John Swinney backs plan to hand voters ability to recall MSPs following Michael Matheson suspension

John Swinney has signalled he would support plans to hand voters the ability to recall MSPs who break parliamentary rules.

The First Minister spoke out after Michael Matheson was today officially suspended from Holyrood for 27 days, as well as having his pay docked for 54 days.

But despite the record sanction against a member of the Scottish Parliament, the disgraced former health secretary has refused to resign his seat.

Labour has pledged to introduce a Westminster-style recall petition at Holyrood which could see MSPs removed from office if a certain percentage of voters signed a petition against them.

Asked today if he backed a recall plan, Swinney said: “I am in support of that, yes. I don’t think the arrangements here are currently adequate."

He also said Matheson’s suspension from Holyrood was not “part of his campaign plan” when asked if it had been a tough start to the General Election for the SNP.

But the First Minister insisted he did not think the former health secretary should resign as an MSP.

He said: "He made a mistake and has been given a punishment by Parliament which I accept unreservedly.

“Michael should accept that punishment and continue to serve the people that sent him here.”

He added: “Parliament has accepted this is appropriate and I accept what Parliament has said.”

Asked if he thought it was a difficult start to his party’s General Election campaign, he said: “You just have to play the ball as it lands. This wasn’t part of my campaign plan. But the issue has arisen and I have as First Minister and leader of the SNP, I have to deal with what emerges in front of me.

“I wouldn’t be the person I am if I just said ‘Ok, let’s have a flawed process. Let’s turn a blind eye. That’s not John Swinney and I’m not going to start doing that now.”

MSPs voted by 64 to zero to impose the punishment, which will see Matheson suspended from Holyrood for 27 days and lose his MSP salary for twice that period, but the 63 SNP MSPs abstained.

An SNP amendment highlighting the party’s concerns that the committee which recommended the sanctions had been prejudiced, “thereby bringing the Parliament into disrepute”, was also passed.

The amended motion criticised Conservative MSP Annie Wells for her “public pronouncements” on Matheson ahead of his actions being considered by Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee – of which she is a member.

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