Covid rule breach MP Ferrier's appeal against suspension rejected

A by-election is now likely to be triggered in Rutherglen and Hamilton West following the ruling by an independent panel.

MP Margaret Ferrier has lost her appeal against a suspension from the House of Commons over breaching Covid-19 rules.

The former SNP MP received a community payback order after admitting speaking in parliament while awaiting the results of a Covid test in 2020.

The Westminster standards watchdog recommended a 30-day suspension from all Commons activity, which Ferrier appealed, while she had the whip removed by the party.

But a by-election could be triggered in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency as a result of the decision after the independent representative’s sanction was upheld by the UK parliament’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP).

Their ruling stated that Ferrier “acted with blatant and deliberate dishonest intent”, adding she “acted selfishly, putting her own interests above the public interest”.

Ferrier was also criticised for failing to provide a “detailed timeline” of events to the commissioner investigating the incident.

If an MP is suspended from the Commons for more than ten days, then a recall petition can be launched seeking a new vote.

Labour has already selected modern studies teacher Michael Shanks to fight the election, should one be held.

Ferrier won the seat in 2019 with almost 24,000 votes.

MPs will now be asked to vote on whether the 30-day sanction, which is being imposed as her behaviour also breached the House of Commons Code of Conduct, should go ahead.

There has never been a recall petition in Scotland since the procedure was introduced in 2015.

Dismissing Ferrier’s appeal against the proposed 30-day suspension, the Independent Expert Panel said: “She acted with blatant and deliberate dishonest intent.

“She acted with a high degree of recklessness to the public and to colleagues and staff at the House of Commons.

“She acted selfishly, putting her own interests above the public interest. There could therefore be no lesser sanction for this conduct.”

The report stressed that MPs are “expected to be held to a high standard of conduct as well as honesty”.

It added: “When members fall short of that conduct, the trust and confidence in Parliament and its members are undermined.”

Ferrier had argued that the proposed 30-day ban “amounts to double jeopardy, since she has already been penalised by the Sheriff Court”.

But the report from the Independent Expert Panel said: “We do not agree. There is no double jeopardy here.”

It insisted the criminal proceedings against Ms Ferrier and the “workplace disciplinary proceedings” she now faces “are quite different”.

The report went on to describe her as being “dishonest”, pointing out she had not told anyone at the Commons she had tested for Covid, and when his came back positive, she failed to inform the Parliamentary test and trace team and did not tell the SNP chief whip.

The panel stated: “Ferrier’s failure was not a single misjudgement, but a series of deliberate actions over several days.”

The report said the MP’s actions “demonstrated, in particular, a lack of honesty” – adding that this was one of “seven principles of public life”.

At a time when others “both across the country and within the Parliamentary community, made significant sacrifices in order to follow the rules and guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic”, the report said Ms Ferrier “knowingly exposed others to risk”.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said the failure of Ferrier’s appeal meant that “by-election that the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West need has moved one step closer”.

Baillie added: “It is simply disgraceful that this community has been left without proper representation due to the actions of Margaret Ferrier.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat deputy leader Wendy Chamberlain MP said: “At a time when so many Scots were staying home to keep themselves and others safe, Margaret Ferrier acted with real recklessness.

“Today’s news takes us one step closer to a recall petition and a long overdue by-election.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “There must now be a by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, which the SNP has been calling for since Ms Ferrier’s Covid rule breach first came to light in 2020.

“The SNP is ready to take the fight to the Tories and pro-Brexit Labour Party at that by-election – and we will be putting the cost of living, NHS and independence at the heart of our campaign.

“We will be working hard for every vote to ensure the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West can have a strong SNP MP to stand up for their interests locally and for Scotland.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code