JOHN Swinney has defended his decision to challenge the sanction ordered against his colleague Michael Matheson, saying the process on a Holyrood committee was “damaged” by “prejudice” from one of its members.

Holyrood’s Standards Committee backed a 27-day suspension for Matheson following the row over a near-£11,000 data roaming bill on his parliamentary iPad.

But the First Minister said he did not support the cross-party committee’s sanction as one of its members, Conservative Annie Wells, had previously made critical comments about Matheson’s explanation for the bill, which Swinney believes therefore prejudiced the decision.

READ MORE: SNP puts 'Scotland making better decisions' at front of election campaign material

The Conservatives have said voters will punish Swinney for his “shameful defence” of his former ministerial colleague.

On Saturday, the SNP leader visited a number of constituencies around Scotland during the party’s first “day of action” for the General Election campaign.

Speaking to journalists, he said: “I’m not going to have prejudice taken forward in any part of Scottish life, it shouldn’t happen in the Scottish Parliament.”

READ MORE: Keir Starmer 'running scared' with 'demands' to cut SNP from TV debates

He noted that another Conservative MSP had withdrawn from the Standards Committee due to previous comments about Matheson, adding: “We cannot have our national parliament presiding over prejudice and certainly not prejudice from the Conservatives.”

Asked if Wells’ comment had undermined the entire committee’s decision, he said: “I think when you bring prejudice into a process, you have to recognise the process is damaged as a consequence.

“Now parliament will sort out these issues, it will address these issues as it considers the (committee’s) report.”

He acknowledged that Matheson had “made mistakes” and had faced consequences.