Humza Yousaf promises investigation into whether member of his Cabinet broke ministerial code
An investigation is set to be launched into claims that a member of Humza Yousaf’s Cabinet broke the ministerial code by delaying rail works in order to benefit her constituents.
Jenny Gilruth has been accused of asking for rail electrification works that would have caused eight days of disruption over Christmas to be postponed.
She made the intervention while serving as transport minister under Nicola Sturgeon, and has since been promoted by Mr Yousaf to become Education Secretary.
The Scottish Conservatives said Ms Gilruth, the MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes, should have recused herself from the process given it affected her constituency.
According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request, officials told ministers that delaying the works could cost taxpayers £1m and cause disruption to 9,000 passengers a day, as it would have to take place outside the holiday period.
The row centres on proposed line electrification work between Edinburgh Haymarket and Dalmeny in West Lothian, which would have caused eight days of disruption from Boxing Day last year. The work has still not been carried out.
On Thursday, Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross, said he had written to Mr Yousaf requesting an investigation into Ms Gilruth for a possible breach of the ministerial code.
The code states that ministers “must keep separate” their role in the Scottish Government from their role as a constituency or regional list MSP.
Speaking earlier during First Minister’s Questions, Mr Yousaf defended Ms Gilruth but promised that he would “look at the accusations that are being made”.
Describing the allegations about her conduct as “very serious”, the First Minister said there would be an “appropriate investigation” into whether she had breached the code.
However, he said he believed that the decision to delay the rail works had been made for the “correct reasons” and would have benefited passengers across the network, not just in Fife.
“What [Mr Ross] is hoping to do, because he is undoubtedly desperate, is throwing as much mud as possible and hoping that some of it sticks,” he added.
Mr Ross claimed that delaying the work over Christmas was likely to cause more disruption to passengers this year, describing Ms Gilruth’s actions as a “clear-cut sackable offence”.
Labour backed calls for an investigation into the affair. The party’s business manager, Martin Whitfield, said: “It would be grossly inappropriate for a minister to use their position to try and win favour with local voters.
“Jenny Gilruth’s intervention will hit the public purse and cause rail misery for more passengers – we need to know the reason for it.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said Mr Ross’s letter requesting an investigation had been received by Mr Yousaf, who would “respond in due course”.