SNP considers immediate suspensions for those facing misconduct charges

Former First Minister Alex Salmond faced intense scrutiny last month when allegations of sexual misconduct emerged. He has denied all criminality. Picture:  Ian MacNicol/Getty
Former First Minister Alex Salmond faced intense scrutiny last month when allegations of sexual misconduct emerged. He has denied all criminality. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty

After criticism of their handling of Alex Salmond's sexual misconduct case, the party could be introducing tougher new rules for those accused of wrongdoing.

Changes have been proposed to the SNP's disciplinary procedures in the wake of recent sexual misconduct scandals.

If enacted, the new rules would allow for 'precautionary suspensions' in the cases of SNP politicians or activists awaiting further investigation for misconduct allegations.


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The new disciplinary rules will be voted upon at the party's October conference, in Glasgow. If enacted, they will form part of a planned overhaul to the SNP's constitution, the first since 2004.

The timing works in favour of former First Minister Alex Salmond. Had the rules been in place last month, he could have faced immediate suspension in the face of emerging sexual misconduct allegations dating back to 2013.

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The SNP faced intense scrutiny, with Nicola Sturgeon declaring there was "no legal basis" to suspend Mr Salmond. The party itself has received no formal complaints regarding Mr Salmond's conduct. Mr Salmond, who subsequently resigned from the SNP, strongly denies all criminality.

He has previously spoken out against rapid action in such cases, "I always thought it a very poor idea to suspend any party member on the basis of complaints and allegations. Innocent until proven guilty is central to our concept of justice."

The current SNP constitution states that members may only be suspended by the National Secretary if they have broken party rules.

Whereas the proposed changes state, “The National Secretary may suspend a member from exercising any or all rights of membership while investigations are being investigated and considered. In all cases where this action has been taken, the suspension will be regularly reviewed.”

The hopes are the disciplinary process within the SNP - which has a reputation for being slow - would become swifter and more malleable.

As it stands, discipline can be enacted by admonishment, suspension, or expulsion.

But the new rules would allow for a range of actions to be taken: members may have their party rights restricted, be asked to undertake appropriate training, restorative action such as an apology, or be sanctioned as the situation requires.

"The new rules provide more flexible sanctioning and suspension powers," said an SNP spokesperson.

In introducing the proposals, National Secretary Angus MacLeod said he hoped they would improve and modernise the SNP's disciplinary processes, better equipping the party to deal with issues such as bullying, harassment, and social media use.