NICOLA Sturgeon’s top aide has deleted a controversial tweet attacking Boris Johnson after being accused of violating her code of conduct.
Chief of Staff Liz Lloyd took the action after being reported to her boss by the Scottish Tories, who claimed she was guilty of a “clear and flagrant breach”.
The Government said she had done so “of her own volition as a courtesy”.
The Tories said it was typical of the SNP to “get rid of the evidence and pretend it never happened”.
On Thursday, Ms Lloyd tweeted about the Prime Minister’s visit to Scotland later that day, which the First Minister had complained was “non-essential”.
Mr Johnson visited the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and a vaccine plant in Livingstone as part of broader efforts to promote the Union amid the pandemic.
Ms Lloyd wrote on her personal Twitter account: “My family don’t live in Scotland, I’ve not been able to visit them since August (and some since 2019) because it’s important we stay at home and don’t travel.
“Yet the PM is coming to Scotland when he could see the vaccine roll out and thank the army by zoom #notessential.”
However the SNP Government’s Code of Conduct for Special Advisers, which is enforced by the First Minister, bans statements on “political controversy”, including on social media.
Section 14 states: “Special advisers must not take public part in political controversy, through any form of statement whether in speeches or letters to the press, or in books, social media, articles or leaflets.
“They must observe discretion and express comment with moderation, avoiding personal attacks, and would not normally speak in public for a Minister, or the Scottish Government.”
Other special advisers normally speak to the media on behalf of Ms Sturgeon.
Tory MSP Miles Briggs subsequently complained to the Scottish Government’s top official, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, saying the tweet was “the opposite of the discretion and moderation required by the Code of Conduct”.
It has now emerged that Ms Lloyd has deleted her tweet, suggesting it was problematic.
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Mr Briggs said in response: “It seems the First Minister’s chief of staff has deleted her tweet only because the Scottish Conservatives reported her for breaching the code of conduct.
“This appears to the SNP’s stock response to rule breaking – get rid of the evidence and pretend it never happened.
“While the quick action in this case could mitigate any consequences, it remains concerning when highly-paid public servants act as SNP propaganda mouthpieces.
“I hope we will now see action to prevent any future blurring of lines between taxpayer-funded advisors and the SNP.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Mr Briggs’s letter will be properly considered and replied to in due course. The Chief of Staff removed the tweet of her own volition as a courtesy while that takes place.”