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by Louise Wilson
24 May 2024
Patrick Harvie: Douglas Ross ‘playing shallow politics’ over Michael Matheson row


Patrick Harvie: Douglas Ross ‘playing shallow politics’ over Michael Matheson row

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie has accused Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross of “playing shallow politics” over the Michael Matheson row.

The SNP MSP was found to have breached the MSP code of conduct following an investigation by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, relating to a £11,000 data roaming bill he claimed on expenses.

Though Matheson has since paid the sum back, he was criticised for failing to uphold standards expected of parliamentarians, particularly in not disclosing the non-parliamentary use of his parliament-issued iPad when he first became aware of it.

The parliament’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee yesterday recommended Matheson be suspended from parliament for 27 sitting days and have his salary withdrawn for 54 days.

But the SNP members of the committee, which unanimously agreeing a suspension was appropriate, voted against the proposed length of exclusion – the longest in Holyrood’s history.

And First Minister John Swinney, who has been in parliament alongside Matheson since 1999 and served with him in several governments, argued the report had been “prejudiced” after Tory member of the committee Annie Wells – who had made public comments critical of Matheson – had not recused herself from its deliberations.

Asked whether Green MSPs would back the suspension recommendation, expected to be voted on by parliament next week, Harvie said they will “look in detail” at the report before concluding what level of sanction they think appropriate.

And asked whether his group would back Ross’s motion calling for Matheson’s resignation as an MSP over the matter, Harvie said: “The Tories are playing some shallow politics with this, that’s true to form.

“The idea that Douglas Ross, a man who served in Boris Johnson’s government, is trying to present himself as the standard bearer of truth and honesty in politics is frankly absurd.

“We will look carefully at the detail of what the standards committee – the cross-party committee – has recommended. But I think we should all be concerned that, for example, it appears that the draft of their recommendation was leaked, presumably by a member of the committee.

“I think we should be deeply worried about some aspects of the process.”

The Green co-leader was speaking as his party launched its general election campaign in Glasgow, where it intends to stand a full slate of candidates.

It is also hoping to stand a record number of Green candidates across the country, but acknowledged the July election date meant some of its branches may not be in a position to put someone forward as they had planned.

Harvie said his party were “really determined to put climate and nature on the agenda” and accused the Conservative, Labour and the SNP of not taking the matter seriously.

On the question of splitting the pro-independence vote, given many of Scotland’s key battlegrounds will be tight races between the SNP and one of the two unionist parties, he argued that “independence is not an end in itself”. “I want people to vote for the Scottish Greens because independence is for a purpose,” he added.

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