Scotland’s finance chief quits over messages to teenager

LONDON (AP) — Scotland’s finance minister resigned Thursday after revelations he had reportedly sent hundreds of messages to a 16-year-old boy on social media.

Derek Mackay, who was due to deliver his annual budget on Thursday, 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.”

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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.

She said his behavior was “unacceptable and falls seriously below the standard required of a minister.”

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.

His resignation is another blow to the party that is already facing scandal. Sturgeon’s predecessor as first minister, Alex Salmond, is due to stand trial next month on charges including sexual assault and attempted rape against 10 women.

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