A PROMINENT Scottish Tory has been banned from Holyrood for a week amid claims she sought “political advantage” by commenting on a report before it was made public.

Annie Wells, the party’s mental health spokeswoman, will be excluded from parliamentary business for five working days after discussing an unpublished Equalities Committee report.

The Tories slammed the decision as “disproportionate” and claimed the initial complaint had been “regrettable and utterly unhelpful, apart from scoring political points”.

Chief whip Maurice Golden said his party opposed the move – despite two of its MSPs, Jamie Halcro Johnston and Tom Mason, backing the decision as members of Holyrood’s Standards Committee.

It comes after Ms Wells, who was elected in 2016, commented in advance of a report being published in May.

Her remarks followed a leak to the Scottish Daily Mail revealing the Equalities Committee, of which she is a member, had backed ending the ban on prisoner voting.

The Tories insisted Ms Wells did not leak the report, which was not made public until three days later.

But SNP member Gail Ross reported Ms Wells to Scotland’s Standards Commissioner – which ruled she had breached confidentiality rules.

Launching into a passionate defence of his colleague, Mr Golden told MSPs she was guilty of a “technical charge”.

He said: “However we believe that the procedure was not in the public interest. In fact, the process we are involved in is not helping one single person in Scotland – the people we are all here to represent.

“Moreover, the proposed sanction is disproportionate to the offence. The complaint itself is regrettable and utterly unhelpful, apart from scoring political points.

“I also want to put on record that Annie Wells did not seek or gain anything from the remarks she made.

"The media had already published stories, and Annie merely commented on those news reports which were, by then, in the public domain.”

He added: “In the wake of the news of this judgement, Annie Wells has been subjected to frankly abhorrent online abuse.

“This type of abuse is aimed increasingly at the female MSPs sitting behind me, and I will let you make your own judgements on why they have been singled out.”

He said Ms Wells was facing similar sanctions to those who had been caught deliberately leaking reports, adding: “Annie did not do this; Annie would not do this.

"It is not in her nature. She would never neglect her privileged position of public office.

“Annie is a proud advocate of her Glasgow constituents as well as many other important issues she stands up for.

“Annie is a responsible parliamentarian and an asset to this democratic institution.”

Despite Tory opposition, MSPs voted by 84 to 27 to ban Ms Wells from Holyrood debates and committees for a week. She will not lose any salary.

SNP MSP Bill Kidd, convener of Holyrood’s Standards Committee, said her actions were “deeply disrespectful” to fellow committee members and to everyone involved in the report.

Former Tory MSP Brian Monteith and former LibDem MSP Mike Pringle previously received similar bans for leaking committee reports.

Meanwhile, Tory MSP Alexander Burnett recently received a two-week ban on lodging written parliamentary questions after failing to declare a personal financial interest.

Earlier this year, former SNP minister Mark McDonald – who now sits as an Independent – was banned from Holyrood for a month for sexual misconduct.

An SNP spokesman said: "These are matters for the parliament to determine and all MSPs are bound by the same rules.

"The independent Commissioner for Standards concluded that Annie Wells had breached the Code of Conduct for MSPs and the Standards Committee, which includes two Conservative members, unanimously agreed with the commissioner's findings and determined that the breaches justified the imposition of sanctions on Annie Wells."