Scottish Tories condemn Nicola Sturgeon’s power over ministerial code, despite loophole clearing Priti Patel

Rob Merrick
·3-min read

Scottish Tories are demanding an end to political leaders ruling on allegations against ministers – despite Boris Johnson using the power to rescue Priti Patel after she was found guilty of bullying.

Attacking Nicola Sturgeon for having “lied to Parliament” over the Alex Salmond controversy, the Conservative leader at Holyrood condemned her ability to decide if the ministerial code has been breached.

“The scandal has shown that the Scottish government is accountable only to itself,” Douglas Ross protested

“It’s left to the first minister to uphold the ministerial code and take decisions on the scrutiny of ministerial behaviour.

“So, to make this process independent, we will propose that responsibility for scrutiny of ministerial behaviour be given to the standards committee – just as they report on the behaviour of opposition and backbench MSPs.

“There should be no separate process for government ministers,” he told an event hosted by the Tory think-tank Onward.

However, the call comes despite the prime minister refusing to give up his power as the “sole arbiter” of whether the ministerial code has been flouted at Westminster.

It allowed him to overturn his own ethics adviser’s ruling that the home secretary’s shouting and swearing had bullied her staff and breached the code, by deciding her behaviour had been unintentional.

Watch: Douglas Ross - Scottish Conservatives will seek no-confidence vote on Sturgeon

Alex Allen quit in disgust as independent adviser on the code, as the Cabinet Secretary also admitted there is no requirement to ever release the findings of such investigations.

During a question-and-answer session, Mr Ross also repeated his call for Scottish Labour to form what a questioner called “a grand coalition” to stop the SNP, if necessary.

Anas Sarwar, the party’s new leader, has already ruled out any such deal – as did his predecessor Richard Leonard – knowing any hint of cooperation would further damage Labour, ahead of May’s elections.

Mr Ross also insisted Mr Johnson’s premiership had a “positive effect” on the Tories in Scotland, pointing to the success of the vaccination programme and ‘levelling up’ funding.

However, amid suggestions the prime minister is a recruiting serjeant for independence, he said: “I’m leading the party in Scotland, I’m on the ballot.”

Mr Ross also defended his decision to stage a no-confidence vote in Ms Sturgeon this week, even before the conclusions of separate investigations.

The Conservatives had “no choice but to continue with our plans” after the deputy first minister – John Swinney, who also faces such a vote – delayed release of legal advice.

The motions have been brought forward after the SNP’s botched handling of sexual harassment allegations made against Mr Salmond, a former first minister

“The other parties need to show that they have the stomach stand up to this SNP government like we do,” Mr Ross said, “to hold the first minister to the same standards that she has held others to”.

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