Keir Starmer backs recall petition to remove rule-breaking MSPs following Michael Matheson scandal

Keir Starmer has backed the introduction of a recall mechanism at the Scottish Parliament to remove rule-breaking MSPs.

The Labour leader used a visit to Greenock today to claim the scandal surrounding former health secretary Michael Matheson showed “the parallels with the Tories and the SNP are very striking now”.

The veteran Nationalist has so far refused to resign as an MSP despite this week being suspended from Holyrood for a record 27-days.

Matheson was sanctioned after he tried to claim an £11,000 data roaming bill racked up on his official iPad on expenses.

Asked by the Record if Holyrood should now follow Westminster's lead and introduce a recall petition, Starmer accused the SNP of "picking up the Boris Johnson playbook."

"The parallels between the Tories and the SNP are very striking now," he told a packed room full of party activists and journalists.

"You've got chaos and division, you've got unelected leader after unelected leader, and now on standards in public life, you've got the SNP picking up the Boris Johnson playbook.

"That's how striking the examples are. As Anas has said, there should be a recall petition. It's worked well in our parliament, and we've had a number of by-elections - which we've very much enjoyed."

Matheson had initially tried to claim an £11,000 data roaming bill racked up on his official iPad on expenses while on a family holiday.

The member for Falkirk West was eventually suspended after MSPs agreed with sanctions - which John Swinney had initially opposed.

The SNP has attempted to play down the scandal with Mairi McAllan, the Net Zero Secretary, yesterday claiming: "We need to forget about this story".

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the SNP handling of the scandal had been “nothing short of shameful”.

He said: “Rather than coming to Parliament and apologising for that behaviour and demanding that Michael Matheson step down, or at least introduce that petition of recall, John Swinney instead chose to back one of his pals rather than do the right thing.

“It’s the perfect example of what we attack – rightly – the Tories for, for putting their party before the country, the exact same applies to John Swinney. We absolutely need a right to recall in Holyrood."

Speaking during a campaign event in Glasgow today, Swinney would not be drawn on Matheson.

He said: “Parliament has taken its decisions about Michael Matheson, I made clear at First Minister’s Questions that I accept the conclusions of Parliament and that’s where the matter should end."

Swinney previously told journalists last week he was in “support” of the idea of a recall process, stating the current system was ‘inadequate’.

But he said Matheson “made a mistake and had been given a punishment by Parliament which I accept unreservedly.”

The SNP had also claimed the disciplinary process used by MSPs on Holyrood’s Standard’s Committee - which recommended the record suspension - was “flawed".

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