‘I never had any plans to vacate my seat and that’s it, I will just leave it at that.” With those words Bill Walker MSP yesterday confirmed what has been suspected ever since his conviction for wife-beating. He has no intention of doing the decent thing and standing down from Holyrood.
Given that he has been found guilty of no fewer than 23 charges of assaulting three ex-wives and a step-daughter, it is perhaps unsurprising that doing the decent thing is an elusive course of action for him. Indeed, the day after his conviction, it appeared that not even the humiliation of his “controlling, domineering, demeaning and belittling” character being exposed in court could dissuade him from carrying on as if nothing had happened.
It was business as usual for the Dumfermline MSP when he signed a Scottish Parliament motion expressed sadness at the death of former Scotland goalkeeper, Fred Martin, less than 24 hours after leaving court. One wonders how comforting it was for the family of the late Mr Martin to have received Walker’s sympathies.
Yesterday there was more evidence of his determination to defy public and political opinion. Walker sent out a press release welcoming plans for a viewing platform on the Forth Bridge. One wonders how chuffed Network Rail were when their new structure was hailed as a “major tourist attraction” which will “bring a substantial boost of economy of west Fife” by the local MSP, currently awaiting sentence for decades of domestic abuse.
As a convicted criminal, he is a discredited figure, who is nothing other than an embarrassment to Scottish political life.
Walker is under no obligation to go. The fact that he was tried under a summary complaint means that he can only be sentenced to a maximum of 12 months in prison. The law states that a politician has to be sentenced to over a year before he can be forced from office. MSPs, including many former colleagues in the SNP are of the view that he must go.
As of last night 82 out of 129 MSPs had signed a Holyrood motion urging him to quit. The figure would be higher were it not for the parliamentary convention which suggests that the Scottish Government’s 21 ministers do not sign motions. A few others are waiting for all legal proceedings to be finished before they put pen to paper. Others feel they cannot sign it because they sit on the SNP disciplinary committee dealing with Walker’s expulsion from the party.
This outpouring of disapproval looks as though it will be water off a duck’s back to Walker, who appears to want to sit tight and pick up his £58,000 salary. There is also the not very small matter of a £29,000 resettlement grant when he eventually goes at the next election and a £7,000-a-year pension.
The truth of the matter, however, is that there cannot be a MSP at Holyrood who believes that Bill Walker should retain his seat – apart from a certain Bill Walker, of course.