Mackay resignation sparks grooming debate

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Politicians called for the former finance secretary to be removed as an MSP, after it was revealed he had sent repeated messages to a 16-year-old boy

7th February 2020 by Gareth Jones 2 Comments

The resignation of Scotland’s finance secretary over a series of messages he sent to a teenage boy has sparked a debate on inappropriate behaviour.

Derek Mackay stepped back from the Scottish Government this week after it was revealed that he had repeatedly messaged a 16-year-old on social media.

The Scottish Sun reported the politician contacted the schoolboy over a six-month period.

Mackay said he had "behaved foolishly" and took full responsibility for his actions. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed Mackay had been suspended from the SNP while a full investigation takes place.

In an emergency statement, Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament: “It was clear to me Derek Mackay’s conduct fell far short of what was expected of a minister.”

In the online messages, it is alleged he invited the boy to dinner and to attend a rugby event, as well as calling him "cute".

Police Scotland said it had not received any complaint of criminality, but was "assessing" the media reports into Mackay’s conduct.

Scottish Conservatives interim leader Jackson Carlaw read out the NSPCC’s definition of grooming in the parliament and said action must be taken against Mackay. He highlighted the definition including reference to using social media to target young people, and offering to take them on trips or outings.

He said: “I understand that the First Minister wants to defer to an investigation, but the full content of the text exchanges between Mr Mackay and the young man are available online. How difficult is it not to reconcile Derek Mackay’s conduct with the very worst connotation?”

The First Minister responded that initial action taken showed that she is taking the claims seriously.

She added: “In terms of further action, for anyone in any circumstances where others have to consider future action, there is a degree of due process that has to be gone through. That would be the case for a member of Mr Carlaw’s party just as it is for a member of mine.

“From the action that has already been taken, I do not think that anybody could reasonably doubt the seriousness with which I treat, and will continue to treat, the matter.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard also called for Mackay to be removed as an MSP, saying he had behaved in a predatory manner.

Charity Children 1st said that the vulnerability of young people should never be exploited. Chief executive Mary Glasgow said: "By resigning, Derek Mackay has acknowledged that his behaviour was inappropriate.

"Children 1st has always been clear that children and young people are vulnerable in situations where there is a significant difference in age, power and status between them and another person.

"Society should recognise by now that it is never acceptable to exploit that vulnerability."

In a statement Mackay said: "I take full responsibility for my actions. I have behaved foolishly and I am truly sorry.

"I apologise unreservedly to the individual involved and his family. I spoke last night (Wednesday) to the First Minister and tendered my resignation with immediate effect.

"Serving in government has been a huge privilege and I am sorry to have let colleagues and supporters down."

Mackay was due to present the Scottish government's budget at Holyrood yesterday (Thursday 6 February), with Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes stepping in.

11th February 2020 by Pat Stewart

When it comes to due process, The Sun has pre-empted that by making everything public and political. There can be no trial as it would not be fair. If The Sun was so concerned about the young man's safety, then the paper would have handed everything over to the police rather than print it.; but no it is just another grubby story to them!

13th February 2020 by Lok Yue

It is indeed a very grubby story and Mackay has admitted it and resigned (without a letter). There is also a you tube showing him telling the story about how the FM banned him from drinking at the SNP conference. Add to that the Ferguson Shipyard story and it is difficult to understand how DM could have been considered the heir apparent to SNP leadership. The bar does not appear to be set very high