THE disgraced former SNP finance secretary Derek Mackay has refused to justify his receipt of more than £130,000 in public money after vanishing from Holyrood.

The former Renfrewshire MSP fled into the basement to escape the media after he made his first public appearance at the Scottish Parliament in two and a half years today.

After leaving a committee room by a side door, the 45-year-old was chaperoned by a member of Holyrood staff as hurried to the car park.

Pursued by a single reporter, Mr Mackay refused to say a word as he was asked whether he wanted to apologise to the public for pestering a 16-year-old with text messages in 2020.

Asked whether his behaviour amounted to “grooming”, Mr Mackay said nothing.

Asked how he could justify taking £130,000 in wages and resettlement grants despite not appearing at parliament after his fall from grace, he again said nothing.

His ignominious exit from the building where he once occupied a high level ministerial office took him past rubbish bins and discarded furniture.

Mr Mackay had been giving evidence to MSPs on the CalMac ferries scandal and the collapse of the Ferguson Marine shipyard.

Mr Mackay was the transport minister who approved a £97million deal between the state-run ferry procurement body and Ferguson Marine for two new dual-fuel boats in 2015.

This was in spite of the ferry body, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited, having deep concerns about the lack of an industry standard refund guarantee in case of problems.

The deal proved a costly disaster, the yard went broke and was taken into public ownership, and the ships are currently £150m over budget and five years late.

Mr Mackay told Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee there had been “catastrophic failures”, and he took his due share of the blame, but he had “acted with the best of intentions”.

Mr Mackay resigned from the cabinet on the eve of the budget in February 2020 after the Scottish Sun reported he had pestered a 16-year-old schoolboy with unwanted texts.

Mr Mackay, who had been tipped as a future First Minister, said he took “full responsibility” for his actions and he had “behaved foolishly”.

The father-of-two, who was 42 at the time, said: “I apologise unreservedly to the individual involved and his family. 

"I spoke last night with the first minister and tendered my resignation with immediate effect.

"Serving in government has been a huge privilege and I am sorry to have let colleagues and supporters down."

Despite never being seen at the parliament again, Mr Mackay continued to draw a basic MSP’s salary of £64,470 while sitting as the Independent. 

He also received an automatic grant of £11,945 – the equivalent of three months’ Cabinet salary - for loss of ministerial office.

After leaving parliament in spring 2021, Mr Mackay also received an automatic resettlement grant of £53,725 because he had served 10 years as an MSP.

Under the Scottish Parliamentary Pensions Act of 2009, MSPs who stand down or lose at a Holyrood election automatically receive a payoff of between six and 12 months’ salary.

The money, the first £30,000 of which is tax free, is supposed to help them adjust to life outside Parliament.

Mr Mackay has since set up his own consultancy business, Lochan Associates Ltd, suggesting he hopes to be rehabilitated.

But offered repeated chances to give his side of his story, he refused to speak. 

Scottish Tory MSP Russell Findlay said: "It is understandable that journalists would seek to question Derek Mackay after he went to ground since exiting Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet.

“They have a right to ask why he continued to claim every available penny from taxpayers for 15 months after resigning in disgrace and it’s not the job of parliament officials to help him evade legitimate and responsible journalistic scrutiny.”