By Bill Heaney
The First Minister has been challenged over an apparent breach of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers by her official spokesperson, Stuart Nicolson.
Scottish Conservative Chief Whip Alexander Burnett has written to Nicola Sturgeon and the Permanent Secretary of the Scottish Parliament to ask for an investigation of her special adviser’s comments to journalists on November 24, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling the previous day.
The rules for special advisers make it clear that they “must not take public part in political controversies, through any form of statement”, yet Mr Nicolson delivered a number of clearly partisan remarks, disparaging Unionist politicians and misrepresenting their position.
There is also a requirement in the Code for Special Advisers to “observe discretion and express comment with moderation, avoiding personal attacks”, something which the Scottish Conservatives believe was clearly breached on this occasion.
Under the Code of Conduct, the First Minister is also required to authorise all contacts with the media and is responsible for ensuring that special advisers abide by the code.
Alexander Burnett, Scottish Conservative Chief Whip, said: “The ridiculous claims from the First Minister’s spokesperson clearly went far beyond what the code allows.
“They not only strayed into partisan and overtly political territory but accused opposition parties of being engaged in a denial of democracy – an extraordinary and entirely unfounded allegation.
“The First Minister must explain whether she authorised this outburst – as the rules state she is required to. And if she did not, she should accept responsibility for having failed to ensure that her advisers abide by the rules.
“These comments went far beyond advocating the Scottish Government’s position and the requirements of discretion and moderation laid down. The First Minister should act to make it clear that advisers will stick within the rules, and that such immoderate and incendiary claims undermine the integrity of her Government.”
Top picture is of Nicola Sturgeon with SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford and local MSPs Martin Docherty and Brendan O’Hara.