Sturgeon defends handling of finance minister scandal

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon | Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images

Derek Mackay would have been fired if he hadn’t quit over ‘deeply shocking’ allegations, Scottish first minister says.

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Scottish government chief Nicola Sturgeon on Monday defended her handling of the scandal surrounding her former finance minister Derek Mackay, saying she would have sacked him over sending inappropriate messages to a 16-year-old boy if he had not resigned first.

Mackay quit last Thursday, just hours before he was due to present the government’s budget to the Scottish parliament, after the Scottish Sun reported he had sent the boy 270 messages via social media over a six-month period, telling the teenager he was “cute” and suggesting that they meet.

Sturgeon’s opponents have said Mackay, who had been tipped as a possible successor to her as first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), should have been dismissed from his post. They have also argued Sturgeon should have acted more swiftly after the news broke last Wednesday evening.

“There’s always a desire on the part of opposition parties to not focus on the actual issue but to try to smear me or the government generally. And that’s for them to think about,” Sturgeon told POLITICO on a visit to Brussels.

“We had a situation that came out of the blue … one that was deeply shocking to me and it was very clear to me that his behavior was unacceptable and inconsistent with him remaining a member of the government. And within a matter of hours after me and the government being made aware of these allegations, he was no longer a member of the government and was also suspended from the SNP,” she said.

“He offered his resignation to me immediately. I accepted that resignation. Had he not offered his resignation, he would have been removed from the government,” Sturgeon added.

“The upshot is he’s not a member of the government and he wasn’t a member of the government within a matter of hours of these allegations coming to light.”

Sturgeon said he believed she had dealt with the matter “swiftly, decisively and appropriately.”

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