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US News Derek Mackay is suspended by SNP, confirms Nicola Sturgeon

16:00  06 february  2020
16:00  06 february  2020 Source:   scotsman.com

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Derek Mackay quit as Scots finance minister after sending messages to a boy. © Getty Derek Mackay quit as Scots finance minister after sending messages to a boy.

Derek Mackay has been suspended by the SNP and will face a party probe over his text messages to a 16-year-old boy, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Opposition leaders compared Mackay's behaviour with "grooming" at Holyrood today, after it emerged he had bombarded a 16-year-old boy with unsolicited text messages, calling the youngster "really cute" and inviting him to a rugby match.

The First Minister also said he will be kicked out the SNP Parliamentary group in an emergency statement to MSPs today.

"His conduct fell well short of what's expected as a minister," Ms Sturgeon told MSPs in a statement in the Scottish Parliament.

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Derek Mackay has resigned as Scottish finance secretary with immediate effect, on the day he was set to deliver his budget speech. When Nicola Sturgeon took office in 2015 he became transport minister, with responsibility for major projects such as the construction of the Queenferry Crossing.

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Mr Mackay quit as Finance Secretary this morning after the allegation came to light.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media after the resignation of her finance minister. © Getty Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media after the resignation of her finance minister. Ms Sturgeon added: "Derek Mackay has apologised unreservedly for his conduct and recognises, as I do, that it was unacceptable and falls seriously below the standards required by a minister.

"I can also advise that he has this morning been suspended from both the SNP and our Parliamentary group pending further investigation."

She also confirmed that the Government will continue with the budget which Mr Mackay was scheduled to deliver this afternoon. It will instead be delivered by public finance minister Kate Forbes.

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Ms Sturgeon was then questioned on what she knew about Mr Mackay's actions. Scottish Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw about the impact on the reputation of the parliament, and politics generally and whether the First Minister knew of any other similar behaviour by Mr Mackay, and if the government was supporting the boy involved?

The First Minister said she would "not minimise in any way the seriousness of this", and that once she had read the full transcript of the messages Mr Mackay had been suspended from the SNP and parliamentary group "pending further investigation".

She added: "It's reasonable and important to let that investigation take place without me pre-empting that outcome.

Derek Mackay was due to hand down the Scottish budget today. © Getty Derek Mackay was due to hand down the Scottish budget today.

"I am not aware of any further allegations of conduct of a similar nature but I was not aware of this until last night.

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Nicola Sturgeon at the annual conference in Glasgow with depute leader Keith Brown, right, and finance secretary Derek Mackay . All this forms part of the backdrop to the Scottish National party ’s autumn conference in Glasgow, which opened on Sunday. It is not likely to tempt the party leader

"I want to make clear, and I hope members will accept this, I do not condone in any way shape or form conduct of this nature. We need to say that when it is our opponents or people in our own side, and we have to be consistent.

"I'm not away of the identity [of the boy involved] or the contact details of the family, however if they want to speak to me I would be happy to do that.

"All of us have to be prepared to apply high standards when these allegations are made, and make sure action we demand of our opponents is actions we would take ourselves. Clearly there are issues that Derek Mackay has to reflect on. But Derek Mackay remaining in government is simply not an option.

"No matter how upset and shocked all of us are in these situations there's a need for due process. I believe it's right and proper for that to happen."

Mr Carlaw then read out the NSPCC definition of child grooming. It states: "Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them.

"It is when someone builds a relationship of trust with a young person so they can manipulate and exploit them. Young people can be groomed online... and may not understand they've been groomed."

He asked how the reputation of the parliament "can be maintained with the full confidence of the public if Mr Mackay remains a member?"

Ms Sturgeon responded: "I am in no way minimising the seriousness of this, I am not deferring to an investigation, action that has been taken already it should be obvious to everyone how serious I and my government are treating this matter. Where others have to consider future action, there's a process to go through."

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard also mentioned Mr Mackay's resignation, before he raised questions about NHS Tayside. He said: "Derek Mackay, this morning, described his own behaviour as foolish. But his actions are beyond foolish. They are an abuse of power. They're nothing short of predatory. This is serious. While his suspension from the SNP is welcome, he should go as a member of this parliament.

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