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Recall by-election possible as Ferrier’s Commons ban approved

The MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West has been suspended for 30 days for breaching Covid rules in 2020.

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Scotland could see its first by-election held under parliamentary recall rules after MP Margaret Ferrier was suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days for breaching Covid rules.

MPs overwhelmingly voted to impose the ban on the Rutherglen and Hamilton West politician, potentially paving the way for a by-election.

Under parliamentary rules, MPs who are suspended for 10 sitting days or more are liable to face a by-election – but only if 10% of their constituents sign a recall petition.

This has never happened before in Scotland and has only occurred twice in the UK since the procedure was introduced in 2015.

A by-election would be seen as a test for new SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf, with Ms Ferrier having originally been elected as an SNP MP in 2019 before having the whip suspended after her breaches of coronavirus rules emerged.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has already been on the campaign trail in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, alongside Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (Robert Perry/PA)

With polls indicating support for Labour in Scotland has increased, Sir Keir Starmer’s party is keen for an election to bolster signs of a revival in fortunes north of the border.

Sir Keir visited Rutherglen last month ahead of a possible vote, saying then he was in “no doubt” that locals would take the chance to get rid of Ms Ferrier if a by-election is held.

Labour’s candidate for the seat, Michael Shanks, said MPs voting to approve Ms Ferrier’s suspension was “welcome news for those of us who live here”.

But with the procedures having been delayed, he added it was a “disgrace that Margaret Ferrier has dragged this process out for so long, leaving her constituents unrepresented in Parliament”.

Ms Ferrier travelled from Scotland to Westminster after testing for Covid in September 2020, and went on to speak in the House of Commons while waiting for the results.

Later, after the test confirmed she was positive for the virus, she took the train back to Scotland.

Mr Shanks said: “We’ve spoken to thousands of voters who feel let down by Margaret Ferrier’s actions – people who made sacrifices during the pandemic and rightly expected their MP to do the same.

“The people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West deserve so much better than a rule-breaking MP.”

Speaking after the Commons voted by 185 to 40 to approve her suspension, the Labour candidate added: “I want to be the local champion this area deserves, and I am ready to fight for every vote and deliver the change Rutherglen and Hamilton West needs.”

SNP by-election campaign co-ordinator David Linden said: “There must now be a by-election, which the SNP has been calling for since Ms Ferrier’s Covid rule breach first came to light in 2020.

“People in Rutherglen and Hamilton West are paying an unacceptable price for the damaging policies of the Tories and pro-Brexit Labour Party, as the cost of living soars.

“The SNP is the only party offering a real alternative. We will put the cost of living, NHS and independence at the heart of our campaign – and we’ll work hard for every vote to ensure the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West can elect a strong SNP MP to stand up for them.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “I welcome today’s news because it’s important that we all take responsibility for the decisions we make, especially where public safety is involved.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats are unequivocally in favour of a recall petition and a by-election.

“Not only is this a chance to give Rutherglen and Hamilton West the representation it deserves, it is also a chance to send a message to the new SNP First Minister that people are sick of the divisive and out of touch politics he and his party represent.”

Commons voting records show 32 Conservative MPs among those who opposed the 30-day suspension for Ms Ferrier, with these including former ministers David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Tory grandees Sir Bill Cash and Sir Edward Leigh.

Former Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who now represents the Reclaim Party, also voted to reject the motion, as did Alba Party MPs Neale Hanvey and Kenny MacAskill and DUP MPs Gregory Campbell and Gavin Robinson.

South Lanarkshire Council, meanwhile, confirmed the recall petition will  open on Tuesday June 20, with locals having until Monday July 31 to sign it.

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