By Democrat reporter

The SNP Finance Secretary who ran away from the job on the eve of the Scottish Budget has now quit the SNP following his suspension from the party.

The SNP launched a disciplinary investigation after he admitted behaving “foolishly” by messaging a 16-year-old boy on social media.

Mr Mackay, right,  remained as an independent MSP for Renfrewshire North and West after the scandal last February.

He told the party this week that he was resigning to focus on “my mental health and serving my constituents” which may be an indication that he will stand as an Independent at the elections on May 6.

An SNP spokesperson said: “Derek Mackay has resigned his membership of the SNP, bringing the matter to a close.

“As was widely reported last year, Mr Mackay was receiving mental health support, and as a result disciplinary action was paused.  We wish him well for his recovery.”

This begs the question: Did Mackay receive preferential treatment when it came to obtaining an appointment and subsequent treatment for his mental health problems.

Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh, hasn’t asked that question and since the SNP refuse to speak to The Democrat we can’t either.

However, she said today that nearly 25,000 calls to Scotland’s mental health crisis support line having gone unanswered during the course of the pandemic is “a disgrace”.

This comes as new research from Scottish Labour shows that there has been a steady increase in waiting times and abandoned calls to the NHS 24 hotline since the Covid emergency started.

Jackie Baillie is now calling for a national recovery plan for the NHS that includes mental health services.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that 133 calls went unanswered in March of last year, but in January this year the number was 5,452 – more than 40 times higher. Over the course of the pandemic, 24,947 calls have gone unanswered.

On New Year’s Day this year, 58 per cent of calls to the mental health hub were abandoned before they were answered. The average daily waiting time has increased from three minutes or less in March 2020 to over half an hour on some days in January 2021.

Gartnavel Royal Mental Hospital, where appointments are hard to come by.

Furthermore, one-in-four children and young people referred to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are still rejected. For those who are successfully referred, they are supposed to be seen within 18 weeks – but this standard has never been met by the Scottish Government.

There are over 1,500 children and young people in the midst of a pandemic who have been waiting more than a year for support.

Jackie Baillie MSP said: “We know the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the mental health of people in our local community and across the country. 

“In- person mental health support has been more limited as a result of the crisis, and people have been encouraged to use the NHS 24 support line.

“But on nearly 25,000 occasions when individuals have built up the courage to pick up the phone and seek help, their calls have gone unanswered. There are simply not enough staff to cope.

“These are people in crisis, and it’s the same story with young people who reach out for help too.

“Right now, there are over 1500 children and young people in the midst of a pandemic who have been waiting more than a year for support.

“It’s actions, not promises, that save people’s lives.  We need a parliament focused on a national recovery plan for our NHS that prioritises mental health services.”

Mr Mackay resigned as finance secretary hours in February last year.

Police Scotland said he would not face criminal charges over hundreds of unwanted messages he sent to a 16-year-old boy over a six-month period

The force said at the time “there is nothing to suggest that an offence has been committed”.

Suspended from party

Mr Mackay had issued a statement apologising “unreservedly” to the boy and resigned from his cabinet post.

The SNP suggested in March that the MSP was “under medical supervision”.

Given the length of the queue for mental health consultations, he appears to have been extremely fortunate to obtain an early appointment if he referred himself to the NHS.

He remained as an independent MSP having been suspended from the party, and has not taken part in any debates or votes since.

In a letter to the SNP national secretary earlier this week, Mr Mackay announced he would not be returning.

He said: “I write to confirm I am not seeking SNP membership and continue to focus on the recovery of my mental health and serving my constituents.”

Mr Mackay faced criticism in October when it was revealed he had continued to claim expenses for Edinburgh accommodation despite not having been seen at the Scottish Parliament since he stepped down.

He claimed claimed a total of £3,185 for rent, council tax and factor’s fees.

A spokesman for Mr Mackay said at the time that the expenditure “complies with Scottish Parliament allowance rules” and “covered the requirements of terminating the accommodation tenancy”.

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