Holyrood chiefs want powers to kick out MSPs for gross misconduct

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Party chiefs today called for change at Holyrood that would allow MSPs to be kicked out if they are found guilty of gross misconduct or criminal acts.

Senior MSPs said they felt the system in Scotland leaves them “helpless” to act against colleagues guilty of wrongdoing.

Party chiefs want more powers to kick out badly behaved MSPs

Party chiefs want more powers to kick out badly behaved MSPs

It follows this week’s case of Mark McDonald, as well as wife-beating Bill Walker, in which politicians remain in their seats in the face of calls to stand down after wrong doing.

The issue came under the spotlight at Holyrood’s Standards committee, which took evidence from party business managers on a recent survey of parliamentary staff revealing one fifth had suffered some form of sexual harassment.

But Nationalist Tom Arthur asked about how some form of “ultimate sanction” could be applied to MSPs.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said he had been a “long term advocate” of a system of recall.

But he said: “You need to be careful, that it’s not being used for political motives, that it’s based on disciplinary issues.”

He said MSPs should look at the Westminster system which allows MPs to be recalled if they’ve received a prison sentence of less than 12 months, if they’ve had a suspension from the standard committee or if they’ve submitted fraudulent expenses.

“I think that would in some way help us to police ourselves in certain circumstances,” he said.

“We’ve had a number of individual cases, which I won’t mention in the parliament, going back a number of years as well and we’ve felt helpless to do anything about it.”

Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said he would have “serious concerns” about a recall system over issues like sexual harassment as it would turn a serious disciplinary matter into a “public campaign.”

But added: “I think there is a far stronger case for reviewing the disqualification criteria which currently exists and ensuring that - like in any other workplace - where certain standards of behaviour have been failed, there is a disciplinary process which can result in somebody being dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct.”

Labour’s Rhoda Grant also backed calls for change.

“There has to be a process that deals with someone whose behaviour has fallen short and it shouldn’t be a political process, it shouldn’t be a public process.”

“We have standards commissioners and the like that look at people’s behaviour so we should be looking at that system to see, if there are ways, when a case it proven against a person, when their behaviour has fallen way short of what we expect from an elected representative that there are steps that can be taken.”

Mr McDonald announced he was quitting the SNP this week after a damning party report which found he pestered women with “unwanted” attention, sent inappropriate text messages and abused his position of power. But he has said he will remain as the Aberdeen Donside MSP, sitting as an Independent. Mr Walker did eventually stand down after months of pressure following domestic abuse convictions in 2013.

SNP business manager Bill Kidd said the issue of future action against MSPs could be taken forward through Holyrood’s corporate body.

The Glasgow MSP suggested Holyrood could borrow from other Parliaments and come up with “new ideas, as to how we handle the future prospects of those who have either committed gross misconduct or criminal acts.”

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