John Swinney ‘delusional’ over lobbying row in named person scheme

John Swinney has been accused of mounting a “delusional” defence to claims that his officials ran a lobbying campaign aimed at influencing the testimony of Holyrood witnesses.

Emails obtained by The Times show that civil servants sought to identify witnesses due to give evidence to the Scottish parliament’s education committee about the named person scheme, then rushed to set up meetings with government staff working on the policy before their appearances.

The tactic caused concern among MSPs on the committee, who suspect Mr Swinney’s staff were seeking to persuade witnesses to water down their criticism when giving their evidence.

The committee wrote to Mr Swinney asking him to explain the actions of his officials. In his reply to the committee, Mr Swinney said: “The FOI release simply sets out the detail of engagement that took place with stakeholders which had already been the subject of discussion at the committee.”

He did not attempt to explain why meetings had been set up with committee witnesses before they gave evidence. The committee is likely to take further action.

Oliver Mundell, the Conservative MSP, said: “I think this response borders on the delusional. It’s not credible that he didn’t recognise the issue, which is his officials interfering with the committee’s role of providing scrutiny.”

6th Feb 2018  Scottish Government denies ‘coercing’ Named Person witnesses