John Swinney will survive a motion of no confidence at Holyrood today despite his party being branded “secretive and outrageous” in its behaviour towards the Alex Salmond Inquiry.
Labour, the Tories, and Lib Dems all said the Deputy First Minister should be held accountable for the delays in evidence being passed to a parliamentary investigation – but the Greens said they would side with SNP MSPs when a vote is held at 8pm.
Swinney twice refused last year to publish legal advice requested by a committee of MSPs investigating the Scottish Government’s botched handling of complaints made against the former SNP leader.
Salmond denied all allegations against him and won a judicial review of the government’s complaints process in 2019, which judges found to be biased.
Swinney finally published the legal advice last week after opposition parties united in a threat to hold a motion of no confidence if he did not.
Following the release of the documents, the Tories decided to table a motion of no confidence anyway – but the unity between the parties cracked after the Greens dubbed it a “cheap political stunt”.
Salmond Inquiry member and Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said today motions of no confidence were mechanisms to hold the government to account
She reminded MSPs of Nicola Sturgeon’s promise in 2019 to ensure the Inquiry had all the documentation it wanted.
“What the committee has had is partial information, delayed information, and in some cases, no information at all,” she said.
“The government has treated the committee of this parliament with contempt. And it has treated the parliament with contempt too.
“Let’s not forget the two votes in this chamber asking for the legal advice to be provided to the committee.
“The Lord Advocate was not even asked for permission to do so, to release that legal advice, because the SNP Government had no intention of handing it over.”
“You could paper the walls of this chamber with the endless letters from the committee asking John Swinney to see counsel’s advice. At every turn, the answer was no.”
She continued: “The SNP Government have form. They withheld documents from the judicial review, resulting in the professional embarrassment of their own senior counsel.
“They withheld documents, despite a search warrant in the criminal case against Alex Salmond, which is itself a crime.
“And they have withheld documents from the committee. There is a pattern of behaviour here. And it is one of obstruction, secrecy, and contempt for the institutions of this parliament.
“The motion of no confidence may be in John Swinney, but I am clear it is in the behaviour of the secretive National Party that is truly outrageous.”
Get all the top Scottish politics news sent straight to your Inbox by signing up to our Politics newsletter.
We cover Holyrood, Westminster and local councils, with a current focus on how our governments are handling the coronavirus pandemic.
To sign up, simply enter your email address into the pink box near the top of this article.
Alternatively, you can visit our newsletter sign up-centre. Once you are there, enter your email address and select Politics and any other Gist Vile newsletters that are of interest.
Swinney told MSPs he had already explained why the legal advice was not published in November last year despite two votes in favour of doing so.
“Ministers’ view, my view, was we could give the committee the information they needed to understand what happened in the judicial review while avoiding the precedent for future governments of waiving privilege,” he said.
“That is why I took the unprecedented decision to share with the committee in confidence in December a detailed submission that explained the context of legal advice during the judicial review.
“I believed then that such an approach could fulfil our obligation to parliament and the committee without waiving legal privilege and therefore protecting the interests of future governments.”