An aide to Alex Salmond has apologised after she was branded "discourteous" for failing to appear in the Scottish Parliament chamber.
South Scotland regional MSP Joan McAlpine had been due to ask a question on health and well-being during the afternoon session. Her absence prompted a strong rebuke from presiding officer Tricia Marwick.
It was reported she had been seen having lunch with the First Minister in the MSPs' restaurant earlier in the afternoon.
Opposition parties accused Ms McAlpine of attaching more importance to a lunch date with the First Minister than to Parliamentary business, but a spokesman for the First Minister said her apology should draw a line under the matter.
After the presiding officer called her to the chamber to explain her absence, Ms McAlpine said: "I wish to apologise sincerely for my absence from the chamber during health and well-being question time this afternoon.
"I realise that this is not the first time I have done this, and I understand the gravity of the matter.
"The fault is entirely mine. I am afraid I completely lost track of time. I realise I have no excuse for not being present in the chamber when required.
"I apologise for showing such disrespect not only to yourself, Presiding Officer, but also to Parliament and my fellow MSPs."
Ms Marwick said: "I welcome the fact that Ms McAlpine has come personally to the chamber to apologise, and I note the member's explanation.
"It is a great privilege to be a member of the Scottish Parliament and I expect all members to carry out their duties diligently on behalf of the people who elected them.
"Let me make it clear: I, as Presiding Officer, will not tolerate discourtesy in this chamber or to this chamber."
Labour's Claudia Beamish, MSP for South of Scotland, said earlier: "Rather than lunch dates and fine dining with the First Minister, she should be doing the job she is paid to do and standing up for the people she is supposed to represent."
Tory leader Ruth Davidson said Ms McAlpine decided "that having a lunch date is more important than parliamentary business", and Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said she showed a lack of respect for the chamber.
A spokesman for the First Minister said: "Joan McAlpine offered a full and fair apology to Parliament, which was accepted by the Presiding Officer. And that draws a line under the matter."
Ms McAlpine was absent from the chamber on another occasion in April when she was due to ask a question and failed to tell the Presiding Officer that she was withdrawing it. In September last year she withdrew a question, yet was present in the chamber.
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