SNP ministers could be “vilified” if they are named but cleared of bullying and harassment complaints under a new procedure, a Holyrood committee convener has warned.

The Scottish Government’s new complaints process, which allows ministers to be named if they are the subject of complaints by civil servants, will begin publishing figures in December.

However, there are not currently any complaints in progress against ministers, Deputy First Minister John Swinney told MSPs.

Mr Swinney updated Holyrood’s Finance and Public Administration Committee on the details of the new procedure, which he announced earlier this month.

Nicola Sturgeon had earlier said she was not comfortable with the previous procedure and had instructed legal advisers to look at making the process more transparent.

Committee convener Kenny Gibson said he was concerned that naming ministers whose complaints were not upheld would be unfair.

Ministers could be “vilified” despite doing nothing wrong due to the “fetid” environment on social media, he argued.

Mr Swinney said he had “wrestled” with the issue, adding: “There is a careful balance to be struck here, between the nature of a due process to be undertaken and the need for there to be transparency about the way these issues are being handled.”

He said he was open to feedback on the matter from the committee, suggesting he could open the door to reversing his position about naming ministers subject to complaints.

Responding to a question from committee member Douglas Lumsden, he said there were no complaints currently ongoing so none would show in the December figures.

The new procedures do not affect complaints investigations which took place previously, he said.

Mr Swinney told the committee that the Scottish Government would publish a redacted decision report along with the outcome of the complaint if it was upheld.

For complaints which are not upheld, the minister’s name and the outcome will be published online for six months.

The Government will pro-actively publish figures on the number of cases currently under investigation on a six-monthly basis, he said.

Mr Swinney said: “These proposals mean that ministers past and present will work to a more transparent set of reporting principles for upholding standards of behaviour in public life.

“We will publish these figures for the first time in December after a short period of reflection on these changes with the committee, with staff, ministers and trade unions.”