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Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Point of Order, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Covid-19, Made Affirmative Procedure, Nationality and Borders Bill, Decision Time, OVO Energy (Redundancies)


Contents


Point of Order

Stephen Kerr (Central Scotland) (Con)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. On 11 January, the First Minister announced the establishment of an internal investigation into the leaking of her parliamentary Covid statement to the press ahead of its delivery to Parliament. At the time, you described the leak as

“extremely disappointing, and ... disrespectful to this Parliament”.—[Official Report, 11 January 2022; c 10.]

You also sought a commitment from the First Minister that such disrespect would not be repeated, to which the First Minister agreed.

A letter from the First Minister to you dated 7 February confirmed the conclusion of the investigation and revealed that the source of the leak could not be identified. It further revealed that the only action taken by the Scottish Government was to send a reminder to staff on the importance of not leaking. Although I joined the Parliament only last May, my more experienced colleagues tell me that that is par for the course for Scottish Government internal inquiries.

I seek your opinion, as Presiding Officer and as one who has encountered leaks of this nature by the Scottish Government several times, on whether you believe that the investigation’s conclusion is satisfactory in addressing the disrespect that Parliament suffered from the leak. Would it be in order for Parliament to see an anonymised report from the Scottish Government on the investigation? If not, how can we ascertain whether further action may be required from the Scottish Parliament to unearth aspects that may have eluded the Scottish Government? Is the Scottish Government’s singular response of sending staff a reminder strong enough to convince you that the commitment that you sought from the First Minister to avoid a repeat situation is at all likely to be upheld?

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

I thank Mr Kerr for his advance notice of the point of order. On the date that the incident occurred, I sought and have subsequently received an apology and assurances from the First Minister of the Scottish Government’s respect for this Parliament. I made my views on the leaking of statements on that date very clear, and I have done so previously. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is that the place of this Parliament is respected and that all significant announcements are made here in the first instance, whenever that is possible.

The First Minister and I have discussed the matter and I am content that the matter before us is closed. I have made it clear that I do not expect any repetition of such an incident. I think that we all wish to be in a position where we are not having this on-going discussion.