Shock as vote to suspend Margaret Ferrier delayed until June
THE Commons vote on whether to suspend Margaret Ferrier for 30 days has been pulled at the last minute, with MPs now not likely to vote on her fate until June.
There was speculation on social media and from other MPs that some Tories were preparing to vote against the ban because they fear it would set a precedent if Boris Johnson is sanctioned for misleading parliament.
READ MORE: Margaret Ferrier: SNP MP calls for former colleague to stand down
However, it later emerged that there were not enough MPs in the Chamber.
Erskine May, the guide to parliamentary procedure, states the House can only be quorate if 35 MPs are able to vote in a division.
Labour's shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray claimed it was "a grubby backroom deal between Ferrier, nationalists and some Tories, who don’t want Boris Johnson to suffer the same fate."
“This is an unholy alliance and total incompetence designed to defer democracy and give the Tories and the SNP a stay of execution at the ballot box while Ferrier draws a salary from the taxpayer," he added.
Parliament’s Standards Committee recommended the unprecedented sanction for the former SNP politician’s Covid rule breaches at the height of lockdown.
If MPs back the lengthy punishment when parliament returns next month, the Speaker will then notify the Petitions Officer in South Lanarkshire, who will then open a recall petition ten working days later, with signing stations opened across the constituency.
If, over the course of six weeks, 10 per cent of her constituents add their names to the petition, Ferrier will lose her job, triggering a by-election.
It is not clear if any of her former SNP colleagues were in Parliament to vote to effectively end the politician's career.
Earlier, when asked by The Herald if he expected his MPs to vote for the suspension, Hunza Yousaf gave an unequivocal yes.
Previously, the party’s one MP on the Commons Standards Committee backed attempts to soften the punishment.
Allan Dorans voted for Ferrier to be suspended for nine sitting days. Had that passed it would have killed off any chance of a recall petition.
Under the procedure - established in the wake of the expenses scandal - it can only be triggered by a suspension of at least 10 sitting days.
Joanna Cherry also criticised colleagues, saying the way Ferrier had been treated by some in the SNP as “shameful.”
“She is a thoroughly decent woman who made a bad mistake for which she has already paid dearly,” she tweeted.
The way Margaret Ferrier has been treated by some of her former comrades is shameful. She is a thoroughly decent woman who made a bad mistake for which she has already paid dearly. Prior to that she was one of the most loyal hard working activists in @theSNP
— Joanna Cherry KC (@joannaccherry) March 31, 2023
READ MORE: Dishonest, selfish and reckless: Panel's brutal verdict on Ferrier as appeal fails
The SNP has confirmed that they will officially campaign for Ferrier to lose her seat.
Under the Recall Act 2015, parties, organisations and individuals can register with the Petitions Officer and spend up to £10,000 on the petition.
Ferrier was found guilty of culpable and reckless conduct at Glasgow Sheriff Court last August after she admitted travelling on a train in September 2020 despite knowing she had Covid.
The MP also spoke in the House of Commons and visited a number of locations in Glasgow, including a mass in Mungo’s church and a bar in Prestwick, Ayrshire, while waiting on the results of a Covid test.
After the positive result came through, she lied to colleagues and said she had to go home to visit a sick relative.
She was ordered to carry out 270 hours of community service after pleading guilty to wilfully exposing people “to the risk of infection, illness and death”.
In his investigation, Daniel Greenberg, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, said Ferrier had breached paragraph 11 of the MP's Code of Conduct “by placing her own personal interest of not wishing to self-isolate immediately or in London over the public interest of avoiding possible risk of harm to health and life for people she came into contact with once she had received a positive Covid-19 test result”.
He said she had also breached paragraph 17 of the Code “as her actions commencing from when she first took a Covid-19 test to when she finally begins self-isolation have caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole, and of its Members generally”.
READ MORE: Sarwar claims SNP fear by election and demands Ferrier resigns as MP
Scottish Labour is confident of winning the seat, with the party’s deputy leader, Jackie Baillie saying they will need to do some soul-searching if they fail.
They have selected local Modern Studies teacher Michael Shanks as their candidate.
The SNP is due to ballot local members on their candidate imminently.