14 June 2022

Scottish Government rebuked by Presiding Officer over Indyref2 launch

14 June 2022

The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament has chastised the Scottish Government after the launch of a campaign for another vote on independence was announced to the press before Holyrood was alerted.

The Scottish Government sent out invites to journalists to the Bute House event with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie on Monday afternoon.

The press conference served as the launch point for both the government drive for another vote and the first in a series of papers which will update the prospectus for an independent Scotland.

I do not regard this as acceptable

Speaking to MSPs before a parliamentary statement due to be given by Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson, the Presiding Officer said the government was aware “I do not regard this as acceptable”.

In response, the Presiding Officer did not allow Mr Robertson to make his statement and instead moved straight to questions from MSPs.

“Yesterday afternoon, significant news that should have been announced in this chamber as a matter of courtesy and respect to the Parliament was reported by national media, trailing a media event this morning,” she said.

“Long established good practice guidance on announcements by the Scottish Government states that announcements by government on matters of importance should not enter the public domain before or without being communicated to the parliament.”

She added: “Now, it is not possible to square the government’s actions on this matter, with respect for this guidance which is designed to ensure that this parliament is given its proper place.

“It is my role to represent this parliament’s interests and in doing so I take account of all members’ interests equally.

“The government is in no doubt that I do not regard this as acceptable and in these circumstances the parliament’s time is used best by moving straight to questions.”

The Presiding Officer – who was elected as a Green MSP – said there was a “strong expectation” that announcements of “public interest” are made to parliament first.

Defending the Scottish Government’s decision to make the announcement to the press as opposed to Holyrood, parliamentary business minister George Adam said the paper makes “no significant policy commitments or announcements regarding our proposals for an independent Scotland”.

“The Scottish Government respects the role of parliament in scrutinising delivery of its work programme and the Cabinet Secretary will be in the chamber ready to provide more information to the parliament on the publication,” he added.

Parliamentary business minister George Adam said the publication did not feature any ‘substantial’ policy announcements (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA)

Meanwhile, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the push for another vote was the “wrong priority at the worst possible time”.

“The people of Scotland want the focus to be on the huge challenges facing us,” he said.

“We want the focus of the Scottish Government to be on creating better jobs and opportunities, we want the focus to be on improving public services.

“Instead, this SNP government just offers more distraction, more disruption and division.”

Responding to Mr Ross, as well as Labour and the Lib Dems – all of whom are opposed to another vote on independence – Angus Robertson said: “Now we have all of the opposition parties lining up in their agreement of democracy denial.”

He added: “We will be on different sides of the argument about Scotland’s future, but please don’t come here to the chamber and say the people of Scotland can’t have their say when they voted in an election that they should be allowed to do just that.”

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