Nicola Sturgeon has broke her silence over Bill Walker’s assault convictions, saying she wished the politician had never been selected to represent the SNP.
The Deputy First Minister added her voice to the calls for Walker’s resignation after he was found guilty of a series of
attacks on his three ex-wives and a step-daughter over nearly three decades.
Pressure for the Dunfermline MSP to quit escalated further when Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie tabled a motion in parliament saying he should vacate his seat immediately.
But speculation that Walker might try to cling on to his £58,097-a-year job intensified when the disgraced politician took part in Holyrood business yesterday morning.
Walker signed a different parliamentary motion, via email, which expressed sadness at the death of former Aberdeen and Scotland goalkeeper, Fred Martin.
If Walker defies political opinion and remains an MSP until the next Scottish election, he will pick up a resettlement grant of £29,000 when he leaves Holyrood. He will also be entitled to a £7,000-a-year pension.
Last night, Ms Sturgeon said: “It is of course the case that knowing what is now known about Bill Walker, we all wish that he had been prevented from becoming an SNP candidate. Indeed, as soon as the evidence of the charges he was yesterday convicted of came to light, he was expelled from the party. The fact is that Bill Walker is the guilty party here. He has no place in public life and he should do what every right-thinking person wants him to do and stand down from parliament.”
In a statement issued yesterday, Ms Sturgeon also insisted that she was unaware of allegations of violent behaviour against Walker, which her office had been alerted to around five years ago when the politician was an SNP councillor.
The Deputy First Minister has been under pressure to explain why Walker was chosen as an SNP Holyrood candidate for the 2011 Scottish election.
Labour had demanded an explanation from Ms Sturgeon, because a member of her staff had been presented with claims about Walker’s violent character in 2008 by Rob Armstrong, brother-in-law of the politician’s third wife.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Mr Armstrong met with a member of my staff and as his complaint was a party matter. The matter was quite correctly referred to SNP HQ where an investigation was conducted. As it did not relate in any way to my work as a constituency MSP, I was not made aware of the situation. My constituency office gets a very large volume of contacts from people who are not constituents but who want to raise party issues.
“As my staff are not employed by the SNP, these matters are quite rightly passed on to the party. The member of staff who spoke to Mr Armstrong acted absolutely appropriately.”
The Deputy First Minister said an SNP HQ investigation did not find any relevant evidence and the inquiry was closed.
Since then, the SNP has changed its internal procedures to ensure that relevant information, whether backed by hard evidence or not, is passed on to the party’s election committee.
At Edinburgh Sheriff Court this week, Walker, 71, was found guilty of 23 charges of assault and one of breach of the peace.
As he was tried under summary procedure, the maximum jail sentence that can be imposed is 12 months. A politician is only compelled by law to quit parliament if given a jail sentence of “more than” one year.