AN SNP MSP has hit back at claims his party is under-mining Holyrood's comm-ittee system by protecting ministers from criticism and embarrassment.

Willie Coffey, a member of the parliament's watchdog public audit committee, said the claims were "disapp-ointing" and "unfair".

In a letter in today's Herald he says he and colleagues were "reasonable and accommodating" with opposition MSPs during an inquiry into the troubled launch of Police Scotland.

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Earlier this week, opposi-tion MSPs published a minority report, claiming the conclusions agreed by the majority of SNP comm-ittee members failed to reflect evidence which was critical of the government's handling of the mergers.

Labour's Hugh Henry, the committee convener, said other committees were also failing to hold ministers to account and accused SNP MSPs of belonging to a "cult of obedience and slavish-ness" to the party leadership.

At Holyrood yesterday Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick said the claims could be referred to the parliament's conduct watchdog, the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, and to the forum of Holyrood conveners, which she chairs.

It followed a request from Labour's Ken Macintosh, also a member of the public audit committee, who was jeered by SNP MSPs when he said: "Never until the current session have they been a place for sheer government obsequiousness."