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Tory MSPs apologise for accusing Justice Secretary of misleading Parliament

Scottish Tory Russell Findlay has apologised to Keith Brown for accusing him of misleading Parliament (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)
Scottish Tory Russell Findlay has apologised to Keith Brown for accusing him of misleading Parliament (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

Two Scottish Conservative MSPs have apologised for accusing Justice Secretary Keith Brown of misleading Parliament, blaming “duff information” from Police Scotland.

Russell Findlay, the party’s community safety spokesman, sent a statement to media outlets in November with the accusation, based on a freedom of information request from police about the number of outstanding unsolved murders in Scotland.

Mr Brown had previously said there were no unsolved murders outstanding in Scotland, which the Tories deemed to be misleading – however, the figures divulged to the party instead referred to the number of “unresolved” murders, showing 181 since 2013-14.

The definition of unresolved homicides extends much wider than for those deemed to have not yet been solved, and can include crimes currently making their way through the justice system.

Mr Findlay said he was told the information was incorrect after it had been sent to the press and the Tories had tweeted about it on the party’s official account.

A revised freedom of information request was sent to Mr Findlay three days after stories appeared in the press, citing that – at the time – there were three “undetected” murders in Scotland.

No follow-up statement was made regarding the data and the tweet remains online.

During a debate in Holyrood on Wednesday, the Justice Secretary raised the error with Mr Findlay, who later apologised.

Mr Brown said: “Last year, I was accused by Russell Findlay of having misled Parliament on figures on homicide.

“He said that I was ‘staggeringly wrong and irresponsible’, that I disrespected ‘victims and their families’, that I ‘just parroted duff information fed to him by advisers’ and that I ‘must now do the right thing and say sorry’.

Keith Brown
Keith Brown had been wrongly accused of misleading Parliament (PA)

“I ask him whether he would like to stand up… and repeat that charge, or whether he wants to apologise for it.”

Mr Findlay said: “It relates to the very point that the Cabinet Secretary made. I now remember the exact information to which he referred.

“The issue was due to duff information that we received from Police Scotland, which duly phoned me at the weekend, on a Sunday, to tell me that the information was incorrect. If I repeated the wrong information that we received, I apologise.”

Tory MSP Craig Hoy also apologised to Mr Brown, after initially ignoring calls to do so.

“I echo Mr Findlay’s apology,” he said.

“I simply retweeted his tweet and I apologise for doing so.”

The Justice Secretary commended both MSPs for their apology.