SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has made a personal apology to the Scottish Parliament after it emerged she had missed a number of scheduled appearances in the chamber.
Ms McAlpine made her apology in person and insisted she had learned a “salutary lesson” after she incurred the wrath of Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick following another non-appearance at today’s session.
The SNP MSP missed a question in today’s session when she was having her lunch in the Parliament canteen. Insisting that she had lost track of time, Ms McAlpine accepted responsibility for the non-appearance and said:
“I wish to apologise sincerely for my absence from the chamber at health and wellbeing question time this afternoon.
“I realise this is not the first time I’ve done this and I do understand the gravity of the matter.
“The fault is entirely mine, I’m afraid I completely lost track of time. I realise I’ve no excuse for not being present in the chamber when required.
“I apologise for showing such disrespect, not only to yourself presiding officer, but also to parliament and to my fellow MSPs.
“I take this as a salutary lesson which I will reflect on.”
The apology was accepted by The Presiding Officer who insisted that all MSPs were privileged to be members of the Scottish Parliament and that they should carry out the duties for which they were elected.
Opposition MSPs lined up to attack Ms McAlpine, who is an aide to the First Minister.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Joan McAlpine shows as much respect for parliament as the first minister. His excuse is Leveson, hers is lunch.”
A Tory spokesman added: “On this occasion, Ms McAlpine decided that having a lunch date was more important than parliamentary business. Ms McAlpine has treated parliament in a contemptuous manner.”
Labour’s Claudia Beamish said: “As a newspaper columnist and ministerial aide to the first minister, representing her constituents is clearly low down Joan McAlpine’s list of priorities and she is making a habit of missing her appointments in the chamber.
“Rather than lunch dates and fine dining with the first minister, she should be doing the job she is paid to do and standing up for the people she is supposed to represent.”
The story has been seized on by BBC reporter Glenn Campbell who has been tweeting excitedly since 5pm, after Ms McAlpine missed her scheduled question.
The BBC reporter who had previously tweeted four times in three days, has now tweeted six times in two hours on this story.