Scotland’s finance secretary has quit hours before he was due to deliver the government’s budget after it emerged he had been “bombarding” a 16 year old schoolboy with text messages.
Derek Mackay – who had been tipped as a successor to SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon – resigned from his position with a statement saying he took “full responsibility” for his “foolish actions”.
Allegations published by the Scottish Sun newspaper say the 42-year-old finance secretary “bombarded the schoolboy” with hundreds of unsolicited messages on social media. The paper says Mackay “pestered the lad, 16, in private on Instagram and Facebook over six months after contacting him out of the blue.”
The messages included invitations to dinner and rugby matches as well as one in which Mackay told the teenager, “I think you are really cute”, having previously asked: “Are our chat’s between us?”
‘I have behaved foolishly and I am truly sorry’
In a statement, Mackay said: “I apologise unreservedly to the individual involved and his family. I take full responsibility for my actions. I have behaved foolishly and I am truly sorry.
“I spoke last night with the First Minister [Sturgeon] and tendered my resignation with immediate effect.
“Serving in government has been a huge privilege and I am sorry to have let colleagues and supporters down.”
Sturgeon – ‘His behaviour has failed to meet the standards required’
Mackay was due to deliver today’s (Thursday) £43 billion budget to the Scottish parliament at Holyrood, which will now be presented by his deputy Kate Forbes.
Sturgeon said: “Derek has taken full responsibility for his actions and apologises unreservedly for them to the individual involved and to those he has let down. He has submitted his resignation as a government minister, which I have accepted. Derek has made a significant contribution to government. However, he recognises that his behaviour has failed to meet the standards required.”
Major setback for SNP and Sturgeon
BBC Scotland chief political correspondent Glenn Campbell said the scandal “is a major setback” for Scotland’s first minister Sturgeon “to lose such a key minister at such an important moment.”
The SNP is embroiled in controversy surrounding the CalMac ferry scandal, concerns over underperformance in education and a public inquiry into hospital failures. That is on top of the trial next month of former SNP leader Alex Salmon who denies accusations he sexually assaulted ten women.
Mackay, who has two sons and came out as gay when his marriage ended in 2013, is facing calls to consider standing down from his Renfrewshire North and West MSP seat.
‘A blow to the reputation of the Scottish parliament’
The acting leader of the Scottish Conservatives Jackson Carlaw said: “I’m shocked, and I think everybody will be. It’s not just a blow to the Scottish government but it’s a blow to the reputation of the Scottish parliament, and to politics in Scotland generally.
“I think it’s difficult to see, having read the material that is now in the public domain, that this is anything other than a colossal lapse of judgement by Derek Mackay and by any definition that you hear of grooming on social media, what I have read would appear to fulfil that definition.”