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'Scottish government avoiding parliamentary scrutiny in favour of media messaging,' Labour charges

RICHARD LEONARD has accused the Scottish government of not submitting itself to sufficient parliamentary scrutiny during the coronavirus crisis. 

The Scottish Labour leader said yesterday that updates on the pandemic should be provided to the Scottish Parliament instead of at the government’s daily press briefings.

The comments followed a change to the announcement of the “route map” out of lockdown, which was due to be unveiled at the daily briefing but was moved to Holyrood at the behest of the MSPs and Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh.

The Labour leader complained that the Scottish government and individual ministers had not made themselves open to scrutiny during the pandemic, while adding that the government had handled the crisis well. 

Mr Leonard said: “I think it’s a reasonable criticism of the government that they have been keener to have daily press briefings where announcements are made, rather than going to Parliament and holding themselves to account.

“The mood of the Labour group in Parliament is one of great dissatisfaction that we haven’t had enough opportunity to put the government’s approach and the approach of individual ministers under the level of parliamentary scrutiny that we would like.

“On the whole, I think they’ve handled it well. I think their precautionary approach is one that we support.”

A government spokeswoman said: “It is wholly wrong to suggest that the Scottish government has prioritised daily press briefings over parliamentary business in order to avoid scrutiny.

“The First Minister has undertaken weekly extended First Ministers’ questions to allow MSPs additional time to scrutinise government decisions.

“Daily press briefings, being maintained alongside parliamentary activity, are vital to ensuring the public has the most up-to-date health advice to help suppress the virus and save lives.”

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