Scottish Budget tax proposals 'not shared by government'
The Deputy First Minister has given his “categorical assurance” that the leaking of tax plans to the media did not come from him or his office.
Offering his apologies to the Presiding Officer for the leak, John Swinney added: “At no stage has anybody been authorised to disclose any information that is contained within the Budget statement on my behalf at any time.”
Alison Johnstone earlier took the unprecedented move to suspend the Scottish Parliament ahead of the Budget statement to allow for further investigation into the leak.
BBC Scotland had been reporting planned tax changes to be set out by Swinney in advance of the statement, including 1p to be added to the top and higher rates.
It is customary for major announcements to be announced first to MSPs in the chamber before the media.
Resuming the proceedings, Johnstone said: “I cannot express strongly enough my disappointment at information about this afternoon’s statement appearing in the media before being given to parliament.
“I have spoken to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to express my concern… and they have given me a categoric assurance that this information was not shared by the government.”
The matter was first raised by Tory MSP Murdo Fraser at the end of FMQs, with Johnstone agreeing to look into the matter.
The Budget statement was delayed by 42 minutes, during which time further announcements were reported by the press.
Fraser raised these later leaks with the Presiding Officer, saying it was “clear” there had been a “comprehensive briefing from the government to the BBC”.
“This is now beyond a joke. This is not the first time this government has been caught spreading information to the media in advance of bringing it to this parliament, disrespecting this parliament and its procedures,” Fraser added.
In response, Swinney said: “Some of that information is contained within the embargoed statements that I make available in advance to other political parties. I simply point out that those factors need to be considered within this whole process.”
Johnstone has previously admonished ministers for leaking details of statements to the media.
In one instance, she prevented the statement from going ahead at all, instead moving straight to MSP questions.