Margaret Ferrier: MPs vote to suspend ex-SNP politician from Commons for Covid rule breaking

The former SNP MP now faces the prospect of a by-election if 10% of her constituents back one

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier has been suspended from Parliament for 30 days for breaking Covid rules in 2020 when she travelled by train from London to Glasgow despite knowing she had the virus.

The Commons voted by 185 to 40 for the suspension. She now faces a possible by-election in her Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency.

Why was Margaret Ferrier suspended?

Ferrier developed Covid symptoms on 26 September 2020 – a Saturday – and took a test, but still went to church and had lunch with a family member the following day.

On the Monday, while awaiting the result of the test, she travelled by train to London, took part in a Commons debate and ate in the Members’ Tearoom in Parliament. That evening she received a text telling her the test was positive. But instead of isolating, she travelled back to Scotland by train the following morning.

Ferrier faces 30-day Commons suspension for Covid-19 rule breaches Ferrier faces 30-day Commons suspension for Covid-19 rule breaches
Ferrier faces 30-day Commons suspension for Covid-19 rule breaches

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Daniel Greenberg said Ferrier had breached the code of conduct for MPs “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”. She admitted making a “series of poor decisions”.

The Commons Standards Committee recommended a 30-day suspension - which MPs approved this afternoon (6 June). Ferrier had already lost the SNP whip, and now sits in Parliament as an independent. She was also ordered to complete a 20-hour community payback order by a court.

What happens now?

Any Member of Parliament suspended from the Commons for more than 10 days can face a by-election if there’s enough public support.

What’s known as a “recall petition” will open on 20 June and close on 30 July in Ferrier’s constituency.

If 10% of her constituents sign it, or if she resigns while it’s open, it will trigger a by-election. It would mark the first electoral contest for the SNP under recently-installed First Minister Humza Yousaf, at a time when there are questions about the governing party’s appeal in Scotland.

Newly emboldened by Nicola Sturgeon’s departure and performing well in national polls, Scottish Labour under Anas Sarwar will no doubt see this as a perfect opportunity to take back one of the historically Labour seats it has lost to the SNP, and begin paving the way back to, if not a majority in Scotland, then a significant revival.

Ferrier currently has a majority of 5,230 or 9.7%. She was first elected to represent the seat in 2015, but lost out by a fine margin to Labour’s Ged Killen in 2017. Prior to 2015, the constituency has always voted Labour since it was created in 2005.