BILL Walker has bowed to political and public pressure and quit Holyrood following his conviction for 23 charges of domestic assault against three ex-wives and a step-daughter.
His resignation will trigger a by-election in the Dunfermline constituency that he won in the Scottish election of 2011 before the allegations of wife-beating against him came to light.
The 71-year-old former SNP MSP blamed media pressure for his resignation saying it was now “impossible” for him to represent his constituents in Dunfermline.
Walker had faced a clamour of opposition from those who believed that he should step down for the sake of the Scottish Parliament’s reputation.
His resignation was submitted to the Scottish Parliament last night and a Holyrood spokeswoman said it would be effective from tomorrow.
In a short statement Walker said: “It has been increasingly difficult for my wife and my staff to deal with the media interest in my case. That same media onslaught has also made it impossible to properly represent my constituents and their interests.
“My trial process on domestic abuse charges still continues at Edinburgh Sheriff Court with the sentence not due to be announced until September 20 after the receipt of the reports ordered by the court. However, circumstances have made it very difficult to continue as MSP, hence my decision to withdraw now.”
He added: “It has been a pleasure since May 2011 to serve the people of the Dunfermline constituency.”
Despite his conviction last month at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Walker’s statement struck a defiant tone.
“As several other serving members of the parliament have bravely tried to point out, the court proceedings have not yet concluded,” Walker said.
“After September 20, there will be an opportunity for me to consider whether there are grounds for appeal and, under legal advice from my solicitor, I shall be making no further comment at this stage.”
Last night, a Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said that it would be up to Tricia Marwick, the Presiding Officer, to decide when the Dunfermline by-election would be held.
The spokeswoman said: “The Presiding Officer has received the resignation of Bill Walker, effective from Monday. There will now be a by-election in Dunfermline and she will consider when that will take place and notify the political parties in due course.”
After he was found guilty, the initial indications were that Walker would try to hang on to his £58,000 a year MSP’s salary. Had he stuck the job out until the next Scottish election he would have also been in line for a £29,000 resettlement grant and a £7,000-a-year pension.
Under the law as it stands, he would have been able to stay even if he is jailed for a year – the longest sentence that could be imposed against him given that he was tried under summary procedure.
Politicians can only be removed from parliament if they are sentence to “more than” 12 months.
Walker had come under intense political pressure to quit with both Alex Salmond, the First Minister, and his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, calling on him to go. Marwick had asked Holyrood officials to look at docking Walker’s salary by 90 per cent during any jail sentence he might serve.
The vast majority of MSPs had signed a motion tabled by the Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie suggesting that he was unfit to carry on as an MSP.
A few hours before Walker made his resignation announcement Salmond had written to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg calling on Westminster to give the Scottish Parliament power to disqualify disgraced MSPs from Holyrood.
His decision was greeted with some relief from MSPs, who were still angry that it had taken him so long to do the decent thing.
“Good,” said Rennie. “Bill Walker should have understood immediately the gravity of his situation but it has taken sixteen days for the penny to drop.
“It is sad that he continues to blame others instead of taking responsibility himself for his own actions.
“It would have been wrong for someone convicted of so many counts of domestic violence to return to Parliament. I’m pleased he’s gone.
“The uprising of revulsion from people and Parliament against domestic violence is one of the satisfying features of this sorry episode.”
Rennie added: “The message is clear: we will not tolerate domestic violence.”