The SNP is in crisis today after Nicola Sturgeon suspended her heir apparent from the party who quit as Finance Secretary in disgrace for bombarding a 16-year-old schoolboy with ‘creepy’ messages over six months.
Derek Mackay, 42, who was tipped to be the next First Minister of Scotland, contacted the boy out of the blue on Facebook and Instagram last summer, calling him ‘really cute’ before asking him to keep their exchanges secret.
But he resigned hours before presenting the SNP’s Budget at Holyrood in Edinburgh today after the boy’s mother published the 270 messages exchanged with her traumatised son and said she would go to the police.
Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament today his conduct ‘falls seriously below the standard required of a minister’ and revealed he had been suspended from both the party and the SNP parliamentary group at Holyrood ‘pending further investigation’.
It is the second major blow to hit the SNP in the past year after former First Minister Alex Salmond resigned from the party 12 months ago to fight charges of sexually assaulting 10 women — and today’s controversy involving another senior figure in Nicola Sturgeon’s party could badly damage her demands for a second independence referendum after Brexit.
Salmond’s trial, which starts on March 9, threatens to reveal more damaging information about the party and plunge Scottish Nationalists into more chaos.
Sturgeon is facing intense pressure from within her Remain-supporting party to secure the right to hold a second vote on breaking up the UK, as the latest poll shows 51 per cent of Scots would support leaving the union – the first time a majority has been recorded in favour since 2015.
But Boris Johnson is flatly refusing the demand raising the prospect of a potential legal battle between the SNP and the government.
In a humbling statement today Mr Mackay took ‘full responsibility’ for his ‘foolish actions’ and apologised ‘unreservedly’ to the boy and his family. And in a nod to the gravity of his resignation, which could hit the SNP’s independence cause, he added: ‘I am sorry to have let colleagues and supporters down’.
Mr Mackay, a father-of-two sons, came out as gay in 2013 when he left his wife of 12 years, Jennifer — the couple are separated but are not believed to be divorced and he lives with his physiotherapist boyfriend Fraser Adam in Bishopton near Glasgow.
Addressing the Scottish Parliament this afternoon Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘I do not condone his conduct in any way, shape or form. Derek has been suspended pending an investigation’.
She added: ‘If the family or the individual concerned wanted to speak to me, I would of course be happy to do that’ but said she was ‘unaware’ of any other accusations about Mackay’s conduct.
Police Scotland have said Derek Mackay has not been accused of any crime — but they are ‘assessing information’ after his messages with the child were published in the Scottish Sun this morning.
Source: DailyMail.co.uk (excerpt)