A Scottish Government minister could be recalled to parliament after he allegedly "misled" MSPs about gangsters threatening quango officials.
Paul Wheelhouse told a Holyrood committee he was against judges having to declare their financial affairs because senior staff in an environment watchdog had been subject to intimidation. However, emails between Wheelhouse and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) revealed no link to organised crime.
Loading article content
The Public Petitions Committee is investigating whether members of the judiciary should register their financial interests.
Unlike MSPs, MPs and senior figures in government, judges and sheriffs do not need to declare shareholdings and property holdings.
Wheelhouse, the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, outlined the Government's opposition to the committee in December. He said judges could be "open to threats or intimidation" if property or other details were revealed.
The former Environment Minister said: "If members of the judiciary reveal property interests or anything that might give away a physical address, that could put them at risk of physical threats. I have experience of that from working with colleagues in Sepa who have been threatened by those who are involved in criminal activity."
However, days before Wheelhouse gave his evidence, a senior Government official emailed Sepa to ask for examples of violence against staff. "The Minister wants to have another example or two in his back pocket tomorrow ... have you got more examples to hand from Unit Managers?"
A Sepa lawyer offered seven examples - three of which related to behaviour by farmers - but none suggested the involvement of gangsters.
Asked to explain his evidence, a spokesperson for Wheelhouse cited one unnamed official, claiming that he "heard from a Sepa member of staff who provided examples of the type of harassment he and some of his colleagues had faced while trying to carry out their duties".
John Wilson, MSP for Central Scotland and a member of the committee, said: "This email doesn't contain anything about Sepa staff or their families being targeted by organised criminals at their homes or online. He appears to have misled the committee if this is what he has based his evidence on. Based on this email, I think the minister should be recalled to the committee to explain himself."
A Sepa spokesperson said there were 28 incidents of violence and aggression towards staff and "some ... did involve individuals who are known to have involvement with serious organised crime elements ... However, for reasons of operational safety and security we are not in a position to disclose the details."