The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Kick Mackay out of Holyrood
After ‘grooming’ scandal, plea for a new law to sack disgraced MSPs Police talk to schoolboy sent creepy messages by SNP Minister His honorary role with the Boys’ Brigade is now under review
THE refusal of shamed former finance secretary Derek Mackay to quit the Scottish parliament last night sparked fresh demands for a law to allow MSPs to be ‘sacked’.
Westminster’s politicians are bound by the ‘power of recall’, which can trigger a by-election if they are suspended for misconduct.
It allows politicians and voters to decide if disgraced MPs should remain in post or be replaced with a more suitable candidate.
But no such powers exist in Scotland, so shamed MSPs step down only of their own accord.
Now, following revelations about Mr Mackay’s alleged ‘grooming behaviour’ – by bombarding a 16-year-old boy with text messages – the Scottish Liberal Democrats have called for Scotland to adopt a similar power of ‘recall’.
Mr Mackay was forced to resign as finance secretary on Thursday and was suspended from the SNP. But he has not stood down as an MSP.
The teenager told how the former Minister hounded him with 270 messages, including one in which he called him ‘cute’.
Police are now talking to the schoolboy as part of a probe into the scandal.
The Scottish Mail on Sunday understands arrangements are in place for the boy to meet the authorities this week, to discuss whether or not Mr Mackay’s actions amounted to a crime.
Damning allegations have also been made by an SNP activist, who claimed the politician asked for ‘naughty pictures’. Married Shaun Cameron, 25, said he was pestered with ‘quite suggestive’ messages online after being approached by Mr Mackay at an SNP fundraiser.
It has also been claimed other men have received messages, including one about a threesome, the Scottish Sun reported.
Despite the allegations, Mr Mackay has refused to stand down from his £63,579-a-year role as MSP for Renfrewshire North and West.
The politician – regarded as Nicola Sturgeon’s protégé and a potential successor as party leader – is being investigated by the SNP.
The openly gay father of two also faces a Holyrood inquiry after calls from opposition MSPs.
It has not been confirmed if a complaint has been made to the Scottish parliamentary authorities. If one is submitted – and is upheld – then the standards, procedures and public appointments committee could suspend him.
Under power of recall laws being proposed by Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, such a suspension would be grounds for a petition of Mr Mackay’s constituents on whether he should have to stand down.
Last night, Mr Rennie said MSPs who are thrown out for misconduct must face the ‘ultimate sanction’.
He added: ‘I want MSPs to know that serious and harmful behaviour could lead to the ultimate sanction of them losing their job.
‘At the moment voters are helpless when faced with unacceptable conduct – such as Derek Mackay using the offer of parliamentary receptions to try to befriend a teenager.’
A Scottish Tory Party spokesman agreed, saying: ‘It’s clear from cases such as these that more needs to be done to create a system to stop this happening again in future.
‘But any recall system will have to be considered very carefully, with safeguards to ensure it is only activated in the right circumstances.’
Labour’s Elaine Smith, MSP for
Central Scotland, said: ‘We support the principle of recall and will work with other parties to see how it could operate in practice.’
Mr Rennie’s call follows similar demands in 2018, after the SNP’s Mark McDonald was censured over ‘intimidating, degrading, humiliating or offensive’ messages sent to a fellow MSP’s member of staff.
Mr McDonald was investigated by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland, Bill Thomson, after a complaint by Nationalist MSP James Dornan, who accused his colleague of a sinister campaign of ‘harassment and sexual innuendo’ against his employee.
Mr Thomson issued a damning verdict on Mr McDonald’s conduct. He found messages sent to the staff member were ‘unwanted and disrespectful’ and ‘involved an element of sexual innuendo and, therefore, of conduct of a sexual nature’.
The standards committee ruled Mr McDonald should be excluded from Holyrood for a month and go without his salary for that period.
Although he was forced to relinquish the title of childcare minister, he did not step down as an MSP and now serves Aberdeen Donside as an independent. Mr Rennie filed a Private Member’s Bill calling for powers of recall, but it was rejected.
On renewing his call for ‘sacking’ legislation, he said: ‘I was disappointed the proposal was rejected. There’s merit in looking at it again.’
He has also called for an inquiry similar to the one into the actions of Mr McDonald. Last night, Mr Mackay’s constituents also called
for him to quit. One man said: ‘He needs to stand down immediately. I certainly wouldn’t vote for him again.’
Another added: ‘I feel uncomfortable that he’s still representing us.’
Meanwhile, the Boys’ Brigade is reviewing an honorary title held by Mr Mackay, it was revealed last night.
Acting BB chief executive Jonathan Eales told the Sunday Mail: ‘Derek Mackay has no active role working with our young people.
‘He holds an honorary position, restricted to being a supporter of our work. In light of recent allegations, this will be subject to review.’