Sarwar: Ferrier should do right thing and resign before by-election
Margaret Ferrier should “do the right thing” and resign after the former SNP MP lost an appeal over a proposed 30-day Commons ban, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said.
The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP, who now sits as an independent, could now face a by-election after she breached Covid rules in 2020 by travelling by train from Scotland to England while positive for the virus.
Ms Ferrier appealed against the punishment recommended by the Commons Standards Committee, however the Independent Expert Panel confirmed her challenge had been rejected.
MPs will now be asked to vote on the 30-day ban in the Commons, with an MP who misses 10 sitting days due to suspension at risk of a by-election – but 10% of voters in her constituency must sign a recall petition.
There has never been a recall petition in Scotland since the procedure was introduced in 2015.
While on the campaign trail in Cambuslang, which is part of Ms Ferrier’s constituency, Mr Sarwar urged former colleagues of Ms Ferrier to approve the suspension.
However, he appealed to Ms Ferrier to put her constituents first by stepping down from the post.
He said: “At every single stage of this process, Margaret Ferrier has done the wrong thing.
“She has one final chance to do the right thing and resign as the local MP and allow the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West to have a fresh start and elect an MP that’s on their side.
“If she fails to do that, then I’m calling on both SNP and Tory MPs to vote for this sanction when it comes before them in the House of Commons and then allow the people of this constituency to participate in that recall petition.
“I am confident if that happens they will with overwhelming numbers reject Margaret Ferrier, meaning we have a by-election here.”
Constituents on Ms Ferrier’s doorstep are “furious” that the issue has dragged on for “far too long”, Mr Sarwar said, adding “every step of the way, this individual is trying to keep her job rather than actually standing up for the community that needs proper support”.
Ms Ferrier, who was elected in 2019 with a 5,000 vote majority, has already been ordered to complete a 270-hour community payback order by a court after admitting culpably and recklessly exposing the public “to the risk of infection, illness and death” as a result of her behaviour.
Dismissing Ms Ferrier’s appeal, 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.”
Scottish Labour have put forward teacher Michael Shanks as the candidate vying for the seat in a potential by-election and the general election, however the SNP are yet to select their candidate.
Mr Sarwar said his party are “going all out” to win in the constituency as the party pushes for a Labour majority in Westminster.
His party’s electoral recovery starts in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, he said.
Scottish Liberal Democrat deputy leader Wendy Chamberlain MP said: “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.”
Scottish Tory MSP Graham Simpson said Ms Ferrier’s actions were “reckless” and echoed calls for her to resign.
He added: “Instead, it looks like she will brazenly continue to take her MP salary until the bitter end.”