Ethics watch­dog to probe Tory MSP in lob­by­ing row

The Herald - - NEWS - TOM GOR­DON

SCOT­LAND’S ethics watch­dog has been asked to in­ves­ti­gate a Con­ser­va­tive MSP who re­signed from his party’s front bench in a £50,000 lob­by­ing row.

North East MSP Peter Chap­man is the sub­ject of a com­plaint to the Com­mis­sioner for Eth­i­cal Stan­dards in Pub­lic Life.

The com­mis­sioner ex­am­ines po­ten­tial breaches of the MSP Code of Con­duct, and re­ports to Holy­rood’s Stan­dards Com­mit­tee, which can rep­ri­mand or rec­om­mend sus­pen­sions.

It is un­der­stood one of Mr Chap­man’s con­stituents raised the com­plaint af­ter the MSP quit as the Tories’ ru­ral af­fairs spokesman af­ter what he called a “fool­ish” mis­take.

The 68-year-old farmer ad­mit­ted lob­by­ing Aberdeen­shire coun­cil­lors to sup­port a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion from an or­gan­i­sa­tion in which he had a £50,000 stake.

Mr Chap­man failed to dis­close his share­hold­ing in the Aberdeen and North­ern Marts (ANM) farm­ing co-op­er­a­tive, which is ex­pand­ing its op­er­a­tion at Thain­stone, In­verurie.

“This is a very im­por­tant part of the strat­egy for the group go­ing for­ward and I’m just hop­ing that this ap­pli­ca­tion gets looked on in a pos­i­tive man­ner,” he said in a voice­mail left for an SNP coun­cil­lor, and which was leaked to a tabloid news­pa­per.

Within hours, Scottish Tory leader Ruth David­son ac­cepted his res­ig­na­tion “with re­gret”.

An SNP spokesper­son said: “Peter Chap­man has been caught out – and he was right to quit be­fore he was sacked in dis­grace. But this re­mains a se­ri­ous is­sue for the Tories which they can­not just ig­nore.

“It’s im­por­tant the com­mis­sioner is given the op­por­tu­nity to fully in­ves­ti­gate Mr Chap­man’s be­hav­iour and that ac­tion is taken if he found to have breached strict par­lia­men­tary rules.”

A Scottish Con­ser­va­tive spokesper­son said: “As Mr Chap­man said, he stands to make noth­ing if the plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion to ex­tend ANM Group’s Thain­stone cen­tre goes through.

“He was act­ing not out of fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests, but be­cause he be­lieves the ap­pli­ca­tion will be of ben­e­fit to his con­stituents and to the wider Aberdeen­shire econ­omy.

“Mr Chap­man made an hon­est mis­take in fail­ing to set out his fi­nan­cial stake in ANM when he spoke to coun­cil­lors about the mat­ter last week, and he re­signed hon­ourably as a re­sult.”

„ MSP Peter Chap­man said he had made a ‘fool­ish mis­take’.

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