Vote of no confidence in John Swinney over Alex Salmond inquiry gets green light

A vote of no confidence in the deputy first minister John Swinney will be held in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow.

Demand for the vote by the Scottish Conservatives – as a result of the delay in legal advice to the Holyrood committee inquiry on the government’s handling of sexual harassment complaints against Alex Salmond – has been approved by the all-party parliamentary business bureau.

The 30-minute debate will start around 2:50pm and is the second vote of no confidence [VONC] Mr Swinney has faced during the Covid pandemic.

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The previous one last August, which saw him criticised in his role as education secretary over the chaos of the examination awards, was defeated when he was supported by the Scottish Greens by 67 votes to 58.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney is facing a vote of no confidence.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney is facing a vote of no confidence.

A previous threat of a VONC in Mr Swinney because of the delays to legal advice was withdrawn last week after documents were handed over to the committee.

However, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said he believed Mr Swinney had "manipulated the flow of information”, which has interfered with the committee inquiry.

He said Mr Swinney had claimed “that the documents showed the government did not ignore advice from counsel, which was contradicted by the very documents he published”.

Mr Ross said: “John Swinney’s position has become untenable. He has disrespected the Scottish Parliament repeatedly, blatantly withheld evidence from a parliamentary inquiry and tried to mislead the public.

“He has had more than enough chances to be transparent, but his actions are getting more murkier and inexcusable as the weeks go on.”

The Scottish Greens, who had said they would back the VONC last week, have now decided not to support the latest attempt to remove Mr Swinney.

Co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “The Scottish Greens will always defend the integrity of the Scottish Parliament and that is why we backed the call for John Swinney to release evidence that the harassment committee and Parliament had asked for.

“That evidence clearly showed the Scottish Government had failed the women who came forward and this, rather than opportunistic political theatre, should be the focus. The Tories called it a screeching U-turn last week, but this week they still want a political scalp to show for it.

“It’s clear from this naked attempt to undermine our democratic institutions and from the line of questioning from their committee members that the Scottish Conservatives have no interest in making sure women are supported coming forward with complaints in the future.

"For them, this vote of no confidence is a pathetic political game just weeks ahead of an election in which they have nothing positive to offer the people of Scotland.”

The Scottish Conservatives have also threatened a vote of no confidence in First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

A spokesperson for Ms Sturgeon has previously accused the Scottish Conservatives of being “hysterical and opportunistic” and of playing a “political game”.

The spokesperson said “thousands of documents including legal documents” had been handed over to the committee and that “every question has been answered.”

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