Holyrood votes to ban Tory MSP for a week

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Annie WellsImage source, PA
Image caption,
Annie Wells will not be able to attend any meetings at the Scottish Parliament next week

A Scottish Conservative MSP has been suspended from Holyrood for five days for making "advance comment" on an unpublished committee report.

MSPs voted by 84 to 27 to impose the penalty on Annie Wells, which had been recommended by the parliament's standards committee.

It means she will not be able to attend any parliamentary meetings next week.

Ms Wells was found to have breached the Code of Conduct by commenting on an embargoed report on prisoner voting.

The Conservatives voted against the suspension, arguing that Ms Wells had merely commented on the report after being contacted by the media, and had not leaked it.

But SNP MSP Bill Kidd, who is the convener of the standards committee, said it had unanimously agreed that Ms Wells sought political advantage by making advance comment on the report.

Mr Kidd said: "The parliament has made it clear previously that when a committee deems information to be confidential, notably in relation to a committee report, it should remain confidential until any agreed publication date.

"When an MSP discloses the details of an unpublished committee report, particularly to record dissent, it seriously undermines the impact of the report and is considered deeply disrespectful to fellow committee members and to everyone involved in their inquiry".

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden defended Ms Wells, and said she had suffered "frankly abhorrent" online abuse since the complaint against her was made public.

He said his party accepted she had breached the technical charge by commenting on the equalities and human rights committee report, but argued that the sanction handed down was disproportionate to the offence.

Mr Golden said: "The process we are involved in is not helping one single person in Scotland, the people we are all here to represent.

"The complaint itself is regrettable and utterly unhelpful, apart from scoring political points.

"Annie Wells did not seek or gain anything from the remarks she made."

Ahead of the vote, Ms Wells said: "Numerous media outlets contacted our office seeking comment on a story on the front page of a national newspaper that morning on prisoner voting.

"So, I responded to that, as every MSP would, by issuing a statement to them reiterating my opposition to allowing prisoners voting rights.

"My response did not contain details of the report that weren't already known, nor was I responsible for the original leak of the document to the paper, and we still don't know who was."

The week-long ban has precedent, with former MSPs Mike Pringle and Brian Monteith both having previously served five-day exclusions for leaking.

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