Jailed MSPs pay dock bid goes on after Walker exit

Proposals to dock the pay of MSPs who go to prison will still proceed despite the resignation of disgraced politician Bill Walker whose criminal conviction sparked calls for a review.

The Bill Walker trial has raised the issue to public attention. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Bill Walker trial has raised the issue to public attention. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The Scottish Parliament will debate plans today to cut MSPs’ salaries by 90% while they are in prison.

Electoral law, which is reserved to Westminster, states that MSPs can only be ejected from Holyrood if they are sentenced to more than a year in prison.

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Walker was convicted of a string of domestic abuse offences against his ex-wives in a summary trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court which only has power to imprison him for up to a year when he is sentenced on September 20, giving him the option of continuing as an MSP.

Walker initially rejected a motion to quit, signed by the vast majority of MSPs, and only relented on Saturday after proposals to dock imprisoned MSPs’ pay were presented by the Scottish Parliament corporate body (SPCB).

The amendment to the Scottish Parliament salaries scheme will still be tabled today despite Walker’s resignation, a Scottish Parliament spokesman said.

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Announcing the amendment to MSPs last Thursday, Holyrood Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick said: “The SPCB is strongly persuaded by the proposition that any member who is unable to carry out their full range of functions as a result of being imprisoned should not receive their full salary.

“From reviewing the core functions of a member as set out in the SPCB paper, we recommend that 90% of salary should be withheld for the duration of imprisonment. In recommending this course of action to Parliament, it should be made clear we do not seek to encroach upon the role of the courts. Our approach should in no way be interpreted as a punishment; that is for the courts.

“In recommending this reduced salary provision to parliament, the SPCB is mindful of the legal advice it has received, namely that our decision should be underpinned by the following principles and apply to all members equally, including members of the Scottish Government and parliamentary officeholders.

“The provision made should respect the principle that salary is payable in return for the performance of functions. The provision must not be motivated by punishment, retribution or censure. The provision should be proportionate, of general application, and consistent in its treatment of ordinary MSPs and those office holders and members of the Government who receive a salary supplement.

“I should reiterate that these provisions would apply across the board in all circumstances.”