Scottish Government formally deny lockdown-breaking Christmas parties

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Scottish Government formally deny lockdown-breaking Christmas parties

THE Scottish Government has officially denied any Christmas parties were held by ministers or civil servants during the first lockdown.

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It comes as Boris Johnson faces mounting calls to resign over several allegations of rule-breaking gatherings as the Alpha variant took hold of the country.

Among them have been the SNP's Ian Blackford, who yesterday launched a damning attack on the Prime Minister calling for him to stand aside during PMQs.

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Now, in response to Freedom of Information requests from The Scotsman, officials have formally denied the suggestion that any gatherings were held by Scottish Government ministers or civil servants during December 2020.

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They say no events – such as secret Santa, the swapping of gifts or any Christmas drinks took place in St Andrews House, the main Scottish Government building, or Bute House, the First Minister’s official residence.

Glasgow Times: Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday January 26, 2022.

They added that during any given day in the first lockdown, only around five per cent of the usual number of staff access St Andrews House.

They added: “There were no functions or gatherings held of any description.”

Officials did, however, refuse to release internal correspondence between civil servants which included the word “party” send in December 2020 – claiming the term would require “extensive information gathering”.

They said: “We assume that you have requested this information in relation to the recent focus on parties held in UK Government buildings.

“In that context, you should note that no such Scottish Government events took place.”

In Westminster, Mr Johnson could still face MPs over a highly anticipated report into parties in No 10 before the week is out, a Cabinet minister has suggested.

A report by senior official Sue Gray was expected to be handed to Downing Street on Wednesday but reports suggested the final document was still being pored over overnight.

Tory MPs have held off until the publication of the report to pass judgment on their leader over multiple alleged parties across No 10 and Whitehall during coronavirus restrictions.

It is not clear what the report has discovered but an indication of how damaging it could be for the Government came when Scotland Yard chief Dame Cressida Dick announced a police inquiry was being carried out, based in part on evidence obtained by the Gray investigation.

There was speculation that after the report was not delivered on Wednesday, MPs and the public may have to wait until after the weekend for its publication, as Mr Johnson had promised to address the Commons shortly after it was released.

There were suggestions that due to Thursday being Holocaust Memorial Day and many MPs being back in their constituencies from Thursday afternoon, No 10 may hold off on publishing the report once it was received.

However, Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said the conclusions would be important enough to bring to the House straight away.

He told the BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “Well as Leader of the House, ministers bid via the leader’s office for statements, and it’s absolutely true that I have discouraged statements on Holocaust Memorial Day because there is a debate for that.

“But this issue is of such importance that I think MPs would want to have a statement as soon as the report was available, and on days when the House is sitting MPs have a priority towards the House, even if they’ve got other arrangements first, the House comes first for Members of Parliament.”

Earlier, during Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested Mr Johnson had misled Parliament about Downing Street parties, something which would normally require a minister to resign.

Asked if he would quit, the Prime Minister said: “No.”

Mr Johnson replied: “Of course he wants me out of the way – he does, and of course I don’t deny, for all sorts of reasons, many people may want me out of the way.”

READ MORE: Shoplifter stole £122 worth of stock from TK Maxx at Glasgow Fort

When the Gray report is published, sources close to the investigation team expect it to be published in full, although ultimately it is a matter for Mr Johnson to decide.

Downing Street said it is the “intention” to publish the report in the format in which Mr Johnson receives it.

“It is simply a reflection of the fact that we have not received the findings and don’t know its format, that’s why it remains our intention to publish it as received,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

Labour could use parliamentary procedures in an attempt to force the publication of the full Gray report if Mr Johnson does not release it.

That could take the form of a “humble address”, effectively a message to the Queen demanding the publication of papers.

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