Derek Mackay suspended by SNP
Derek Mackay has been suspended by the SNP and will face a full investigation over the text messages he sent to a 16-year-old schoolboy, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.
The First Minister said that Mackay – who resigned as finance secretary after his correspondence with the boy came to light – has also been suspended from the party’s parliamentary group.
Sturgeon told MSPs that “his conduct fell well short of what's expected as a minister”.
Mackay tendered his resignation after The Sun newspaper revealed he had sent 270 messages to a boy he made contact with out of the blue on social media.
Messages published by the paper showed that Mackay had invited the boy for dinner and to an event at Holyrood and had called him “cute”, despite knowing his age.
In a statement, Mackay said: "I take full responsibility for my actions. I have behaved foolishly and I am truly sorry.
"I apologise unreservedly to the individual involved and his family.
"I spoke last night with the First Minister and tendered my resignation with immediate effect.
"Serving in government has been a huge privilege and I am sorry to have let down colleagues and supporters down."
But opposition leaders have called his actions “predatory” and believe he is “unfit” to remain as an MSP.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Derek Mackay this morning described his behaviour as foolish, but Derek Mackay’s actions towards a schoolboy are beyond foolish, they are an abuse of power, they are nothing short of predatory.
“So, this is serious. And while his suspension from the SNP is welcome, he should go as a member of this parliament.”
Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw questioned whether the schoolboy was Mackay’s only victim.
He said: “The revelations about Derek Mackay have stunned Scottish politics.
“This grooming-style behaviour is completely disgraceful, and he’s clearly unfit to hold government office and it is hard to see how he can continue with the confidence of parliament and his constituents as an MSP.
“Notwithstanding Nicola Sturgeon’s response in the chamber, the Scottish Government must be more proactive in reaching out and providing appropriate support to the boy and his family.
“It’s also important that the Scottish Government and the SNP make every effort to find out if this is the only example of Mr Mackay behaving in this manner.
“If there are other victims, they too will need the support of authorities.”
Mackay’s behaviour came to light on the morning that he was due to set the Scottish budget, which he said would be a "transformational budget, investing in the environment and the economy".
Kate Forbes, the minister for public finance and digital economy, stepped in to deliver the tax and spend plans instead.
Police Scotland said they had not received any criminal complaints against Mackay but urged those with information to come forward, adding they were “assessing information”.
A spokeswoman for the force said: “We have not received any complaint of criminality, however, we are currently assessing available information from media reporting and would encourage anyone with information to please come forward.
“Police Scotland will always listen to anyone who wishes to seek advice or formally report a matter to us.”