Bid to allow law-breaking or failing MSPs to be booted from office

A proposed Bill would allow for the dismissal of members from office.

Bid to allow law-breaking or failing MSPs to be booted from office iStock

A bid has been launched to introduce legislation that would enable the removal of MSPs who fail to carry out their duties.

It would allow for the dismissal of members from office if they do not take part in parliamentary proceedings for more than six months without a valid reason.

The moves come in the wake of Derek Mackay’s resignation as finance secretary back in February 2020.

But, despite Mackay quitting the Cabinet, he stayed on as an MSP until the Holyrood election in May 2021.

During that time, he continued to collect a salary, despite not attending meetings or votes in parliament.

The proposed change would bring the Scottish Parliament into line with local authorities who already have the rule in place for councillors.

The 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.

Additionally, the Bill will consider establishing a system of recall for MSPs – allowing voters to trigger a special election to remove an MSP who has been sanctioned for breaching rules.

A consultation on the proposals has been launched by the Scottish Conservatives, with a closing date for responses set for April 13 this year.

Scottish Conservative MSP Graham Simpson urged fellow members at Holyrood to back the proposal.

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

“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.”

Simpson added: “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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