MSPs should face the same recall rules as MPs – Alex Cole-Hamilton

MSPs should face the same recall rules as MPs, Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has said.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said any of his MSPs would have lost the whip if they had been in the same position as Michael Matheson.

On Wednesday, the former health secretary received the heaviest punishment ever given to an MSP at Holyrood, being suspended for 27 days and losing his salary for twice that period.

Westminster’s Recall Act sets out criteria where certain MPs who are found guilty of wrongdoing may be recalled by a petition of constituents, but there is currently no similar rule at Holyrood.

On Thursday, the Scottish Lib Dem leader set out a number of measures his party is seeking to restore trust in “broken politics”.

As well as a right to recall MSPs, he said the deletion of WhatsApp messages in government must stop.

Speaking to journalists, he discussed the recall petition for former MP Margaret Ferrier, who broke Covid rules.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “People see the scandal and secrecy which have bedevilled both governments in recent years and have been horrified.

First Minister’s Questions
Michael Matheson was given a 27-day Holyrood ban (Jane Barlow/PA)

“That (petition) might have just made it and no more – but it made it, they got to the threshold.

“So I think that shows they’ve got that balance quite right.”

He continued: “You can’t make it too easy to recall an MP because it might just be used maliciously.

“But if there is a weight to public sentiment behind that person’s suitability to do the job, then that should be tested.”

He said any Lib Dem MSP in Mr Matheson’s situation “would have lost the Liberal Democrat whip until the investigation had either cleared them, or they’d been exonerated by their own constituents either in a recall or a by-election.”

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