As FM grapples with Westminster scandal...
Tory calls for inquiry into love triangle MPs’ expenses
Scottish Conservative deputy leader, Jackson Carlaw has written to the parliamentary standards commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, calling for an investigation into the behaviour of two SNP MPs involved in affairs with the same woman.
Mr Carlaw notes that “it has been alleged in several media reports” that Angus MacNeil and SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie had “conducted their respective affairs in either accommodation or hotels paid for by the taxpayer”.
He said this would break rules over members only using expenses “in support of parliamentary duties”, and nothing that could “cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons”.
The SNP has refuted the allegations, saying it is “totally wrong” to suggest that any “financial impropriety” had taken place.
Ms Sturgeon is trying to avoid the distraction of the scandal involving Mr Hosie, 53, and Mr MacNeil, 45, who have been having involved with a 36-year-old parliamentary journalist.
Ms Sturgeon did not mention the scandal during his acceptance speech to MSPs in Holyrood, but she will be giving the matter serious attention, not least because Mr Hosie is in charge of the plan to revive its campaign for Scottish independence.
The two MPs were involved with Serena Cowdy, an Oxford-educated former actress who has also worked as a TV presenter and is currently a political journalist with Parliament’s The House magazine. The affairs took place at different times.
Miss Cowdy is said to have told friends that she saw SNP MPs as romantic revolutionaries, describing them as ‘the Mujahideen of British politicians’.
A friend of Miss Cowdy told the Daily Mail: “She was having an affair with Angus MacNeil during the Scottish independence referendum campaign – and boasted that when he was on TV talking about it, she’s texted him and he’d looked at his phone. He used to take her to the Park Plaza hotel in Waterloo for the night. Now she’s with Stewart Hosie and has been for some time and it’s very serious.”
Ms Cowdy has described herself as ‘a bona fide nut magnet’. She says that those who are drunk or ‘misfire socially’ tend to gravitate towards her.
In a blog, she wrote:”If there’s someone who is in any way eccentric, unstable, drunk, on drugs, or otherwise misfiring socially, you can absolutely guarantee they will gravitate towards me in a public place. They will ignore hundreds of other passers-by, eschew dozens of empty seats on public transport, and beeline towards me..”
This is not the first time Mr MacNeil’s private life has brought shame on the party. In 2007 he was caught with two teenage girls in a hotel room when his pregnant wife Jane was in hospital.
This is the latest controversy to surround the SNP’s Westminster MPs who arrived at the Commons last year in buoyant mood after securing all but three of Scotland’s 59 constituencies.
The group was reduced after two resigned the party whip. Michelle Thomson, the Edinburgh West MP, stood down from the party after it emerged that police were investigating a lawyer who brokered deals for her property firm.
Glasgow East MP Natalie McGarry also resigned after police began investigating claims of missing cash from the Women for Independence movement. She denies any wrongdoing.
Lochhead and Neil step down
This latest scandal has overshadowed Nicola Sturgeon’s appointment of a new Cabinet. Richard Lochhead informed her that he will be stepping down as rural affairs minister because of his wife’s ill-health. Alex Neil, Social Justice minister in the last parliament, has also stepped down.
Mr Lochhead, who has been an active cheerleader for the food and drinks industry, is also focusing on his Moray constituency where his majority in the election this month was slashed by more than 8,000.
He faced heavy criticism over an IT blunder involving payments due under the Common Agricultural Policy which left farmers £500 million out of pocket.
In 2011, Mr Lochhead secured a majority of 10,944 but this time his Conservative opponent Douglas Ross reduced the deficit to 2,875.
A more serious concern for Mr Lochhead is that his wife Fiona is suffering from breast cancer and in a letter to Ms Sturgeon he said he needed to “change the priorities” in his life.
The First Minister said he left “a rich and enduring legacy of achievement” and has hinted at a return to government in due course.
Ms Sturgeon, who was re-elected First Minister yesterday, was formally appointed by the Queen today and took the oath of office at the Court of Session before returning to Bute House to finalise her new front bench team of ministers.