Scottish Government to miss deadline for new ministerial complaints procedures

John Swinney said the new procedure had been delayed by the pressures of the Omicron variant.

Neil Pooran
Wednesday 22 December 2021 11:46
John Swinney wrote to a Holyrood committee (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA)
John Swinney wrote to a Holyrood committee (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA)

The Scottish Government will miss a deadline to publish new procedures to deal with complaints by civil servants about ministers’ behaviour.

John Swinney said the Government’s focus on the Omicron variant meant it could not submit the new procedure to Holyrood before the December recess.

The need for a new procedure was identified by a review into the mishandling of harassment complaints against former first minister Alex Salmond.

Mr Salmond was awarded more than £500,000 after the Court of Session ruled the Scottish Government’s handling of those complaints was “tainted by apparent bias”.

Alex Salmond won a case against the Scottish Government in the Court of Session (Andy Buchanan)

Under the new process, independent investigators and adjudicators would be appointed to deal with civil service complaints about ministers.

Mr Swinney has written to Holyrood’s Public Administration Committee, saying work is “well advanced” but more time is needed to engage with staff and trade unions before the final plans are published.

He said: “I would be very grateful if the committee would give an extension of time until after recess, as the Omicron variant is absorbing the time and priorities of ministers and officials who recognise the importance of this procedure and wish to make it as fair and robust as it can be before presentation to Parliament.

“My apologies that the documents will follow in the new year rather than before recess.”

The Deputy First Minister is due to appear at the committee in January.

Murdo Fraser said the delay was an ‘unacceptable failure’ (Fraser Bremner)

Responding to the announcement, Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said: “This is another unacceptable failure from the SNP Government who, at every turn, have let down the women who bravely came forward to make serious allegations against a senior figure.

“The Government have had months to draw up a new, robust complaints procedure to safeguard potentially vulnerable staff – and yet they are now kicking the can further down the road.

“To blame the Omicron variant – which was unheard of a month ago – for failing to meet this deadline is pathetic.”

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