John Swinney arrives at the Vaccine Clinic holding his blue envelope – ANDREW MILLIGAN/AFP
A third SNP minister has broken coronavirus election rules less than a week into the Holyrood campaign.
Nicola Sturgeon said that her deputy, John Swinney, and parliamentary business manager Graeme Dey were “pretty mortified” after they posted evidence of themselves breaching limits on outdoor gatherings on social media.
However, it then emerged that Jamie Hepburn, the business minister, had committed the same blunder, after he posted a picture of himself and at least five other party activists out on the campaign trail on Saturday afternoon.
Candidates have been told a maximum of four people from two households are able to meet up for leafleting.
Asked about the breaches by Mr Swinney and Mr Dey on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said: “The ministers, Graeme and John, who made a mistake around the size of gatherings when they were leafleting, were in the wrong.
“Both of them have apologised. If, as many of you do, you know either of them and how seriously they take their responsibilities – they are both pretty mortified at having done that.
“None of us, unfortunately, are perfect and none of us are infallible.”
The First Minister referenced her own “mishap” in December when she took off her mask to speak to three elderly women at a funeral wake.
Mr Hepburn later deleted his social media post, although it was obtained by The Courier newspaper.
Alongside a picture of him breaking the rules, Mr Hepburn wrote: “Your socially distanced, masked and ready to go Cumbernauld and Kilsyth SNP campaign team out in Smithstone and Croy today.”
An SNP spokesman said: “Activists arrived having travelled separately for click-and-collect of campaign leaflets. A socially-distanced picture was taken before everyone went their separate ways to deliver them on their own.
“However, there were too many people in the picture, which sent out the wrong message, so Jamie deleted the tweet.”
Candidates, as well as their agents, are allowed to travel to the constituency or region in which their standing if the activity cannot be done from home, and party leaders are allowed to travel with “the minimal number necessary of supporting staff”.
Mr Dey set out the coronavirus election rules to the Scottish Parliament on March 2, including the provisions on restrictions on group size.
Car-sharing and street stalls are prohibited, while doorstep campaigning is due to take place from April 6 onwards, depending on the prevalence of the virus.