Swinney defends decision to challenge ‘prejudiced’ Matheson probe sanction

The First Minister said a Holyrood committee’s process had been ‘damaged’.

First Minister John Swinney defends decision to challenge ‘prejudiced’ Michael Matheson probe sanction PA Media

John Swinney has defended his decision to challenge the sanction ordered against his colleague Michael Matheson, saying the process on a Holyrood committee was “damaged” by “prejudice” from one of its members.

Holyrood’s Standards Committee backed a 27-day suspension for Matheson following the row over a near-£11,000 data roaming bill on his parliamentary iPad.

But the First Minister said he did not support the cross-party committee’s sanction as one of its members, Conservative Annie Wells, had previously made critical comments about Matheson’s explanation for the bill, which Swinney believes therefore prejudiced the decision.

The Conservatives have said voters will punish Swinney for his “shameful defence” of his former ministerial colleague.

On Saturday, the SNP leader visited a number of constituencies around Scotland during the party’s first “day of action” for the General Election campaign.

Speaking to journalists, he said: “I’m not going to have prejudice taken forward in any part of Scottish life, it shouldn’t happen in the Scottish Parliament.”

He noted that another Conservative MSP had withdrawn from the Standards Committee due to previous comments about Matheson, adding: “We cannot have our national parliament presiding over prejudice and certainly not prejudice from the Conservatives.”

Asked if Wells’ comment had undermined the entire committee’s decision, he said: “I think when you bring prejudice into a process, you have to recognise the process is damaged as a consequence.

“Now parliament will sort out these issues, it will address these issues as it considers the (committee’s) report.”

He acknowledged that Matheson had “made mistakes” and had faced consequences.

Swinney also responded to criticism of the SNP from Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Greens.

Harvie, who left the Scottish Government last month when the two parties’ powersharing deal was ended by Humza Yousaf, said the SNP are “trying to face both ways on climate and the fossil fuel industry”.

The First Minister said he wanted to see a just transition to net zero, and the government would be giving its response to a draft energy strategy.

He backed a “balanced approach to energy transition that will get us to net zero but will get us there in a way that supports our economy”.

Swinney commented on the fact his Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, recently cancelled a trip to Germany to see Scotland play in the Euros, saying “I’m really pleased he’s going to be working so hard”.

Swinney said he is still exploring whether he can go to any Scotland games in the tournament and is particularly keen on the Germany match, but added: “We’ll have to see what the lie of the land is”.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code