Labour MSP ‘breached code with Salmond complaint’

Alex Salmond, who was the subject of James Kelly's complaint. Picture: John Devlin
Alex Salmond, who was the subject of James Kelly's complaint. Picture: John Devlin
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A senior Labour MSP breached Holyrood’s Code of Conduct when he told the press he had made a complaint against Alex Salmond to the Standards Commissioner.

James Kelly, who is Labour’s business manager in the Scottish Parliament, put out a media release after contacting the Commission for Ethical Standards in Public Life claiming the former first minister had failed to declare his earnings from newspaper columns.

The committee condemns any breaches which risk causing reputational damage to another member in advance of a proper investigation

Stuart Stevenson

Commissioner Bill Thomson dismissed Mr Kelly’s complaint as “not relevant” and “inadmissible”.

The former SNP leader then complained to the commissioner that Mr Kelly had breached the MSPs’ Code of Conduct by revealing the action to the media.

Members of Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee agreed with the commissioner that Mr Kelly had breached the code of conduct.

But committee convener Stewart Stevenson said it did “not consider that the breach in question justifies any sanctions being imposed on James Kelly”.

Mr Stevenson said: “In reaching the decision on sanctions, the committee was mindful of the fact that James Kelly acknowledged that he had breached the code and stated that it was an inadvertent breach. Furthermore, he took personal responsibility for the breach and apologised for it.”

He told MSPs that Mr Thomson had considered the former SNP leader’s complaint against Mr Kelly and had “found that, in disclosing to the press his intention to make a complaint, James Kelly was in breach of the relevant provisions of the Code of Conduct”.

Mr Stevenson said: “The committee takes all breaches of the code seriously. The rule covering disclosure is important because it allows investigations by the commissioner and the committee to be concluded in the absence of external partisan comment.

“The committee condemns, in particular, any breaches which risk causing reputational damage to another member in advance of a proper investigation.

“It is the responsibility of every member to understand and conform to the code.

“The committee reminds James Kelly, and all other members, that members must not disclose, communicate or discuss any complaints or intention to make a complaint to or with members of the press or other media prior to the lodging of the complaint or during Stages 1 and 2 of the procedure for dealing with complaints.”