SNP MSPs block attempts to launch Mike Russell inquiry

London University chiefs met with education secretary Mike Russell. Picture: TSPL
London University chiefs met with education secretary Mike Russell. Picture: TSPL
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NATIONALIST MSPs have blocked a stand-alone Holyrood inquiry into education secretary Mike Russell over the recent controversy which forced a leading college chief to quit.

Mr Russell demanded the resignation of Stow College chair Kirk Ramsay after it emerged that the latter had recorded a meeting on reforms of the sector. It prompted claims of “bullying and intimidation” against Mr Russell after it emerged the up to 100 people had been present at the meeting.

Opposition MSPs on Holyrood’s education committee today called for an inquiry to be staged into the episode. But they were voted down by the SNP majority who said Mr Russell could be questioned on the issue as part of a wider inquiry into the reforms of the college sector.

Tory MSP Liz Smith said: “It’s not about personalities, it’s about scrutiny.

“There’s a fundamental issue about any cabinet secretary and how he or she operates in this sector. We’ve a concern and it’s significant and we need to be mindful of this.”

Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur added: “I think there is a justification for having a inquiry into the relationship that the cabinet secretary has with the college sector. I would suggest it doesn’t sit comfortably in a wider inquiry into the regionalisation process.”

But Nationalist Joan McAlpine said a separate inquiry was not needed and previous evidence sessions from union leaders – who had criticised the Government – had not seen any claims of “bullying or intimidation” against Mr Russell.

“I don’t understand where this is coming from given the amount of critical evidence we’ve taken, none of which has mentioned bullying,” she added.

Committee convenor Stewart Maxwell appealed for the committee to reach agreement without splitting down party lines, but opposition parties demanded a vote for a separate inquiry which they lost 5-4.