Swinney: Parliament stamps not used for campaign

First Minister John Swinney has said he is "confident" that no public money has been used on the SNP's election campaign.

The party is under investigation by Scottish Parliament officials following a complaint that stamps bought on parliamentary expenses were passed to UK election candidates for campaigning activities.

Speaking on the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday, Mr Swinney said he had been "assured that no parliamentary stamps that have been provided by Parliament have been used to support election purposes."

His comments came after the Sunday Mail reported Mr Swinney's office manager telling an SNP staff WhatsApp group chat that "stamp fairy is very useful when it comes to campaigns".

The BBC reported on Thursday that an anonymous complaint was submitted to Holyrood's presiding officer Alison Johnstone.

The Scottish Parliament said it was investigating the matter to establish whether there had been any misuse of parliamentary resources.

A screenshot from a WhatsApp group made up of staff who work for SNP MSPs included a discussion about whether or not the stamps can be traced back to the purchaser.

MSPs are allowed to spend up to £5,500 a year on postage and stationery as part of parliamentary resources provided by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB).

The parliament’s rules state that they “must be used only for parliamentary duties and must not be used for any other purpose, including party political purposes”.

'Humorous remarks'

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Swinney described the message referring to the "stamp fairy" as "humorous remarks made in a WhatsApp channel".

He added: "I've obviously discussed this with my staff and I've been assured that no parliamentary stamps that have been provided by Parliament have been used to support election purposes."

He later added he was "confident" there had not been any use of public money to prop up the SNP's campaign.

"What's important is the reassurance that I've had that parliamentary stamps have not been used for election purposes," he said.

"We've obviously been engaging in a fundraising campaign to support the election campaign.

"It's been supported by the many members that we have around the country," he said.

The Scottish Conservatives said the SNP has "serious questions" to answer.

Mr Swinney was also asked about his party's manifesto commitment to opening negotiations on a second referendum with the next UK government in the event of his party winning a majority of Scottish seats in next month's election.

He was asked how he could keep that promise when both the Conservatives and Labour have said they would not enter into discussions on independence.

Mr Swinney said: "I think this is really in the hands of the people of Scotland, to be honest, and it's a deeply democratic question.

"In 2021, the people of Scotland elected a parliament that was committed to holding an independence referendum and which supported independence.

"And essentially the United Kingdom government has not enabled that view, that expression of an opinion of the people of Scotland to be put into democratic effect.

"So what I am saying in this election is that if people in Scotland want us to progress on the arguments about independence, if they want Scotland to be an independent country, then they've got to support the Scottish National Party as the only means of ensuring that can come about".

Mr Swinney declined to say whether a failure to win a majority of Scottish seats in the general election would see him accept that the will of the Scottish people was not to have another independence referendum.

"I'm not going to pre-judge the outcome of the election," he said.

Mr Swinney said the result of the 2021 Scottish election gave Holyrood the mandate for a referendum and Westminster should "remove the obstacles" to that.