A SENIOR SNP minister has issued a “fulsome apology” to Holyrood after the presiding officer cut his statement on Scotland’s census in half after leaks to the media.

A frustrated Presiding Officer, Alison Johnstone, bemoaned news that the census is to be “extended by four weeks” due to a poor rate of response being announced in the press ahead of a statement to parliament.

Ms Johnston said the “significant and important piece of information” should be delivered in the Holyrood chamber before being made public.

The Presiding Officer said the Scottish Government will “carry out a thorough investigation and will report back to the parliament”.

She said: “There is further information in the statement that is not covered in the media report.

“I will therefore allow the statement to be delivered in the interests of optimising scrutiny on this subject which affects every household in the country.

“I’m sure that members share my dismay that yet again, we’re using valuable parliamentary time addressing the inappropriate advanced sharing of part of the Government’s statement.”

Ms Johnstone decided to cut the scheduled 10-minute statement to five minutes following the leak.

Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson, told MSPs that he offered “a fulsome apology that news of this announcement found its way to the media ahead of this statement”.

He said: “We take this very seriously and have commissioned an internal leak enquiry which will be led by the Scottish Government’s chief information security officer.

“They will liaise with the lead officials to determine who had access to this information and to check our data systems to see if the source of the breach can be identified through Government systems.”