Swinney gives ‘categorical assurance’ budget leak not sanctioned by him

Details of changes to Scotland’s taxation policy were published hours before it was announced to Parliament.

Craig Paton
Thursday 15 December 2022 16:56 GMT
John Swinney said the leak had not come from himself (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA)
John Swinney said the leak had not come from himself (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA) (PA Media)

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister has apologised after details of his budget were leaked to the BBC, and he has given his “categorical assurance” that he did not sanction such a move.

Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone delayed the budget statement on Thursday after the broadcaster published a story on its website that contained details of the tax decisions to be outlined to MSPs hours later.

Speaking after the delay, Ms Johnstone said she “cannot express strongly enough my disappointment at information about this afternoon’s statement appearing in the media before being given to the Parliament”.

She said she had expressed her “concern in the strongest possible terms” to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney, both of whom, she said, had claimed they did not share the information.

The Presiding Officer has previously sanctioned ministers for leaks by not letting statements be made to the chamber and moving straight to questions from MSPs, but said she had made the decision in this instance – given the importance of the budget – to let the statement be made.

Responding to the Presiding Officer, Mr Swinney said: “I give you my categorical assurance as a member of this Parliament since its foundation in 1999 that no individual was authorised on my behalf to disclose any information.

“I unreservedly apologise to you for the situation you find yourself, Presiding Officer, in protecting the integrity of Parliament.”

Mr Swinney also said that some of the information which had been made public by the BBC was contained within embargoed copies of his statement that had been given to opposition members, something Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said was a “smear”.

Mr Johnson said: “Can I confirm they were not in my copy of the statement, neither in the embargoed sections.

“It was an impossibility for opposition parties. I consider the Deputy First Minister’s comments to be a smear and I would ask him to withdraw them and to investigate who did, whether it was without his authorisation, who did leak it from the Government.”

The Deputy First Minister said there has to be a large number of people involved in the creation of a budget document.

Alerted by Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser that more information had been released by the BBC, the Presiding Officer said she would investigate further.

Conservative MSP Liz Smith thanked the Presiding Officer for assessing leak claims and urged her to launch a full investigation into the matter.

Following the budget statement, she said: There is no doubt that this was a very considerable discourtesy to this Parliament, one that I have never come across before in my time in this place.

“It has been extremely difficult for opposition members to view this budget as a result.”

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