Scotland’s finance chief quits over messages to teenager

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FILE – In this file photo dated File photo dated 1Oct. 4, 2019, Scotland’s Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. It is announced that Mackay has resigned with immediate effect, Thursday Feb. 6, 2020, after allegations emerged that he befriended a teenager on social media and sent hundreds of messages to the 16-year-old boy. (Jane Barlow/PA FILE via AP)

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LONDON (AP) — Scotland’s finance minister resigned Thursday, hours before he was due to deliver his annual budget, after he reportedly sent hundreds of messages to a 16-year-old boy on social media.

Derek Mackay said he had “behaved foolishly and I am truly sorry.”

“I apologize unreservedly to the individual involved and his family,” MacKay said in a statement.

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

The Scottish Sun newspaper reported that 42-year-old Mackay sent the teen more than 270 messages on Facebook and Instagram, telling the boy he was “cute” and offering to take him to a rugby match and to dinner.

Mackay is not accused of breaking the law. But Scottish Labour Party leader Richard Leonard said his behavior had been “nothing short of predatory” and “an abuse of power.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Mackay had also been suspended from the governing Scottish National Party.

“I don’t condone in any way, shape of form this kind of behavior,” Sturgeon said.

Mackay was a rising star in the SNP, which runs Scotland’s semi-autonomous Edinburgh-based administration.

He had been seen as a potential successor to Sturgeon as leader of the party, which advocates independence from the United Kingdom for the nation of 5.5 million.

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