The First Minister said the Aberdeen Donside MSP’s behaviour was “serious enough” to stand down as minister for childcare and early years, but said he had “done the right thing”.
Mr McDonald has gone to ground since his resignation and was not at Parliament yesterday. Announcing his departure on Saturday, he said that previous behaviour he had thought “humorous or attempting to be friendly” might have made others uncomfortable and apologised “to anyone I have upset”.
Questioned over the suitability of Mr McDonald continuing as an MSP but not a minister, Ms Sturgeon said: “Mark has reflected and taken responsibility for behaviour that some others may well have thought was not serious enough to resign but he’s done the right thing and taken responsibility.
“He’s going to continue his work as an MSP. He’s a good MSP and he will continue to be so.”
She added: “He has reflected on his behaviour having had things brought to his attention, aspects of his behaviour that he thought was humorous or friendly he now knows made certain women feel uncomfortable. He’s done the right thing by taking responsibility for that.
“I’m not going to say any more about the detail of that because as well as Mark’s position, these situations of course involve the privacy and confidentiality of women and if we are to encourage women to come forward and raise concerns then it’s important that they know their privacy will be respected.”
It is understood the complaint regarding Mr McDonald is one of two made to the SNP about inappropriate behaviour, the second of which does not relate to a parliamentarian.
His resignation came after allegations of sexual harassment emerged at Holyrood and Westminster and Ms Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney warned men in positions of power to reflect on their behaviour.
Mr McDonald’s ministerial replacement is Highlands and Islands MSP Maree Todd, who will now have the task of delivering ambitious plans to double free childcare.
She said: “I am honoured to be asked to carry out this important role. I am relishing getting started and helping make a difference to the lives of all children in Scotland.”