Sue Gray Report

On Monday, Sue Gray, the Second Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office, published an update to her investigation which stated that there were 16 gatherings that were within the scope of her investigation. 12 of these gatherings are now being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.  So as not to prejudice this criminal investigation, Gray has said that “it is not possible at present to provide a meaningful report setting out and analysing the extensive factual information”. I believe that the report should be published in full as soon as possible after the police investigation. 

However, Gray’s update does reference some general findings which I find deeply concerning. She found that “some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify” and that “some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”

She has also established that “There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times” and has concluded that “Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did.”

I am very concerned about her reference to the “excessive consumption of alcohol” in professional workplaces and welcome her recommendation that “Steps must be taken to ensure that every Government Department has a clear and robust policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace.”

Gray also found that “Some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so”. I believe that any staff member should have been able to report inappropriate behaviour so welcome her recommendation that “There should be easier ways for staff to raise such concerns informally, outside of the line management chain”.

This update makes clear that there were serious failings in leadership and working practices at the heart of government. I agree with Gray’s conclusion that “these must be addressed immediately across Government. This does not need to wait for the police”.

However much of the focus has been on the Prime Minister’s own conduct. By his own admission he broke the rules that his government made, at a time when the public were unable to meet with family and friends or even attend funerals for their loved ones. People are rightly angry that the rules that they were following were not being followed by those at the top of government.

That is why Douglas Ross has called for the Prime Minister to resign over his behaviour, and this update has not changed that position.

I want the focus of the Scottish Conservative Party to be on holding the SNP Government to account and on delivering Scotland’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the ongoing attention on the Prime Minister’s actions has become a hindrance to that work.