Commons action

MPs suspend Ferrier, Blackford to leave Commons

Margaret Ferrier and Ian Blackford

A by-election is looming after MPs voted to suspend Margaret Ferrier from the Commons for 30 days for breaching Covid lockdown rules in 2020.

Ms Ferrier won the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency seat for the SNP with a majority of 5,230 in the 2019 election but has been sitting as an independent since losing the party whip over the Covid breach.

The result means a recall petition can now begin. More than 10% of registered voters in the constituency will need to sign the petition for a by-election to be held.

It would be an early test for SNP leader Humza Yousaf, with Labour hopeful of winning the seat following a fall in support for the SNP in the wake of the scandal over its finances.

MPs voted by 185 to 40 in favour of suspending Ferrier from parliament from Wednesday.

She 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”.

She spoke in parliament while awaiting the results of a Covid test during lockdown in September 2020, then took a train home to Glasgow to avoid self-isolating in a London hotel after learning she had tested positive.

Ms Ferrier has previously said she “deeply regretted” her actions but has so far refused to resign as an MP despite facing repeated calls to do so from many of her former SNP colleagues.

Scottish Labour candidate for Rutherglen and Hamilton West Michael Shanks said: “This is welcome news for those of us who live here, but it is a disgrace that Margaret Ferrier has dragged this process out for so long, leaving her constituents unrepresented in Parliament.”

Blackford to leave Commons

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s former Westminster leader, is to stand down as an MP at the next general election.

He has served as MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber since 2015, when he defeated former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy. The Liberal Democrats already have their eye on winning it back.

Mr Blackford led the SNP’s Westminster group for five years and faced four Conservative prime ministers at question time in the Commons.

He stepped down in December until was replaced by Stephen Flynn.

Mr Blackford has been working on producing a paper on Scotland’s industrial future, which he said he hoped would lead to “sustainable enhancement in economic growth, driving investment and better paid jobs in Scotland and raising living standards”.

He added: “I look forward to finishing this work and continuing as the first minister’s business ambassador, on behalf of the SNP.”

Stewart steps down

Transport Minister Kevin Stewart has tendered his resignation to the First Minister and stepped down from his ministerial post for reasons of mental health.

Mr Stewart previously served as the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning from 2016 , and Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care from 2021.  Mr Stewart was appointed Transport Minister in March 2023.

Accepting his resignation, the First Minister thanked him for his service, particularly his support during the pandemic and said he hoped he would feel able to serve again in the future.

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