Nicola Sturgeon knew about bullying allegations against Fergus Ewing when she gave him an expanded ministerial role in Monday’s Cabinet reshuffle, her spokesman has said.
The Rural Economy and Tourism Secretary is subject to an “informal” investigation into claims he bullied civil servants, allegations Mr Ewing said he “completely” rejects.
The First Minister’s spokesman confirmed Ms Sturgeon was aware Mr Ewing was being investigated when she added the tourism brief to his rural economy role.
Asked about Ms Sturgeon’s decision in light of the allegations, her spokesman said: “The First Minister proceeded on the basis she did at the reshuffle so clearly she wouldn’t do anything she regarded as inappropriate”.
He added: “The FM is aware – has been aware – that there is a process under way.
“She carried out the reshuffle – or the mini-reshuffle – in recent days on the basis that she did in terms of the ministerial responsibilities being divided along the lines they were and that was entirely appropriate.”
Flanked by Deputy First Minster John Swinney following FMQs, Mr Ewing said: “A process is under way and that is entirely right and proper when such allegations are made.
“That process is at an early stage. I will make no further comment whilst that process is ongoing.”
Sky News reported the allegations were made at the end of last year when details were passed to senior managers at Marine Scotland in Edinburgh, although the Scottish Government has declined to give further details.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “A process is under way – as is right and proper whenever such allegations are made – and is at an early, informal stage.”
Mr Ewing was subject to similar accusations in 2018, when he was forced to apologise after a Government official alleged bullying.
He said at the time he could be “forthright” in the way he expressed his opinions.
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Annie Wells described the Scottish Government as “morally and politically bankrupt”.
She added: “Essentially, when confronted with this information about Fergus Ewing, Nicola Sturgeon handed him a promotion.
“Given her Government’s shambolic handling of the Derek Mackay scandal, there will be huge pressure to get this one right.
“So far that’s certainly not been the case.”