Rules are rules

Bill Walker Bill Walker was found guilty of domestic abuse charges

Related Stories

There are good reasons, well established reasons, why it is difficult to unseat a parliamentarian.

Consider this. If it could be done by a simple majority, then a government could muster the votes to expel their opponents. Or a party could win cross-bench support to ditch a troublesome maverick.

MSPs know all this. They get the concept. But, still, the collective mood at Holyrood is one of shame today - embarrassment that they cannot do more to kick out Bill Walker, the elected member for Dunfermline.

To be fair, MSPs are doubly constrained. The rules prevent them from expelling the disgraced Dunfermline member. And those rules are written by Westminster. Holyrood has no say in their formulation or amendment.

And what do the rules say? That a member is automatically expelled if jailed for more than one year. Walker faces a maximum sentence in the sheriff court of exactly one year.

Start Quote

From reviewing the core functions of a member as set out in the SPCB paper, we recommend that 90% of salary should be withheld for the duration of imprisonment”

End Quote Tricia Marwick Presiding Officer

Within those constraints, Holyrood is acting. MSPs will be asked to vote next week on a motion which would have the effect of docking Walker's salary by ninety per cent if he is jailed. Instead of £58k, he'd get £5.8k a year. His staff would continue to be paid, if he remains as a member.

It is not what MSPs would do if they had a free hand. Very far from it. They'd expel him. So much was evident from every interview I conducted today and from every private conversation.

The limited nature of the action was probably reflected in the nature of the decision making. A private meeting of parliament's corporate body followed by a written statement from the Presiding Officer, Tricia Marwick. No statement in parliament, no public report to MSPs.

Again, to be fair, there are other reasons for the caution. Officials have warned that any response must adhere strictly to the law. It must be proportionate, it must apply equally to all members, there can be no question of punishing Walker - that is for the courts and the courts alone.

And the 90%? It is based upon a calculation that he could continue to perform a certain amount of work - such as parliamentary research - even if he is in the slammer. It is a careful sum.

Nobody at Holyrood is happy with the outcome. On all sides, there are calls for Dunfermline's elected member to stand aside - with, at this stage, little optimism that he will respond.

Brian Taylor Article written by Brian Taylor Brian Taylor Political editor, Scotland

Johann Lamont resignation: A leader without influence

Johann Lamont's going was not inevitable, in that someone can always fight and she could have withstood the sniping that was coming her way from individual backbenchers, but she felt she had been let down by the leadership more generally.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • HouseboatLife on the water

    Could a floating house be the home of the future? The BBC's Adam Shaw takes a look

Programmes

  • The Audi RS7Click Watch

    Tech news review of the week including a speed record for a self-driving car

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.