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Nicola Sturgeon accused of ‘cover up’ in Fergus Ewing bullying probe

Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing.
Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing.

Nicola Sturgeon is facing claims she’s hiding behind data protection laws over the outcome of a bullying investigation into SNP veteran Fergus Ewing.

The Scottish Government is understood to have concluded its investigation into claims against the Inverness and Nairn MSP.

The first minister was under pressure at Holyrood on Thursday to disclose the findings of the probe.

But she refused to due to “very considerable legal data protection issues that I am bound by”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar claimed Ms Sturgeon has “hidden behind GDPR and refused to come clean over the investigation into Fergus Ewing”.

He quizzed the first minister on the number of bullying investigations carried out into current or former SNP Cabinet members, and what the outcomes of those were.

The SNP leader said while governments have a “duty of transparency”, they also have a “duty to abide by the law on privacy and on data protection”.

Fergus Ewing and Nicola Sturgeon in 2017.

Three civil servants are said to have made allegations of bullying against the 64-year-old when he was serving as the government’s rural economy and tourism secretary.

He rejected the claims made against him in 2020.

SNP MP Joanna Cherry has called for the outcome of the investigation to be made public.

She tweeted: “Bullying is a significant issue in politics.

“Of course all allegations should be investigated and, if the fact there is an allegation is in the public domain, the outcome of the investigation should be made public.

“That is only fair to all concerned.”

She said she was “wrongly accused of bullying in 2019 and fully exonerated after an independent investigation by the parliamentary standards commissioner”.

Ms Cherry added: “As my accusers had gone public I was anxious that my exoneration be made public.”

‘Culture of secrecy’

Mr Sarwar said the information he requested would not reveal confidential details, repeating he was asking about the outcomes of investigations.

In response, the first minister said she and the Scottish Government “take any complaints about any ministers very seriously”.

She added: “These are serious issues, they have to be treated seriously, but they also have to be treated within the confines of the law that applies.”

The Scottish Labour leader accused the first minister of operating in a “culture of secrecy and cover up”, including investigations into ministers.

Speaking after FMQs, Mr Sarwar said: “The public deserve to know the outcome of this investigation as a matter of transparency.”

Mr Ewing left the cabinet last year, following a post-election reshuffle.

He is the son of veteran Scottish nationalist Winnie Ewing and sister of SNP MSP and deputy presiding officer Annabelle Ewing.

Mr Ewing apologised in 2018 after a separate allegation of bullying was made against him by a government official.

Speaking at the time, he said: “I am aware that – on occasion – I can be forthright in the way I represent my views.”

He was approached for comment.

Fergus Ewing profile: ‘Forthright’ SNP veteran was fixture in Scottish Government

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