Scottish parliament suspended before budget statement because of BBC ‘leak’


Presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament Alison Johnstone suspended proceedings after details of deputy SNP leader John Swinney’s budget were leaked to BBC Scotland ahead of his statement on Thursday.

The deputy first minister was due to set out his tax and spending plans at 2.25pm. However, the Presiding Officer instead said she needed another 30 minutes to investigate.

According to BBC Scotland‘s report, the Deputy First Minister was set to increase the Scottish rate of income tax for anyone on the higher rate, meaning that anyone earning between £43,663 to £150,000 will now pay 42p in the pound.

After details appeared on the BBC’s website just after 12.00pm during first minister’s questions, a number of MSPs raised points of order with Ms Johnstone. 

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said in a point of order: “We are expecting at 2.25 this afternoon a budget statement from the Deputy First Minister to this chamber.

“However, currently, the BBC Scotland website is reporting in detail tax changes that will be brought forward in that budget statement, including increasing the higher rate of tax from 41p to 42p and increasing the additional rate from 46p to 47p and reducing the tax threshold for the top rate from 150,000 to 125,000”.

Ms Johnstone promised to investigate and report back. After an investigation, she suspended the sitting so she could “conclude her deliberations”. These deliberations included conversations with first minister Nicola Sturgeon and deputy first minister John Swinney.

Speaking to MSPs after from the break, Ms Johnstone said: “I cannot express strongly enough my disappointment at information about this afternoon’s statement appearing in the media before being given to the parliament.

“I have spoken to the First Minister and the deputy First Minister to express my strongest possible concerns. And they have given me a categoric assurance that this information was not shared by the government”.

When Mr Swinney was invited to give his budget statement, he completely denied allegations that he was involved in the leak.

He said: “I have said to you privately [Ms Johnstone] in the welcome conversation that we had. At no stage has anybody been authorised on my behalf to brief information”.