Scotland politics

Tory MSP quits front bench over 'foolish' lobbying

Peter Chapman

A Scottish Conservative MSP has quit his front bench role after lobbying councillors over a planning application he had a financial interest in.

Peter Chapman said he had been "foolish" not to flag up the fact he owned shares in a farming co-operative when he backed its expansion bid.

He said he did not stand to gain financially but had "failed to maintain high standards of transparency".

Leader Ruth Davidson said Mr Chapman's decision was a "mark of integrity".

The MSP, who had been the party's rural affairs spokesman, owns 50,000 shares in the Aberdeen and Northern Marts Group, which is seeking to expand its mart at the Thainstone Business Centre in Inverurie.

He said the investment is not linked to the company's performance, and he would not stand to gain anything if the expansion were to go ahead.

All shareholders accrue interest at 2% above the base rate (0.5%) per annum.

Mr Chapman spoke to several councillors asking them to support the group's planning application, but said he made an "honest mistake" by failing to declare his interest in the case.

Image copyright ANM Group
Image caption Councillors are considering an application for an expansion of Thainstone Mart

In his resignation letter, the north east list MSP said: "It's quite clear with hindsight that I should have made my financial interest in the phone calls clear and that it was a foolish oversight on my behalf not to do so.

"I failed to maintain the high standards of transparency that is expected of MSPs. As a result, I cannot in all conscience continue in post, hence my reason for offering my resignation.

"It was not my intention to hide this - indeed anyone can see the details of my investment on the Scottish Parliament register of interests. I can say hand on heart that my only thought was to support a local business and improve our local economy."

Ms Davidson said she had accepted Mr Chapman's resignation "with regret".

She said: "While I fully accept that you acted in this instance on behalf of your constituent to promote local employment - to no financial benefit yourself - it is a mark of your integrity that you choose to step down, rather than allow for any hint of impropriety."

'No surprise'

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said it was time for Ms Davidson to "get a grip of her self-interested colleagues" and "clean up her party".

He said: "The Tories think that they can do what they want and get away with it - but time and time again they get caught out. Peter Chapman is not the first, and I doubt he'll be the last."

Scottish Labour said the Conservatives "seem more concerned with intervening in local issues to further their own interests" than with holding the government to account.

The Scottish Greens meanwhile said it was "no surprise that a Tory has been found lobbying without declaring his financial interests".

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