Mark McDonald reveals he defied calls to resign as a MSP because his inappropriate behaviour towards women did not constitute a criminal offence.
Appearing at Holyrood for the first time in four months, the Aberdeen Donside MSP faced the press and said he would not “antagonise or upset” anyone when he returned to the Scottish Parliament.
Mr McDonald had not been seen at Holyrood since November when he resigned as children’s minister after admitting that his conduct had fallen short of that expected of an elected representative.
Last week he resigned from the SNP and indicated his intention to stay on as an independent MSP - pre-empting the publication of a party investigation into complaints made by three women.
After interviewing 18 witnesses the allegations made by two of the women were substantiated. They included inappropriate and unwanted text and social media messages, unwanted attention causing distress, persistent behaviour over an extended period of time and exploiting his position of power.
At a press conference at Holyrood, it was pointed out to Mr McDonald that he had signed a 2013 Holyrood motion calling for the immediate resignation of the former SNP MSP Bill Walker, who attempted to stay in his job despite facing accusations of domestic abuse.
Mr Walker eventually stood down two weeks after his conviction on several charges of assaulting women.
When asked why he should be treated differently, Mr McDonald said: “Bill Walker was convicted of a criminal offence and that was the thing that led to him leaving parliament at that time. At no stage in this process has there been any indication or suggestion that my conduct was criminal and that remains the case.”
Mr McDonald had been asked how it made him feel that one of his victims had felt unable to come in to work at the parliament due to his presence there.
The MSP replied: “I have said throughout this process and I will say again I am not coming back to parliament to antagonise anybody or to upset anybody.
“I am coming back to do the job that I was elected to do on behalf of my constituents, to represent their interests.
“I’m here to keep my head down and do the job that I was elected to do.
“I’m not here to cause any upset or antagonism for people and that is the approach that I will be taking.”
He insisted he did not believe resigning and causing a by-election was the right thing to do.
The married father-of-two said: “I want to be able to demonstrate the reflections that I’ve undertaken and the commitment I’ve made to improve my conduct and behaviour going forward.
“I don’t think a by election campaign affords that opportunity to demonstrate that fully to people.”
Nicola Sturgeon has called on Mr McDonald to resign from parliament while his former SNP colleague James Dornan has made a formal complaint over his return, stating his presence would be a “clear negation” of the duty of care the Scottish Parliament has to its staff.
Facing the media, Mr McDonald was repeatedly asked to disclose what exactly he had done to upset women. Mr McDonald declined to give any details.
Mr McDonald has been allocated a temporary office in the parliament’s basement near the car park doors, away from his former colleagues who had objected to him returning to the SNP corridor.
As he left the press conference room, one journalist shouted out: “Have you any friends left in this building, Mr McDonald?”