Tag Archives: MSP

Kezia Dugdale not suspended by Labour over I’m A Celebrity

Kezia DugdaleImage copyright Rex Features
Image caption Kezia Dugdale has arrived in Australia for the show

Kezia Dugdale will not be suspended from the Scottish Labour Party over her decision to join reality TV programme I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!

The MSP and former party leader has been the subject of heated debate after agreeing to join the ITV programme.

Ms Dugdale was not given permission by the party to go on leave to Australia during the Holyrood term.

But a meeting of MSPs on the Scottish Labour group concluded that she “would not face suspension”.

New leader Richard Leonard had previously said he was “not persuaded” that his predecessor should be punished in this manner, despite his own “personal disappointment” and strong criticism from others in the party.

Lothians MSP Ms Dugdale has arrived in Australia and is expected to make her debut on the programme this week.

She is expected to be paid tens of thousands of pounds, part of which she will donate to charity, along with her MSP’s salary for the three weeks she is away.

Image copyright Rex Features

Scottish Labour business manager James Kelly said the MSP group had discussed Ms Dugdale’s “unauthorised leave of absence from her parliamentary duties”, but had decided against sanctioning her in the immediacy.

He said: “Today, the group concluded that Kezia Dugdale would not face suspension.

“In accordance with standard procedure, Kezia Dugdale will be interviewed on her return to parliament and have the opportunity to present her account of events.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Leonard is “disappointed” by Kezia Dugdale’s television appearance

Criticism of Ms Dugdale has chiefly come from within her own party, with fellow MSP Neil Findlay calling the decision “ludicrous” and MP Jess Phillips calling her a “hypocrite”, given she previously called Tory MP Nadine Dorries “daft” for going on the show.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was not something she would want an SNP MSP to do, but also Tweeted that she was on “#TeamKez”.

Ms Dugdale was defended by her partner, the SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth, who told reporters at Holyrood that she was “very proud” of her.

She said: “Why wouldn’t she use that opportunity to get her views across to millions of people? I think some of the comments have been unfair – it’s really hurtful actually that she saw some of that commentary over the weekend.

“She was quite hurt by some of those things but she’s taken a lot of spirit from the good-luck messages she’s had from lots of people. I think Scotland is rooting for her.”


Ex-Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale joins I’m A Celebrity

Kezia DugdaleImage copyright PA

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is to take part in this year‘s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! programme.

The ITV show launches this weekend, with other contestants including Boris Johnson’s father Stanley and former footballer Dennis Wise.

All the other celebrities heading for the jungle were announced on Tuesday.

It is understood Ms Dugdale will donate her MSP salary to charity while she is in Australia.

But her decision to take part in the show was critcised by Scottish Labour MSP Jenny Marra, who tweeted: “Election to parliament is a privilege to serve and represent people. It’s not a shortcut to celebrity.”

Ms Marra, the MSP for North-East Scotland, also questioned whether the announcement was an “April Fool in November”.

Boxer Amir Khan, Coronation Street’s Jennie McAlpine footballer Jamie Vardy’s wife Rebekah, The Saturdays singer Vanessa White and Hollyoaks actor Jamie Lomas will also be taking part.

The personalities will try to last three weeks with each other, and the local wildlife, in the camp.

Scottish Labour is not officially commenting on Ms Dugdale’s last minute inclusion in the line-up, but a party source said it would be a “fantastic opportunity” for the MSP to talk about policies and Labour values on a widely watched show.

“She puts other politicians to shame with her work ethic and I’m sure there will be huge support for her from Scottish viewers while she’s in the jungle.

“She’ll be back in time for the budget and will get straight down to work once again for the people of the Lothians,” the source added.

Image copyright Joel Anderson/ITV
Image caption The rest of the contestants were announced earlier in the week

About 10 million people tune in to the show every night.

Ms Dugdale stood down as Scottish Labour leader in August. Richard Leonard was appointed as her successor on Saturday.

Mark McDonald suspended by SNP after ‘new information’ emerges

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Media caption‘I’ve asked for the chance to change’

A former Scottish government minister who quit over inappropriate behaviour has been suspended by the SNP after “new information” about him emerged.

Mark McDonald stood down as childcare minister earlier this month after admitting his conduct had caused a woman “considerable distress”.

He said at the time he intended to stay on as an SNPMSP – a decision backed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

But the SNP announced late on Thursday afternoon that he had been suspended.

A statement released by the party said: “Following new information being received by the SNP over the course of the last 24 hours relating to the behaviour of Mark McDonald, he has been suspended from both the parliamentary group and the party while further investigation takes place.

“In the interests of due process and appropriate confidentiality no further comment will be made.”

No further details of the new information that the party received has been released.

The SNP had been approached by media organisations, including BBC Scotland, earlier on Thursday following a report in the Scottish Sun that a fresh complaint had been made about Mr McDonald, and that he faced possible suspension.

A spokesman for the party said at the time that it had no knowledge of a second complaint, and that there was no need to consider suspending Mr McDonald – after which the Scottish Sun deleted its original online story.

When he resigned from the Scottish government on 4 November, Mr McDonald apologised for his actions – which are not thought to have been criminal in nature – and said his attempts to be “humorous” or “friendly” may have led others to become uncomfortable.

He said he would be staying on as the MSP for Aberdeen Donside, and pledged to “continue to serve my constituents to the best of my ability.”

Image copyright Scottish government
Image caption The SNP denied earlier on Thursday that a fresh complaint had been made against Mr McDonald

Speaking following his resignation, Ms Sturgeon said Mr McDonald had taken the “right action”, and that his behaviour had been of a kind “that some others may well have thought was not serious enough to resign”.

She added: “He’s a good MSP and he will continue to be so.”

Ms Sturgeon has also said that the complaint against Mr McDonald concerned his language, and not physical contact.

In an interview on Thursday morning, before his suspension was announced, Mr McDonald was asked by BBC Scotland why his conduct had apparently been acceptable for an MSP, but not for a government minister.

Mr McDonald replied: “I have stepped aside as a minister because I felt it was not appropriate for me to continue in my role as a minister.

“My constituents will be the ones who will have the opportunity to watch how I conduct myself, to look at whether my behaviour changes, and they will be the ones to decide at the next election whether they wish to continue to have me as their representative at the parliament.”

‘Apologised profusely’

Mr McDonald also said he had “apologised profusely” for his actions, and asked his constituents to give him a chance to change.

He added: “I am seeking to change how I behave, and I believe people should be given a chance to change.

“I have asked for that chance and I hope my constituents will give me that chance.”

Mr McDonald is one of two SNP members currently being investigated by the party over possible misconduct.

In an article published in the Press and Journal newspaper on Monday, he said he would not go into detail about the allegations against him for the sake of the woman involved.

But he added: “Regardless of context or intent, I accept full responsibility for my actions, and any consequences of them. There is no excuse and never should there be.

“I have apologised unreservedly and I do so again. I am sorry.”

Mr McDonald also revealed that he had accepted an offer of professional support “to help me understand more about the way I behaved, the impact it had upon others and how I can work to ensure my behaviour does change”.

Holyrood evacuation over suspect packages

police and firefighters at Holyrood
Image caption Police and firefighters are at the scene

Part of the Scottish Parliament has been evacuated after three suspicious packages were found.

It is understood the alarm was raised after the packages, at least one of which contained white powder, were sent to the offices of three Tory MSPs.

The parliament said “an incident has occurred and the MSP building at Holyrood has been evacuated”.

Police and firefighters are at the scene, but business elsewhere in the parliament is continuing as normal.

It is understood that packages were sent to Tory MSPs Liz Smith, Jamie Halcro-Johnston and Edward Mountain. One of the packages had white powder inside when it was opened at about 11:30.

Examined by medics

Mr Mountain told BBC Scotland that the packages appeared to have been invitations to the Inverness Courier newspaper’s 200th anniversary celebration.

He did not notice anything unusual about his package, but was later told that the package received by Mr Halcro-Johnston had contained white powder.

Office staff who were there at the time are being examined by medics, and the second and third floors of the building have been closed down.

Image caption Conservative MSP Edward Mountain said the packages appeared to have been invitations to an event organised by a local newspaper

A spokesman for the parliament confirmed: “The incident involved the discovery of suspicious packages in the MSP building. As a precaution the MSP building was evacuated and remains closed.

“Police and other emergency services are on the scene and are dealing with the situation.

“No other areas of the Holyrood campus are currently affected and the parliament remains open to the public at present.

“Our incident management team in consultation with the emergency services are reviewing whether further measures are necessary.”

The parliament’s presiding officer, Ken Macintosh, has been briefed and is meeting other officials to discuss the situation.

Image caption MSPs gathered in the Garden Lobby after the alarm was raised

Top job up for grabs

Labour front bench
Image caption Scottish Labour’s front bench team at Holyrood – could one of them be in the frame for the leadership role?

Kezia Dugdale’s sudden resignation has opened up a leadership contest at the top of the Scottish Labour Party. Who are the frontrunners to replace her?

Scottish Labour has had its own distinct leadership position for six years, but already there have been five incumbents – three full-time (Johann Lamont, Jim Murphy and Ms Dugdale), and two caretakers (Anas Sarwar and Iain Gray).

The previous leadership contest came down to Ms Dugdale and Ken Macintosh, and both are now out of the picture – Ms Dugdale is retiring to the back benches, while Mr Macintosh has a rather more prominent if politically neutral position as Holyrood’s presiding officer.

The party’s Scottish Executive Committee is meeting on Saturday 9 September to decide on the timetable and process of the leadership election, so there is plenty of time for speculation over who could be in the frame for the top job this time round.

Alex Rowley

As the current deputy leader of the party, Alex Rowley technically steps into the breach as caretaker, with Ms Dugdale’s resignation taking immediate effect.

However, he could potentially quit that position to take a tilt at the top job himself.

A former leader of Fife Council, Mr Rowley has leadership experience at local authority level as well as having spent a year as general secretary of the Scottish Labour Party, between 1998 and 1999.

He formerly worked for Gordon Brown, but could look to attract votes from the Corbynite left of the party as well as backing from trade unions.

His daughter Danielle was elected as MP for Midlothian in June’s general election.

Neil Findlay

Seen as Jeremy Corbyn‘s biggest ally in Labour’s Holyrood group and convener of the Scottish Campaign for Socialism group, Neil Findlay was immediately talked about as a potential successor for the Scottish job.

However, he quickly ruled himself out of the contest, saying he would not be putting his name forward.

He endorsed Ms Dugdale in 2015, and has been a vocal presence on the back benches, as well as serving as the convener of Holyrood’s health and sport committee.

Mr Findlay has recently written a memoir, entitled Socialism and Hope, complete with a foreword by Mr Corbyn. He says he prefers to continue in his current role, to “hold the SNP to account, expose the Tories and work towards returning Labour governments at Holyrood and Westminster”.

Anas Sarwar

A former deputy leader of the party, when he was MP for Glasgow Central, Mr Sarwar was interim leader between the tenures of Johann Lamont and Jim Murphy in 2014.

He lost his Westminster seat in 2015, but was returned as an MSP for the Glasgow region the following year.

An experienced politician within the party, he has immediately taken up a prominent role in the group at Holyrood, acting as health spokesman.

Mr Sarwar could be pitched as a more moderate candidate, who could potentially seek support from both sides of the party’s somewhat divided base in Scotland – the only part of the UK where Owen Smith beat Jeremy Corbyn in the 2016 leadership contest.

Jackie Baillie

Jackie Baillie stood in as Labour’s acting leader in the Scottish Parliament while Mr Sarwar was interim leader in 2014.

However, she declined to stand in the leadership election at that point, following Ms Lamont’s departure, saying she preferred a “supporting role”. Could that have changed in the intervening years?

Moderate voices in the party have been pushing her as a possible centrist option, as an alternative to the inevitable Corbynite candidate – whoever that might turn out to be.

An experienced politician, she has been an MSP since the birth of the Scottish Parliament, taking up her seat in 1999. She is also one of the party’s two constituency MSPs, having successfully defended her Dumbarton patch in 2016 – partially thanks to her stout defence of Trident, which props up many local jobs at Faslane.

Richard Leonard

Richard Leonard is a newcomer to parliamentary politics, having been elected to Holyrood on the Central Scotland list in 2016 – but he has been a voice on the left of the Scottish party for some time.

He has a strong trade union background with the GMB and the TUC, and could benefit from pro-Corbyn support if Neil Findlay or Alex Rowley decide not to run.

He is an economy spokesman for the party at Holyrood, and was a key figure in drawing up the party’s industrial strategy for Scotland.

James Kelly

James Kelly, a close ally of Ms Dugdale, could potentially stand as a continuity candidate.

He is currently the party’s business manager at Holyrood, and has been an MSP for a decade; formerly as member for Rutherglen, and for the Glasgow region since 2016.

He also ran the party’s campaign in the 2016 elections, and has served in a series of different roles within the parliamentary group.

Free tampons and towels in pilot tackling ‘period poverty’

Sanitary products in the supermarketImage copyright Getty Images

Women and girls from low income households in parts of Aberdeen are to be offered free sanitary products.

The Scottish government’s pilot project has been designed to tackle “period poverty”.

The move has been welcomed by anti-poverty campaigners, including Ewan Gunn, of The Trussell Trust.

He said there are women and girls in Scotland who use newspaper or toilet paper instead of tampons or towels because they cannot afford to buy them.

It follows a growing campaign demanding “dignity” for women whose budgets do not stretch to sanitary protection.

The pilot scheme will be led by Community Food Initiatives North East social enterprise and it has been launched by equalities secretary Angela Constance.

Mr Gunn told BBC Radio Scotland said period poverty was a “very real, very pertinent issue” in Scotland.

“For me personally, it really came into focus for me a few years ago when a young girl came into the food bank I used to run in Dundee.,” he told the Good Morning Scotland programme.

“She refused feminine hygiene products purely on the basis that she hadn’t had a period for a number of months due to malnutrition.”

Image copyright Getty Images

He said he would like to see universal provision of sanitary products for women and girls.

“It’s something I would hope every woman and girl has access to,” he added.

“We’ve taken evidence across the country of women who supplement that by the use of socks, they would use toilet paper and in some of the worst circumstances, I’ve come into contact with women who supplemented that by the use of newspaper.

“It’s literally as grave as that.”

He added: “Schools and colleges will provide condoms for something that you can abstain from, but you cannot abstain from having your period. We need to find a way that we can provide for this issue right now.”

Essential products

Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who has been campaigning on the issue, called for the government to go further.

She said: “I’m pleased the campaign I have started as an opposition MSP has pushed SNP ministers to act, but the reality is that women and girls urgently need national action now.

“A pilot scheme is a welcome step in the right direction, but we must go much further to help women and girls across the country who are facing a monthly struggle to access the products they need.

“After relentless austerity over the last few years from both the Tories and the SNP, there are too many women and girls in Scotland who are unable to afford essential sanitary products during menstruation due to poverty.

“We need to end period poverty and improve access to sanitary products right across Scotland and that’s why I will soon be launching a consultation on a Member’s Bill proposal which will give all women in Scotland the right to access these products for free, regardless of their income.”

Ruth Davidson accuses SNP of ‘HOSTILE tirades’ after honorary Army role

The Scottish Tory leader hit out at “fury brigades on social media” and Nationalist MP Douglas Chapman for questioning the role with the 32 Signal Regiment in the Commons.

Ms Davidson, who served as a reservist before becoming an MSP, posted an extraordinary online response lambasting the SNP’s “crouching defensiveness”.

She said criticism of the fiveyear post was a “remarkable” sign of the Nationalists’ political weakness and they would previously have “brushed off” such issues.

Ms Davidson warned the criticism would make others “think twice” about taking on similar roles with the Armed Forces amid fears they would .

Her comments follow the bottled water giant’s chief executive Les Montgomery backtracking on comments criticising the drive towards a second independence referendum.

In a series of 35 tweets, the Conservative leader also published correspondence from two senior officers showing she delayed June’s announcement until after the council and general elections.

Ms Davidson said the SNP’s response was “fairly bizarre” and highlighted Mr Chapman’s parliamentary question asking if Ministry of Defence (MoD) processes were followed.

Keith Brown, the SNP’s Veterans Minister, who served in the Falklands War, had also retweeted a post claiming the announcement had been “very inappropriate” and added: “Perception of political bias?”

Ms Davidson said: “I know that the fury brigades on social media react to the slightest trigger, and I am a pretty stout veteran of 2014; but even I wasn’t expecting the hostile and vitriolic tirades that followed the event at Edinburgh Castle to promote Armed Forces Day, encouraged by SNP outriders.

“I know of several people from civic Scotland who have performed such as role with Army or RAF units.

“My fear is that people will think twice about saying yes if they reckon they’re going to get the ‘Highland Spring’ treatment.”

At the weekend Mr Montgomery said businesses are “fed up” with talk of another plebescite but later issued an apology suggesting the remarks had been misconstrued.

It came after the firm was contacted by the Scottish Government and threats of a boycott from so-called “Cybernats” on social media.

But both he and Mr Brown, who is also Economy Secretary, denied the firm had been “intimated” into making a U-turn.

In his reply to Mr Chapman junior Defence Minister Mark Lancaster insisted that the regulations had been followed in Ms Davidson appointment.

He added: “All three Services take care to ensure that appointments have not been made solely on the basis of personal or professional acquaintance or friendship.”

Responding to Ms Davidson’s attack an SNP spokesman said she had gone into “meltdown”.

He added: “These are perfectly legitimate questions – it is only right that an MP can hold the party of government to account.

“Being quite this hot-headed is not a great look for a political leader nor, for that matter, a Colonel.”

But a Scottish Tory spokesman said: “All this episode does is expose the SNP as a party utterly uninterested in speaking up for the Armed Forces.”

Nationalists call to ban British soldiers in Scotland from voting in second referendum

Their desperate demands include forcing media outlets to provide “impartial coverage”, banning any newspapers with a perceived anti-independence bias and launching a publicly-funded TV channel that supports separation.

The nationalists have also urged SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to bar military personnel, second-home owners and foreign students based in Scotland from voting in a second independence referendum.

The crackpot conditions feature in a Scottish Government based on public responses to the SNP leader’s draft Referendum Bill which was sneaked out before MSP’s knocked off for their two-month summer break.

The public consultation seems to have been hijacked by bitter nationalists convinced that bias and corruption cost them the first referendum.

It highlights fears that people who had been “resident for a temporary or short period of time” – such as “students from England or other countries”, members of the British armed forces based north of the Border and those “who own holiday homes in Scotland” – would be allowed to vote in a second poll.

The report follows Ms Sturgeon’s decision to temporarily put her referendum demands on ice after the SNP took a savaging at the General Election.

Highlighting the timing of the report’s publication, James Kelly, a Labour MSP, said: “The Nationalists may claim they have hit reset on the referendum but as a government it is the same old story of cover ups and dodging scrutiny.”

The Scottish Government said the consultation would be “vitally important in ensuring the technical procedures around any future referendum are robust, fair and transparent.”

A spokesman said: “While the First Minister has made clear that the Scottish Government will not seek to introduce the legislation for an independence referendum at this stage, it is crucial that all options should be available to the Scottish Parliament at the conclusion of the Brexit negotiation period.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford told Commons magazine The House he had “no doubt” another referendum will happen and the only question is the timing.

He said: “I’m still the same person I was when I joined the SNP as a teenager. 

“The burning desire I had to see Scottish independence and the desire I have to see a country that looks after the most vulnerable is something that’s always been with me.”

Back in uniform… Ruth Davidson is made honorary colonel of her old regiment

The Scottish Tory leader, formerly a member of 32 Signal Regiment, will fill the post for the next five years and will be asked to act as a figurehead, and counsellor and supporter for its leadership team.

She was asked to take on the role because of her work in the Territorial Army before she became an MSP, and her consistent support for the reserve forces during her period in parliament.

The specialist regiment commands squadrons in Edinburgh, East Kilbride, Glasgow, Belfast and Darlington. She previously served with HQ Squadron in Glasgow.

The post of Honorary Colonel is more usually filled by a retired senior military officer or member of the royal family, but can be undertaken by public figures, with historian Dan Snow and musician Jools Holland having been appointed to other regiments in the past.

Visiting serving soldiers at Edinburgh Castle, Ms Davidson said she hoped her appointment would also help promote Armed Forces Day.

She said: “I loved my time in uniform and am so grateful for everything it taught me. I am delighted to have been asked back to my former regiment to act as its Honorary Colonel for the next five years.”

The regiment provides vital communications support and information management to the armed forces, emergency services, and local government agencies in times of crisis such as terror attacks and natural disaster.

Scottish Conservative MSP Annie Wells on being young and gay

Scottish Conservative MSP Annie Wells tells Holyrood that coming to terms with being gay as a young teenager took her to a “dark and confusing place”.

She believed that if she had had the right support and been in the right environment then she would not have faced the struggles that she did.

Ms Wells said: “I came out at the age of 13 at an all-girls Catholic school only to be told by those around me that it was just a phase.”

With no support or guidance, the situation led to more confusion, the MSP told her fellow politicians during a debate on LGBT History Month Scotland 2017.