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by Chris Marshall
11 March 2021
Swinney survives vote of no confidence

Swinney narrowly survived the vote of no confidence. Picture: PA

Swinney survives vote of no confidence

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has narrowly survived a vote of no confidence over his handling of information provided to Holyrood's harassment inquiry.

MSPs last night voted 65-57 against the motion brought by the Scottish Conservatives.

The motion was lodged amid frustration among opposition MSPs over the Scottish Government's failure to provide its legal advice to the committee investigating the botched handling of complaints against former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Swinney has said ministers have now published all of the formal written advice notes received from external counsel, as well as emails and an unredacted version of a summary of the government’s actions.

Speaking during the debate last night, Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader in Holyrood, said: “The fact that the committee has been hampered at every turn from receiving even basic information in order to do its job doesn't just let down these women all over again, it lets down current and future government employees too.”

The Deputy First Minister said the vote was “baseless” and accused the Tories of campaigning for the election in May.

Last November, MSPs twice voted for the legal advice relating to the court battle to be handed over to the committee.

While Swinney showed some of the advice from external counsel to some MSPs on the inquiry in December, it was only last week, when a vote of no confidence was first proposed, that papers and correspondence were published.

On Tuesday, Swinney said there are no minutes of meetings between the First Minister, lawyers and Leslie Evans, the permanent secretary, which took place in November.

In the debate, Labour’s Jackie Baillie said that was “inconceivable”.

She said: “The Cabinet Secretary's response to the committee and to this chamber today is that there were no minutes, but there will have been notes. There absolutely will have been notes. Scottish Government lawyers and external counsel are required to take notes. It is a matter of professional duty to do so.

“The notes taken by them should be released to the committee. There can be no debate about this. Absolutely none.”

Last night's motion of no confidence failed after the Scottish Greens decided not to back it.

The party's co-leader, Patrick Harvie, said the inquiry into how the allegations were handled had “become nothing more than shabby, political theatre”.

He added: “In my view, there are members who should have been focused on the interest of complaints, in the past and in the future, but who have clearly been more obsessed with the idea of winning a political scalp.”

 

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