Point of Order

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10 February 2021.

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Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I wish to raise a point of order about the actions of special advisers.

At an off-camera, on-the-record briefing, special adviser Stuart Nicolson was asked to clarify the First Minister’s comments on compelling the attendance of Alex Salmond at the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, and he said:

“Yeah, yeah. I mean yes. You surmise correctly. I mean, bluntly why wouldn’t they? If the committee and all its members are serious about getting to the facts and getting to the truth, as they claim to be, then why on earth wouldn’t they use the powers at their disposal to compel witnesses to attend? They’ve previously talked about using those powers in respect of other witnesses. So, you know, it would seem to make sense that they would want to do it in this case.”

I am not sure that the committee has done so, Presiding Officer, but whatever we decide in relation to using those powers with Alex Salmond—or with other special advisers—is a matter for the committee and not the Scottish Government.

Why have special advisers also briefed the press about the substance of WhatsApp messages obtained from the Crown Office before committee members were provided with numbered copies in a reading room, which were then handed back?

There may indeed be a breach of the special adviser code of conduct but, frankly, it is disrespectful and entirely unacceptable for the Government and special advisers in particular to dictate to committees of the Parliament.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

I got some advance notice—it was short notice—of the point of order, for which I thank Ms Baillie.

Although I can understand why Ms Baillie is concerned, it strikes me that that is a matter for the committee. It is not a procedural matter for me to rule on in the chamber. I advise Ms Baillie to bring it up at the committee, of which she is a member.