Scottish minister Jenny Gilruth did not break the ministerial code, says First Minister Humza Yousaf

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The Scottish Conservatives had accused the now education secretary Jenny Gilruth of giving her Fife constituents “preferential treatment” while she was transport minister

Humza Yousaf says he is confident Jenny Gilruth did not break the ministerial code.

In May Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused Ms Gilruth of breaking the ministerial code while she was serving as transport minister.

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The previous November she had postponed rail works which would have seen the line closed the line between Edinburgh and Fife over the Christmas period.

First Minister Humza Yousaf says Jenny Gilruth did not break the ministerial code. Image: Jane Barlow/Press Association.First Minister Humza Yousaf says Jenny Gilruth did not break the ministerial code. Image: Jane Barlow/Press Association.
First Minister Humza Yousaf says Jenny Gilruth did not break the ministerial code. Image: Jane Barlow/Press Association.

Mr Ross claimed this decision cost the taxpayer £1 million, went against the advice of Network Rail, ScotRail and Transport Scotland, and ended up causing greater travel disruption.

He then accused Ms Gilruth, who is now education secretary, of breaking the ministerial code by giving her constituents in Mid Fife and Glenrothes “preferential treatment”.

However, the First Minister has now written to Mr Ross dismissing his allegations.

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Mr Yousaf says the works, which were between Haymarket and Dalmeny, would have disrupted passengers up and down the east coast, and would not have been isolated to just those in Ms Gilruth’s constituency.

Mr Yousaf said: “I have considered this matter carefully and I am confident that it does not constitute a breach of the Scottish ministerial code.

“It is evident not only in Scottish Government advice on these rail works, but also in ScotRail’s own paperwork, that whilst Ms Gilruth’s constituency was affected, so were many others across Fife, central Scotland and the east coast, with the likelihood of reduced services between Edinburgh and Dundee, Fife to Edinburgh, and up to Perth.

“There was also likely to be service disruption on the Aberdeen to Edinburgh route. There is no evidence to suggest that Ms Gilruth’s constituency would have been impacted to a greater degree than any of the other constituencies.”

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The First Minister added: “I am therefore satisfied there was no impropriety and that Ms Gilruth was acting entirely legitimately in seeking advice on the network-wide impact of rail works on a major piece of national infrastructure.

“I am of the view that there has been no breach of the ministerial code.”

On the back of this the Scottish Conservatives have repeated their criticisms of Mr Yousaf as “weak”.

Only days before this announcement, Mr Yousaf’s leadership was called weak after he refused to suspend Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP membership following her arrest. She was released without charge, pending further enquiries, following about seven hours of questioning.

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Now Mr Ross said: “This response is shamefully weak from Humza Yousaf. This investigation from the First Minister is a total whitewash.

“Any impartial assessment can clearly see that Jenny Gilruth breached the ministerial code. That states ministers should not be involved in decisions which affect their constituency, but Humza Yousaf has totally ignored this.”

Mr Ross said Mr Yousaf was more concerned about protecting one of his key Cabinet ministers.

He added: “Less than three months into the job, Humza Yousaf is showing time and time again he’s incapable of taking tough decisions against his colleagues when they are clearly in the wrong.”

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