FM quizzed

Timing of bank CEO’s resignation ‘a coincidence’

Nicola Sturgeon: bank is performing exceptionally well

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today insisted it was a “coincidence” that the chief executive of the Scottish National Investment Bank resigned just days before the government unveiled its latest economic strategy.

Under persistent questions from Tory leader Douglas Ross to explain why Eilidh Mactaggart abruptly left her £235,000 a year job last Friday, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs it was a matter for the bank’s board.

Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, Mr Ross said the bank would eventually be responsible for £2 billion of public money and the public was “entitled” to know about its leadership.

Accusing the government of “unacceptable” secrecy, he said the ministerial code stated that information could not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so.

The First Minister said she had been told earlier in February that Ms Mactaggart would be leaving but said she could not disclose her reasons because she is an employee of the bank “which has a duty of care to all staff.

“That is why it is a matter for bank and ministers must respect that confidentiality.”

But Mr Ross said: “The timing of this is very suspicious. The CEO resigns just days before the SNP launch their economic strategy. Is it a coincidence that she resigned instead of trying to deliver the government’s strategy?”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “Yes, it is a coincidence. She is a private individual and has opted to resign. She is entitled to confidentiality and it would be wrong of me to breach that confidentiality.”

Douglas Ross: seeking answers (pic: Terry Murden)

She said the bank, which launched in November 2020, was performing “exceptionally well”, adding that it was “the most important economic initiative taken over the last few years”. By the end of January it had made 13 investments totalling just under £200m in its key mission areas of net zero, place based development and innovation.

It later emerged that the chairman the bank, Willie Watt will be hauled before the finance and administration committee to explain Ms Mactaggart’s departure.

During FMQs Mr Ross took issue with the National Strategy for Economic Transformation unveiled by the Finance Secretary Kate Forbes on Tuesday, saying it had been criticised by business leaders such as Sir Tom Hunter.

He said the strategy was a re-hash of previous ideas and that the government’s plan for the economy was a shambles.

Ms Sturgeon said, on the contrary, a number of business organisations, including the CBI, FSB, Scottish Retail Consortium and Scottish Chambers of Commerce had applauded the document.

She listed a number of “successes” for the Scottish economy over the past 15 years including Scotland’s record as the top location for foreign direct investment outside London for six years and productivity outperforming other areas of the UK.

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