SNP ‘could not have been clearer’ in response to MP’s rule breach

Nicola Sturgeon has said the SNP “could not have been clearer” in its response to Margaret Ferrier’s breach of coronavirus rules.

The First Minister said the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP’s actions were “not defensible” and she reiterated her call for Ms Ferrier to resign from the House of Commons.

It comes after Ms Ferrier claimed she was “hung out to dry” by the party after posting a scripted statement in which she admitted breaking the rules.

In an interview with The Scottish Sun, published on Monday, she said the whip was withdrawn about an hour after the statement was released – a decision she feels was based on the public outcry over her actions.

First Ministers Questions
First Ministers Questions

The First Minister was asked about Ms Ferrier during the daily coronavirus briefing on Monday.

She said: “I don’t think the SNP could have been clearer about all of this.

“What she did was not defensible because it potentially put people at risk and was a clear and flagrant breach of the rules.

“So she had the whip removed and she was suspended from the SNP, there is a process now – political parties have to comply with due process – that process will be gone through.

“And I think she should resign from the House of Commons but I don’t have the power to force her to do that.”

The First Minister said the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford had spoken to Ms Ferrier about withdrawing the whip following the revelations about her train journeys after developing coronavirus symptoms.

It is usual for someone in Ms Ferrier’s position to be given assistance in putting together a statement, Ms Sturgeon said.

Ms Ferrier has previously said the infection caused her to act “out of character” and she has no intention of standing down as an MP.

The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP said the party initially told her to post the statement on social media but informed her the whip was being removed during a second conference call the same day.

She told The Scottish Sun: “It was because the statement went out and it escalated.

“They pushed me to make a self-referral to the standards commissioner straight away.

“I was intending to refer myself anyway. You can imagine how sad and angry I was.

“I felt I was being hung out to dry.”

Earlier on Monday, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard accused the SNP of helping Ms Ferrier “spin her way out of the mess that she had created”.

He said: “While Ian Blackford and Nicola Sturgeon have both sought to distance themselves from Ms Ferrier, it is clear that the SNP was more than happy to help her attempt to explain her heinous actions.

“The SNP may have turned on Margaret Ferrier but they only did so after it became clear that the public were not going to buy their excuses.”

A spokesman for the SNP said: “Margaret Ferrier’s actions were reckless and indefensible.

“The SNP took swift and decisive action to remove the whip and suspend her from the party.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further while there is a police investigation ongoing and an internal process under way.”