Partygate: Nicola Sturgeon will not follow Boris Johnson in changing ministerial code

Nicola Sturgeon has no plans to follow her UK Government counterpart and change the ministerial code, the Scottish Government has said.

It comes after the SNP said Boris Johnson’s decision to change the ministerial code while under investigation for a potential breach were the actions of a “guilty man”.

The Prime Minister is facing a probe by Westminster’s privileges committee into whether he knowingly misled the House of Commons over ‘Partygate’.

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Such an offence is conventionally a resigning matter, but in changes branded “sinister” by Labour, the UK Government announced last week that ministers will not automatically lose their jobs if they breach the ministerial code, as has traditionally been the case.

The update gives the Prime Minister the option of ordering a lesser sanction, such as “some form of public apology, remedial action or removal of ministerial salary for a period”, for rule-breaking deemed to be “minor”.

Asked whether the changes in place in the UK Government would also apply in Scotland, a Government official said there were no plans to change the ministerial code for Scottish ministers.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's government has said it will not change the ministerial code.

James Hamilton, one of the independent advisers on the ministerial code and who found Ms Sturgeon not guilty of misleading Parliament during the Alex Salmond inquiry, recommended changes to the code to bring it further in line with the new complaints procedure within the Government.

This procedure was developed after the Salmond scandal where the First Minister was found to have misled Parliament, but was saved from resigning by the harassment complaints committee falling short of saying she did so knowingly.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There are no plans to change the ministerial code in Scotland along the same lines as the changes made by the Prime Minister.

“The Scottish ministerial code sets out the standards by which Scottish ministers are expected to adhere, based on the seven Nolan principles of public life. These are selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership in the public interest.

“Following the development of a new complaints procedure, our independent advisers have been invited to review the ministerial code and its relationship with the procedure. This work is ongoing. Decisions on all changes to the Scottish code are for the First Minister to make.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner accused the Prime Minister of acting like a “tinpot despot” with the revisions announced on Friday.

Labour has promised to push for a vote on the move when Parliament returns from its break for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in a bid to whip up Conservative dissent.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said the changes were an “appalling attempt by Boris Johnson to rig the rules to get himself off the hook”.

“The Prime Minister shouldn’t be allowed to decide on his own punishment, with zero accountability,” she said.

The SNP’s deputy leader, Kirsten Oswald, said if any Prime Minister broke the ministerial code, they should go “no ifs, no buts”.

However, Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis denied the Tory Party leader was attempting to “water down standards” and accused opponents of “misinformation”.

He said: “People still have to resign if they mislead the House or something serious, but there was a request from others, including Lord Geidt and the commission, that we do have this kind of graduated approach.”

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