Shamed MSP Mark McDonald has denied he is a sex pest as he admitted to being “disappointed” at how long the SNP had taken to carry out a probe into sexual harassment claims.
Three women have alleged the MSP for Aberdeen Donside engaged in “persistent” behaviour including inappropriate and unwanted text messages, unwanted attention and exploiting his position of power.
Mr McDonald quit the SNP and apologised last week after an ongoing internal investigation into the allegations.
The married father-of-two, who resigned as childcare minister when the allegations first came to light in November, plans to return to the Scottish Parliament this week as an independent MSP.
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland this morning, Mr McDonald again apologised for his actions towards the unidentified women.
Asked if he was a “sex pest”, the MSP said “no”.
Mr McDonald added: “I think I’m somebody who has made mistakes in his past and I’ve accepted that I’ve made those mistakes.
“I’ve apologised sincerely and in a heartfelt manner for those mistakes and I’m asking for the opportunity to demonstrate that I’ve learned from those mistakes and my behaviour has changed and that’s the spirit that I intend to come back.
“There were instances where I accept my conduct and behaviour and conduct towards individuals fell below the standards that I should have been applying to myself.
“I said in my statement I deeply regret that. I deeply regret the hurt and offence that was caused as a result of that and I offered a full and sincere apology to those individuals.
“At the same time I said I wanted to demonstrate to colleagues, to constituents and others that I had taken the time to reflect, to look carefully at how I conduct myself and how to better conduct myself in future and demonstrate to people that was possible, for people to come back from the mistakes they’ve made.”
Mr McDonald has been urged to quit by one of the women who reported him for inappropriate behaviour.
The woman, who spoke to the Sunday Mail newspaper anonymously, said the behaviour had a “devastating impact” on her and she had decided to speak publicly after being angered by his “media campaign”.
Asked how he could “morally” justify returning to Holyrood as an independent MSP, Mr McDonald said: “Morally I can justify this because my approach to this has been to own the mistakes I have made, but to demonstrate that I’ve learned from them and that I’m capable to changing as a result of those.
“I’m asking people to afford me that opportunity and I hope people will do that.
“I accept that many relationships are going to have to be rebuilt. Some people will want nothing to do with me and I have to regretfully accept that, but there are some people who I think will want to offer me that opportunity to demonstrate that I’ve learned from this and that I’m changing.”
Mr McDonald said he didn’t feel a by-election campaign where his right to stay in Parliament was put to voters was the “appropriate way” to show his behaviour had changed.
Quizzed on what he would do when he met any of the complainants in Holyrood following his return, Mr McDonald said: “I will be doing nothing to either seek or directly contact the individuals who were involved in the investigation. That’s not something I intend to do.
“I accept that (it will be difficult for them). That’s why I have sought at every stage in this process to accept the mistakes that I have made, to apologise for those mistakes, to apologise for the hurt and offence that was caused by those mistakes.
“All I can say is I will be doing my utmost to ensure that I do not put myself or those individuals in any situations on my return to Parliament, which could potentially cause them any upset.”
Mr McDonald said there was no reason why female constituents should feel uneasy about approaching him.
“I would hope that constituents would continue to approach me in the knowledge that I will behave in an entirely professional manner and deal with their constituency cases in the diligent fashion to which I always have,” he said.
SNP colleague James Dornan has called on Mr McDonald to quit.
The Aberdeen Donside MSP said Mr Dornan was entitled to his view as he conceded to being frustrated at the way the SNP’s investigation into his behaviour has been carried out.
“The first thing to say is I’m not a victim in this,” he said.
“I’m not seeking to portray myself as a victim. Yes, this has been a difficult period in terms of the length of time this process has taken and the impact that has had, but that will have been the same for the individuals that came forward who would possibly have been, as I was, to expect this process to have been concluded within a matter of weeks rather than a matter of months.
“I think I’m disappointed in the length of time it took.
“We’re talking two months from when I was suspended by the party to being advised what the allegations against me were. I don’t think that was in the best interests of process, fairness or anything else.”