New government harassment procedure delayed
The Scottish Government is to miss its own deadline for setting out a new procedure for handing complaints against ministers or former ministers.
The deputy first minister has written to Holyrood’s Finance and Public Administration Committee – which is following up on the previous session’s inquiry into the handling of harassments complaints – seeking an extension.
John Swinney said the government wanted to engage with staff and trade unions before sending the procedure to the committee for scrutiny, and that coronavirus was causing delays.
He wrote: “Officials have been working on the draft, completing the implementation plan and have been engaging with stakeholders on the updated procedure, which is well advanced. However, after careful consideration, I propose to engage further with staff and trade unions on the procedure before sending the documents to you before my committee appearance in January.
“I would be very grateful if the committee would give an extension of time until after recess, as the Omicron variant is absorbing the time and priorities of ministers and officials who recognise the importance of this procedure and wish to make it as fair and robust as it can be before presentation to parliament.”
The government is reviewing its procedures and creating an implementation plan after a review by Laura Dunlop QC recommended an overhaul.
That review was sparked by the government having to pay Alex Salmond, the former first minister, over £500,000 in legal expenses after the Court of Session ruled a probe into harassment complaints made against him was unlawful.
This was due to the investigating officer having “prior involvement” in the case.
A new procedure whereby complaints would be handled externally was announced in June and Swinney previously told the committee it would have sight of the updated plan before the end of the year.
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