Scotland politics

SNP suspends councillors who burned Smith report

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Media captionThe video was uploaded to YouTube but later removed

A group of SNP councillors involved in burning a copy of the report on strengthening the Scottish Parliament's powers have been suspended.

A video of the elected Renfrewshire Council members burning the Smith Commission document was posted online, but later removed.

The SNP said four individuals had been suspended from the party, pending an investigation.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said their actions were "unacceptable".

Brian Lawson - the former leader of the local authority - was seen along with Will Mylet and Mags MacLaren staging the burning outside Renfrewshire Council's headquarters in Paisley.

Kenny MacLaren was also said to have been involved, although he could not be seen in the video footage which was posted on YouTube.

Ms MacLaren runs the constituency office of Transport Minister Derek Mackay, while Mr MacLaren is a researcher for SNP MSP Stuart McMillan.

All four councillors could now be expelled from the SNP as a result of their actions.

The councillors will also be referred to the Standards Commission by Renfrewshire Council's Labour leader, Mark MacMillan.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said: "Levels of engagement in politics have never been higher and the passionate argument and debate which characterised the referendum has been inspiring.

"Many people are disappointed with the result of the referendum and the level of devolution recommended by the Smith Commission, however Scotland will only make progress if we debate our views openly and with respect.

"It is essential that in that debate, conduct does not fall short of the high standard that is rightly expected by the public. My clear view is that setting fire to something because you don't agree with it is not acceptable behaviour."

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Image caption Lord Smith published his 28-page report last week

SNP national secretary Patrick Grady said he had made a complaint to the party's disciplinary committee against the four people involved, and that they would be suspended until it was heard.

The councillors carried out the burning after the 28-page report, which set out a list of new powers to be handed from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament, was published last week.

The cross-party commission, which included the SNP, was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of the independence referendum "No" vote, but Scottish ministers said its final recommendations fell short of delivering the powers Scotland needed.

As the councillors set fire to a document above a bin, Mr Mylet said: "The Smith Commission report - this is exactly what we think about it.

"No real powers for Scotland yet again from Westminster. We've been lied to again."

As he dropped it into the bin he added: "There you go Gordon Brown - cheers."

Mr Lawson then said: "Happy St Andrew's Day."

Apology call

Lord Smith, who chaired the commission, made light of the incident as he appeared before a committee of MPs, saying: "I'm the chairman of the Green Investment Bank - I'd rather they had recycled it."

Scottish Labour's interim leader, Anas Sarwar, said Ms Sturgeon needed to apologise personally to Lord Smith and to the whole of Scotland.

He also called on the first minister to set out the process for the party inquiry into the suspended councillors, warning against any attempt to hide behind a "bureaucratic smokescreen", and pointed out Mr Mackay and Mr McMillan had a responsibility for the actions of their staff, under the MSP code of conduct.

Mr Sarwar said: "The first minister claims she wants to speak for all of Scotland, whether they voted 'Yes' or 'No'.

"If she does not want to fail this test at the first hurdle, she must take immediate action to control the elements of her party who, through their disgraceful behaviour, appear determined to stir up division and grievance."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the first minister's remarks were to her credit, but added: "Nicola Sturgeon still has a challenge to convince us her party stands for all of Scotland rather than just the 45% who backed her in the referendum."

Ms Sturgeon's comments were stronger than earlier remarks by her social justice secretary Alex Neil, who told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "It's a silly prank. I would hardly call it a hanging offence.

"I don't see how you can correlate a silly prank by a handful of individuals in Paisley with the overall strategy of the Scottish government and the SNP."

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