Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has questioned the SNP’s inconsistency towards ministerial announcements during the local election period after the announcement on the new northern isles ferry contract was shelved until after the poll on May 3rd.
The announcement on the preferred bidder for the next northern isles ferry services contract was expected to be made by the end of this month but that decision has now been delayed due to it being deemed too politically sensitive during the election period.
The SNP has been criticised for announcing extra money for councils during the local election period in breach of ‘purdah’ rules. Mr McArthur believes that the SNP are happy to break the rules when it may be favourable to their election prospects but hold off on announcements which are difficult or controversial.
This pattern, of using public office to dictate what can and can’t be announced for party political purposes, is why Scottish Liberal Democrats have called on the SNP’s election coordinator and local government minister Derek Mackay to be suspended until after the local elections.
Commenting, Mr McArthur said:
“To avoid the impression that Ministers may be ‘buying votes’, strict guidance exists on what governments can announce during local council election campaigns. Despite this, the First Minister was busy trumpeting extra cash for councils last week.
“By contrast, in a recent meeting with myself and leaders of Orkney Islands Council, the Infrastructure Secretary suggested that no announcement could be made on the successful bidder for the Northern Isles ferry contract during the so-called election ‘purdah’ period.
“Why announce one and not the other? This inconsistency makes it clear that the SNP are out to use their public office for party political gain.
“Given the lifeline nature of these ferry services, and the very tight timeframe for putting in place the new contract, the delay by Ministers in making an announcement has raised understandable concerns in Orkney and Shetland.
“The fact that election ‘purdah’ is being used as an excuse to prevent this announcement, but not one that has a far more direct and unambiguous bearing on the Council elections, will only serve to heighten suspicions about the SNP’s motives and raise concerns in the islands about what the new ferry contract might contain.
“The SNP have a majority in parliament but this does not give them the right to flought the rules.
“Derek Mackay must be suspended while the SNP’s ability to distinguish between public duty and political campaign is called into question.”