Details of complaint against Tory MSP ‘leaked to the media’

Details of a complaint made about a Conservative MSP were leaked to the media while Holyrood’s Standards Committee was still investigating the incident, its convener has said.

An official complaint was made that Rachael Hamilton had breached the MSPs’ code of conduct by not declaring an interest when she asked a question at First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) in November.

The Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP was reported after she criticised the SNP’s “high tax agenda” for businesses without declaring she owns a hotel.

An investigation into the claim cleared Ms Hamilton of any wrongdoing but the Scottish Parliament’s Standards Committee has criticised details of the complaint being leaked.

The committee’s convener Bill Kidd MSP said it would “reflect on whether any further improvements can be made to protect the confidentiality of the complaints process”.

In a statement, Mr Kidd added: “It is unsatisfactory that details about this complaint appeared in the media before the committee had received a copy of the commissioner’s report and undertaken its consideration.

“This is not the first time this has happened. The committee must be able to carry out its work without external comment.”

A question from Ms Hamilton during FMQs on November 29 sparked a complaint from Kenny McCartney, who claimed she should have voiced her alleged conflict of interest as a hotel owner.

Ms Hamilton asked Nicola Sturgeon: “When will the First Minister realise that her Government’s high tax agenda is punishing our high streets and take urgent action to support Scotland’s retailers?”

She owns the Buccleuch Arms Hotel in St Boswells with her husband.

Her parliamentary Register of Interests adds she has 49% of the issued share capital in Borders Hotels Ltd.

The committee unanimously agreed with the findings Scottish Parliament’s Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life, Bill Thomson, that Ms Hamilton “did not breach the code of statutory or code of conduct requirement to make an oral declaration of her interests”.

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