DEREK Mackay has been suspended from the SNP after sending a barrage of persistent messages to a schoolboy, including one calling him “really cute”.

Nicola Sturgeon said the former Finance Secretary’s behaviour fell “seriously below” the standards required of a minister.

She also said there are "clearly" issues for Mr Mackey to reflect on in terms of whether he continues as an MSP.

Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said Mr Mackay's behaviour could "constitute the grooming of a young individual".

READ MORE: Politics LIVE: Nicola Sturgeon confirms Derek Mackay has been suspended from the SNP

He said many parents would be concerned over whether this is the former SNP minister's only example of unacceptable behaviour.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said it was "nothing short of predatory", and said he "should go as a member of this parliament".

Mr Mackay, 42, resigned from the Scottish Government after the Scottish Sun reported his messages to the 16-year-old.

He sent numerous messages on Instagram and Facebook between August 2 last year and February 1.

They continued even after the boy revealed he was still in school, and then later said he was 16. 

READ MORE: The messages that led to Derek Mackay's downfall

Ms Sturgeon said: “Derek Mackay has apologised unreservedly for his conduct, and recognised – as I do – that it was unacceptable and falls seriously below the standards required of a minister.

“I can also advise that he has this morning been suspended from both the SNP and our parliamentary group pending further investigation.”

She said it was not an option for Mr Mackay to remain in government. 

Ms Sturgeon later said: "I am not aware of any further allegations or any conduct of a similar nature. 

"But I should stress i was not aware of this until last evening."

She said she had not had contact with the boy or his family, and was not aware of his identity.

Elsewhere, she said the Scottish Budget will be delivered this afternoon as planned.