Motion of No Confidence

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 10th March 2021.

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Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

I grew up in the village of Bankfoot, in Perthshire, and I remember the first time I ever met a politician, which happened when I was in primary school. He was our local MP, John Swinney. I know myself, and I know from friends and family who still live in Perthshire and from colleagues from across the chamber, that John Swinney is a respected man.

However, that is not what the debate and the motion are about. The debate is about the total disrespect that the Scottish National Party Government has shown to a committee of this Parliament.

It was the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who tasked John Swinney with overseeing the investigation and giving the committee access to all the information that it requested. After two years, does anyone sitting here today seriously believe that that has happened? It is therefore little wonder that MSPs from across the parties who are on the committee do not now believe that we will fully understand what went on in Government or within the SNP.

I pay tribute to the members who sit on that committee for the work that they have attempted to undertake over the past two years to get the legal advice. Jackie Baillie said last week:

“In my 22 years in Parliament I have never been so obstructed, unable to do my job, as I have been on this committee.”

That should speak to all of us.

The Parliament voted by a majority on two separate occasions for SNP ministers to publish legal advice and to provide the committee with all the evidence that has been requested. That has not been provided. In both cases, the Deputy First Minister ignored votes taken in the chamber. It was only after this motion of no confidence was put on the table that we saw the Government provide the committee with some—limited—information.

As late as yesterday, the committee’s convener was writing to request that ministers publish, as a matter of urgency, notes and emails regarding 17 meetings held with lawyers. Linda Fabiani, the convener, said that the committee is not reassured that it has received all relevant information.

At every turn, SNP ministers have evaded the committee’s requests for evidence, redacted key information and disrespected the will of the Parliament. The question is, who in Government will take responsibility? SNP ministers are undermining the credibility of our Scottish Parliament and its ability to hold the Government to account.

As has been said, the Deputy First Minister may, indeed, survive the vote of no confidence tonight, but the damage that the SNP has inflicted on this institution will be longer term. I hope that, in the coming weeks, when the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister finally take responsibility for this scandal, they will reflect on the damage that they have done to the integrity of our Parliament, our Crown Office and the permanent secretary.