Consultation launched on new law linked to Derek Mackay allowing MSPs to be removed from office

A consultation has been launched on a new law that would allow MSPs to be removed from office.

The Removal from Office and Recall Bill is being brought forward by Scottish Conservative MSP Graham Simpson.

It would see MSPs automatically dismissed if they failed to take part in Holyrood proceedings for more than six months without a valid reason.

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Former SNP minister Derek Mackay resigned in disgrace but clung on as an MSP. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images

The move, which follows the Derek Mackay scandal, would bring the Scottish Parliament into line with councils.

Mr Mackay resigned from his role as finance secretary in February 2020 over messages he had sent to a 16-year-old schoolboy.

However, he clung on as an MSP until the May 2021 election, despite disappearing from public view.

Mr Simpson's Bill would also ensure the automatic removal from office of any MSP sentenced to a prison term regardless of the length of sentence.

Current legislation states that jail terms need to be longer than a year for an MSP to be unseated.

The Bill will also consider establishing a system of recall for MSPs, allowing voters to trigger a special election to remove a politician who has been sanctioned for breaching rules.

A similar system was introduced in Westminster in 2015 in the aftermath of the expenses scandal.

Mr Simpson said: “I am delighted to launch the consultation for this Bill, which will address anomalies within our Scottish Parliament.

“The vast majority of MSPs enter politics to serve their constituents to the best of their ability, but in all parties there may be members who have abused their position or failed to meet the high standards expected of them.

"This Bill will provide the levers to remove them from office.

“The taxpayer should not be paying for an empty seat in the Parliament debating chamber, nor should constituents be left unrepresented if their MSP is serving jail time.

“This Bill is common sense and would reassure the public that MSPs will be held to account for their misconduct, rather than being able to claim a salary while hiding away and running down the clock on their term.

"I urge fellow MSPs of all parties to back it.”

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