SNP minister's 'disappointment and loss' over Derek Mackay texting scandal
SNP minister George Adam has spoken for the first time about his “disappointment and loss” over the downfall of disgraced ex-finance secretary Derek Mackay in a scandal over inappropriate texts to a 16-year-old schoolboy.
The two men were close, having both been involved in Renfrewshire and SNP politics for decades. Both had served as councillors in Paisley, and both were elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2011.
Mackay resigned as a minister in February 2020 after The Sun revealed that he had inundated a teenage boy with messages.
Over six months, the 44-year-old sent around 270 messages to the 16-year-old he’d befriended on social media, calling him “cute” and inviting him to dinner and to parliamentary events.
He left his post on the eve of the Scottish Government’s budget statement and has not been seen in public since, despite continuing to sit as an independent MSP until the 2021 election.
In a wide-ranging interview with Holyrood editor Mandy Rhodes, Adam, who was recently appointed as Minister for Parliamentary Business, said he and Mackay were “always very close” and that they had a loose “plan” in which they thought Mackay could one day be party leader.
Adam said: “We had something in common in our backgrounds and although there were a few years difference in age, I was like a big brother to him, and we just worked well together, you know, it just worked.
"He was a big part of my life, and he was always there. He was in my working life and now he’s not. And that’s it…
“I just felt disappointed, you know, just real disappointment and loss. And I really can’t say anything else other than that. I’m just disappointed. I still feel that. It was just such a shame. But you know, whatever has happened, I still feel for him.
"He’s got a lot of... you know, demons, and things he needs to deal with. And that’s up to Derek. But as I say, it’s gone from someone who is fully a total part of your life and then suddenly, he’s not there. Not in it. Gone. That’s hard.
“But I think you can see from my own life that I know only too well how things can change, that fortunes can be reversed, and things can turn, as you say, on the head of a pin.
"I could be sitting here now, saying, ‘Look at what could have been…’ but life isn’t like that. Life has its ups and downs, and you must also take responsibility for things that do happen and that you can control. But overall, I was just so disappointed …just the whole thing. This wasn’t part of the plan.
“It’s true, that we kind of thought, at one point, that yeah, he would be the next leader of the party and all the rest of it, but we are where we are, and we’re just gonna have to move on. And Derek needs to go on with his life, and we need to go on with ours.”
When asked what he said to Mackay when the news broke, Adam said: “I promised myself I wouldn’t say it to him, but I did just say, ‘What the fuck?’”
“I didn’t get an answer,” he added.
When the story broke, Mackay released a statement, announcing that he had quit as Finance Secretary. It remains his only public utterance since the scandal.
He stated: "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."
He added: "Serving in Government has been a huge privilege and I am sorry to have let colleagues and supporters down."
In the interview, Adam also talks about his family life, his promotion early this year and the increasingly toxic debate over the reform of the Gender Recognition Act. His new role means it will be his job to get the bill through the Scottish Parliament.
He told us: “I think we just need to deal with the debate. And if we can all get ourselves in a place where the debate is less toxic, on both sides of the argument, we can have the discussion, and I’d be a lot happier. But as I say, my job is just to make sure it goes through the parliament.”
Read Best Buddy: an interview with George Adam in full