targeted them … This could be … a dominant and persistent figure” through the use of … “social media networks … text messages and … apps, like Whatsapp” … and  “Whether online or in person, groomers can use tactics like … taking them on trips, outings or holidays … young people may not understand they’ve been groomed. They may have complicated feelings, like loyalty” and “admiration”.  That is the NSPCC definition of grooming. I understand that the First Minister wants to defer to an investigation, but the full content of the text exchanges between Mr Mackay and the young man are available online. How difficult is it not to reconcile Derek Mackay’s conduct with the very worst connotation?

    • The First Minister:  I am not sure whether Jackson Carlaw has been paying proper and close attention to my answers. I am in no way minimising the seriousness of what we are discussing. It is not the case that I am deferring to an investigation before action has been taken. Derek Mackay is no longer a member of my Government. He is suspended from my party; he is currently suspended from my parliamentary group. From the action that has been taken already, it should be obvious to everybody how seriously I, my Government and my party treat the matter.  In terms of further action, for anyone in any circumstances where others have to consider future action, there is a degree of due process that has to be gone through. That would be the case for a member of Mr Carlaw’s party just as it is for a member of mine.

      From the action that has already been taken, I do not think that anybody could reasonably doubt the seriousness with which I treat, and will continue to treat, the matter.


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