Why Derek Mackay must resign as MSP – leader comment

Derek Mackay has quit as Finance Secretary but must now resign as an MSP (Picture: John Devlin)Derek Mackay has quit as Finance Secretary but must now resign as an MSP (Picture: John Devlin)
Derek Mackay has quit as Finance Secretary but must now resign as an MSP (Picture: John Devlin)
Short of a dramatic turn of events, the former Finance Secretary should not remain in Holyrood.

Assuming everything is as it appears, there is no question that Derek Mackay must resign as an MSP.

Revelations published by the Sun newspaper that Mackay, who has quit as Finance Secretary and been suspended by the SNP, repeatedly messaged a 16-year-old boy on social media were described as “nothing short of predatory” by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, while the Scottish Conservatives’ interim leader Jackson Carlaw suggested the messages, which described the teenager as “really cute” and invited him to a rugby match, could “constitute the grooming of a young individual”.

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Police Scotland have also appealed for anyone with information about what took place to come forward, despite not yet receiving a formal “complaint of criminality”.

Mackay described his actions as “foolish” but, as Leonard pointed out, this underplays just how serious his actions were, even if they fall short of a crime. And, just to be clear, it would be equally as serious if the teenager in question had been a girl.

It is likely there is cross-party agreement that the 42-year-old Mackay should now stand down as MSP for Renfrewshire North and West. However, Nicola Sturgeon was right when she said that “no matter how upset and shocked all of us are in these situations, there’s a need for due process”.

Despite the scale of the justified outrage, the full facts need to be established in a calm and considered way. After all, there may be questions for others to answer.

It has long been known that those in positions of power will sometimes abuse it, but the MeToo movement should have spelt out the full consequences to anyone failing to grasp them.

Once such conduct might have been brushed under the carpet, but society has changed, considerably and for the better, in refusing to tolerate it.

MSPs are the democratically elected leaders of this country and their actions must be beyond reproach. It is, or at least should be, part of their job to send a message to those in positions of power in wider society about what is and is not acceptable behaviour.

And an MSP, let alone a Cabinet minister, sending scores of unsolicited messages of the type described to a 16-year-old is, in the words of the First Minister, “unacceptable”. This is not a party political issue, but a moral one.