John Swinney 'assured' no publicly-funded stamps used for SNP general election campaign

First Minister of Scotland John Swinney
-Credit: (Image: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

SNP leader John Swinney has said he is “confident” no public money has funded his party’s election campaign amid the Holyrood postage scandal.

The First Minister said he has been reassured his staff have not used taxpayer-funded stamps after claims of a “stamp fairy”.

Holyrood chiefs are investigating claims first revealed by the Daily Record that SNP staffers discussed using Holyrood-funded stamps for the election.

Leaked messages from an SNP “office manager chat” show a conversation on postage, which can only be used for parliamentary purposes.

Reports today revealed further messages which link Swinney to the row.

Elaine Wylie, who works for John Swinney, was asked by Drugs Minister Christine McKelvie’s office manager Marianne Paton what she should do with an abundance of postage stamps.

Wylie responded: “The stamp fairy is very useful when it comes to campaigns” and ended the message with a winking emoji with its tongue sticking out.

Paton said: “Hahaha I know, even that won’t make a dent in them. I’ll whisper the amount I have next time we meet”.

Swinney was asked today about the claims.

He said: “I’ve obviously discussed this with my staff and I’ve been assured that no parliamentary stamps that have been provided by parliament have been used to support election purposes.

“Obviously the parliament has said that they’re looking into this matter and obviously we will provide parliament with any assistance that they require as they undertake those inquiries.”

After being read out the “stamp fairy” message, he said:

“We campaign on a regular basis in my capacity as a member of parliament, so we’re engaging with the public on a countless range of different issues. I think these are humorous remarks made in a WhatsApp channel. What’s important is the reassurance that I’ve had that parliamentary stamps have not been used for election purposes.”

He was asked if he was sure no public money has funded the election campaign.

“I’m confident of that,” he said.

Speaking to LBC later on Sunday, the First Minister agreed it would be “completely unacceptable” for resources to be used in this way.

“The rules are clear that parliamentary stamps that are procured for that purpose should be used for parliamentary activities,” he said.

He added it is “important” for those in question to co-operate fully with parliamentary authorities.

The original staff messages leaked to the Record included a discussion on Holyrood stamps.

One staffer wrote: “Guys, the new stamps. Can they be traced?”

Another responded: “Like who purchased them and what they’re being used for?”

A third pitched in: “I asked [name of non-SNP staffer] in the mailroom and he said no.”

The first individual in the group chat wrote: “Can they be traced back to who purchased them?”

A fourth piped up: “Not aware that they can.”

Another staffer for a senior MSP wrote: “If they can then a few people may be up in front of the corporate body.”

The corporate body is the Parliament’s governing board.

In the complaint email to Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone, the individual who raised the alarm said:

“I am anonymously sharing a screenshot from the SNP office managers WhatsApp group chat due to my concerns that several MSPs are using stamps paid for by Scottish parliament expenses to pass to UK parliament election candidates for campaign activities such as sending target letters to hard to reach addresses.

“I’m concerned about this open discussion involving several members’ offices.”

Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Jackie Baillie called the claims “deeply concerning” and Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie said Swinney needed to come clean about what he knows.

Baillie said: “The SNP has a long record of failing to treat public money with respect and uphold the standards of transparency we all expect.”

Rennie said: “If these allegations are accurate, the First Minister will need to say whether he knew about the SNP’s use of taxpayer funded resources for campaigning purposes. I hope that an impartial investigation by parliamentary authorities can be completed as swiftly as possible and any potential misconduct addressed appropriately.”

Tory MSP Craig Hoy said: “The SNP have serious questions to answer about these concerning allegations.

“These leaked messages appear to show staff potentially misusing public resources.

“The SNP must be upfront with parliamentary authorities about this situation.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Parliament said last week: “We take the use of publicly funded resources very seriously. Officials are investigating the matter to establish whether there has been any mis-use of parliamentary resources.”

An SNP spokeswoman said: “The Parliamentary rules are crystal clear that materials, including stamps, can only be used for Parliamentary purposes such as representing constituents and campaigning on their behalf.

“These exchanges, whilst obviously light-hearted, are being investigated as is appropriate and we would expect the offices of MSPs of all parties to cooperate with the Parliamentary Corporate Body.”

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