DISGRACED former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier has been ordered to undertake 270 hours of unpaid work for recklessly exposing the public “to the risk of infection, illness and death” after breaking Covid laws at the height of the pandemic.

The politician refused to comment as she left court yesterday, and declined to answer questions about her future.

No comment from MP Margaret Ferrier after she left Glasgow Sheriff Court following her sentencing for breaking Covid rules. pic.twitter.com/zsakCrx4Lj

— Andrew Learmonth (@andrewlearmonth) September 13, 2022

The lack of prison time means Ferrier has, for now, escaped a recall petition which could have triggered a by-election in her Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency.

Though, shortly after the details of her rule flouting emerged in October 2020, she referred herself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

If they investigate and that results in a 10-day suspension, then it will give her constituents an opportunity to remove her from post.

Ferrier’s KC, Brian McConnachie had urged Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull not to impose a custodial sentence, describing the 62-year-old MP as a “genuine first time offender.”

He said the 48 hour period where Ferrier travelled between Scotland and London, attended a number of events, and spoke in parliament, was the “one and only period where she has come into conflict with the law.”

The lawyer said his client clearly recognised the nature of the offence. He also provided the Sheriff with testimonials from 34 people, including “her constituents, people who work for her, and MPs from other parties.”

Mr McConnachie explained that she had felt better and travelled to London because she was sure she was not positive: “There was no pecuniary advantage in her travelling to London. MPs who took part in London virtually were paid the same way.

“The only thing that makes sense- albeit a sort of perverse logic - is that feeling better she convinced herself that the result would not be positive and therefore there would be no danger.”

Mr McConnachie also tried to win over the Sheriff Principal by telling him that Ferrier had the lowest expenses claim for any Scottish MP and that the “current political climate in this country” meant she would almost certainly lose her seat at the next election.

He said a custodial sentence would be “a very severe punishment for Ferrier herself.”

The lawyer said there had been a “vitriolic backlash” against the politician, her family, her friends and her staff.

However, in his sentencing, the Sheriff Principal said that the custodial threshold had “clearly” been passed. 

He pointed out that 185,000 people in the UK, including more than 12,000  in Scotland, had died because of Covid.

He told the MP: “The events with which this indictment are concerned took place almost two years ago. 

“Much has changed in that time in relation to Covid-19, however, it cannot be overlooked that your behaviour took place at a time of significant restrictions in the United Kingdom and before the vaccination programme had begun.”

Ferrier had first experienced a “tickly throat” on September 26 2020. She took a Covid test, but rather than self-isolate as the rules demanded, the next day she attended mass, and then headed to the pub for two and a half hours. 

The day after, she travelled to London and took part in a debate on Covid.

When she received the positive result at 8.03pm that night she then met with the SNP chief whip and told him she would need to leave parliament early and return to Scotland.

She did not tell him about the positive test, a fact described as “remarkable” by the Sheriff.

It was only on Thursday that week, when informed by the House of Commons Test and Trace mechanism, that the SNP realised Ferrier had taken the test before travelling to London.

The Sherriff said the MP had “struggled to fully explain” why she had broken the rules.  

“For whatever reason, you chose to ignore the guidance – guidance that many in the United Kingdom followed.”

“Your behaviour was deliberate. It extended over a number of days,” he added.

“You were reckless as to whether harm was caused. You knew, or should have known, of the risks that might arise from your actions. 

“The gravity of the harm that could have resulted from your actions is significant, albeit there is no evidence of actual harm before the court.”

However, as Ferrier was a first offender, and because of a presumption against imposing a custodial sentence of under 12 months, he said a community payback order would be more appropriate.

The Sheriff said: “It is clear that you have made a significant contribution to society in your work as a Member of Parliament and otherwise. 

“I recognise that you are remorseful and have shown insight in relation to your offending. I recognise also the consequences for you, as a result of your behaviour – behaviour which it appears was entirely out of character.”

He said Ferrier’s payback order would have been for 300 hours, but was reduced due to her guilty plea.