Holyrood 'misled again' with Scottish ministers risking 'bringing the Parliament into disrepute'

The Scottish Parliament risks being brought into disrepute due to the approach of Scottish ministers to the ministerial code and allegedly repeatedly misleading Parliament, a Conservative MSP has said.

It comes after a report by a pro-union think-tank published last week debunked the claim Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s total offshore wind potential. The figure has been used extensively by Scottish Government and senior SNP figures for years, but ministers admitted the statistic was wrong and required updating.

However, Lorna Slater, the Green minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, has since faced “serious questions” over whether she misled Parliament when responding to questions about when ministers were first made aware the figure had not been, as civil servants admitted internally in 2020, “properly sourced”.

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Ms Slater told MSPs earlier this week that ministers first became aware they were using a statistic that had never been “properly sourced” last week when a report from These Islands was shared with ministers.

However, after disclosures of emails showed at least one minister being included at the start of an email chain including that specific quote in October 2020, the Government shifted its position. Asked to clarify when ministers became aware of the issue of the figure not being properly sourced, a spokesperson claimed they became aware of “the report” on November 8.

Liam Kerr, the Scottish Conservative net zero spokesperson, said this discrepancy meant the Scottish Parliament had been misled again as Ms Slater’s comments do “not apparently accord with the facts”.

In a point of order at the end of First Minister’s Questions, he said: “Presiding Officer, this is a Government that appears to hold the ministerial code and the honour and privilege of office in utter disdain. The implications of ministers consistently and brazenly misleading this Parliament are huge, as are the implications of ministers not acting in accordance with the ministerial code having done so.

"I am concerned that a perceived lack of integrity by Scottish ministers in not abiding by our processes and codes, risks bringing this Parliament into disrepute and risks undermining your position as Presiding Officer.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr raised a point of order.

However, in a briefing with journalists, the First Minister’s official spokesperson was asked whether Ms Slater had misled Parliament and responded “no”. Asked why there was no denial when it was raised on Wednesday with the Government, he said the suggestion there was no denial was not a “fair reflection on what was said”.

The spokesperson added that because emails may have been sighted by ministerial private offices, that did not mean ministers were aware of the concerns around the figure.

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