Bill Walker: MSPs unite behind ‘quit’ motion

Some 89 MSPs are calling on Bill Walker to step down after being convicted of domestic abuse. Picture: Neil Hanna
Some 89 MSPs are calling on Bill Walker to step down after being convicted of domestic abuse. Picture: Neil Hanna
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CONVICTED wife-beater Bill Walker is facing growing pressure to quit from other MSPs and protesters as the Scottish Parliament returns today after the summer recess.

Walker is not expected to return to parliament before his sentencing on 20 September for 23 assaults and one breach of the peace charge.

A total of 89 of Holyrood’s 129 MSPs have signed a motion calling on Walker to resign immediately as the representative for Dunfermline.

The 21 Scottish government ministers have not signed it, in line with parliamentary convention that only backbenchers put their names to motions, although Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have publicly called on Walker to quit.

Holyrood’s Presiding Officer likewise does not sign parliamentary motions, leaving just 17 back-benchers who have yet to add their names to the list.

Alex Fergusson is among them. He insisted independent Walker had “no right to be an elected representative”, but the Tory MSP said he would wait until “justice runs its course” before backing the motion.

Walker said last week that he “never had any plans” to quit, despite being found guilty of a series of attacks on his three ex-wives and a stepdaughter.

He cannot be disqualified because he received a summary trial in a sheriff court, meaning he can only be handed a maximum sentence of 12 months. A sentence of more than 12 months brings automatic disqualification.

Anti-domestic violence groups Scottish Women’s Aid and Zero Tolerance, as well as national student body NUS Scotland, will this afternoon stage a rally outside Holyrood in an attempt to force Walker to resign.

Lily Greenan of Scottish Women’s Aid said Walker’s offences meant he was “not suitable to hold public office” and called on parliament “to use any means at its disposal to remove him”. Jenny Kemp of Zero Tolerance said Walker “does not deserve” to be an MSP, while Stacey Devine, NUS Scotland Women’s Officer, said he “has no shame, and needs to resign now”.

A proposal to strip Walker of his parliamentary salary if he is jailed is already being considered by Holyrood authorities. Walker was expelled from the SNP when reports about his abusive behaviour came to light last year.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who lodged the motion calling for Walker’s resignation, said: “Now parliament has spoken with one voice and is repulsed by the actions of one of its own, we should use this unanimity as a trigger for a new, concerted campaign against domestic violence.”

Of the others who have not signed the motion, Labour MSP Helen Eadie, deputy convener of the standards committee, said she could be “precluded” from voting on the case if she did so, or expressed any views publicly on the issue.

Independent MSP John Finnie said he would not “sign at this time” and wanted to wait for “due process” over Walker’s sentence and any parliamentary proceedings.

Michael Keating, a professor of politics at Aberdeen University, said: “Ministers don’t sign back-bench motions because it’s viewed as a good way for backbenchers to express their views, with ministers staying out of it. There’s no big constitutional issue. The issue is, how does the parliament get rid of Walker?”

The motion

That the parliament believes that Bill Walker MSP should vacate his seat in the Parliament immediately.

Scottish Green Party Patrick Harvie, Alison Johnstone

Scottish Labour Drew Smith, John Pentland, David Stewart, Hanzala Malik, Mark Griffin, Ken Macintosh, Anne McTaggart, Johann Lamont, Michael McMahon, Siobhan McMahon, Rhoda Grant, Hugh Henry, Neil Findlay, Sarah Boyack, Richard Simpson, Claudia Beamish, Paul Martin, Margaret McDougall, Malcolm Chisholm, Iain Gray, Kezia Dugdale, Jackie Baillie, Lewis Macdonald, Jayne Baxter, Jenny Marra, Graeme Pearson, Neil Bibby, Mary Fee, Claire Baker, Elaine Murray, Patricia Ferguson, James Kelly, Duncan McNeil, Richard Baker, Margaret McCulloch

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Ruth Davidson, Annabel Goldie, Mary Scanlon, Jamie McGrigor, Gavin Brown, John Lamont, Liz Smith, Jackson Carlaw, Nanette Milne, Murdo Fraser, Margaret Mitchell

SNP Gordon MacDonald, Jim Eadie, Willie Coffey, Kenneth Gibson, Bruce Crawford, Colin Beattie, Christian Allard, Nigel Don, Roderick Campbell, Gil Paterson, Sandra White, Stewart Maxwell, Christina McKelvie, Angus MacDonald, Clare Adamson, George Adam, Bill Kidd, Dennis Robertson, Marco Biagi, Aileen McLeod, Graeme Dey, Chic Brodie, John Mason, Joan McAlpine, Stuart McMillan, Maureen Watt, David Torrance, Adam Ingram, Annabelle Ewing, Rob Gibson, Jamie Hepburn, Mike MacKenzie, Kevin Stewart, Stewart Stevenson, James Dornan, Mark McDonald

Scottish Liberal Democrats Tavish Scott, Liam McArthur, Alison McInnes, Jim Hume

Independent Jean Urquhart