Scotland politics

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 SNP MSP - 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.

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

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.

Mr McDonald said he had not been advised of any details relating to the new information received by the party, but said he would "fully cooperate with any investigation into this matter".

When he resigned from the Scottish government on 4 November after the initial complaint was made against him, he 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."

Analysis - Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor

There had been speculation earlier that there would be this move against Mark McDonald.

I understand it is a different incident from the one that led to his resignation as a minister.

It is not at this stage a formal complaint lodged with the party. It is information that has come to their eye through what has been described to me by an insider as a roundabout route.

Nonetheless, they felt that information was sufficient, perhaps given the atmosphere, to bring about a suspension both from the Holyrood group and the party itself.

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.

He 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'

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".