THE former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier looks set to be suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days for breaching Covid rules.

If the punishment, recommended by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, is approved by MPs it will almost certainly trigger a by-election in her Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency.

The seat is a key target for Labour, with Sir Keir Starmer visiting earlier this month. It would be the first real test of Humza Yousaf's leadership of the SNP.

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Ms Ferrier first won the constituency in 2015, but lost it to Labour at the snap election in 2017. She took it back in 2019, winning with a majority of 5,230.

The MP was found guilty of culpable and reckless conduct at Glasgow Sheriff Court last August after she admitted to travelling on a train between Scotland and London after being told to self-isolate in September 2020.

In his investigation, Daniel Greenberg, the Commissioner, advised parliament's Standards Committee that Ms Ferrier had breached paragraph 11 of the MP's Code of Conduct “by placing her own personal interest of not wishing to self-isolate immediately or in London over the public interest of avoiding possible risk of harm to health and life for people she came into contact with once she had received a positive COVID-19 test result”.

He said she had also breached paragraph 17 of the Code “as her actions commencing from when she first took a COVID-19 test to when she finally begins self-isolation have caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole, and of its Members generally”.

While the MP - who was found guilty of culpable and reckless conduct at Glasgow Sheriff Court last August - accepted breaching paragraph 17, she claimed she did not breach paragraph 11 of the 2019 Code, as there was no conflict between her personal interest and the public interest.

The Standards Committee backed the Commissioner and disagreed with the MP. 

They said, by choosing to return home rather than self-isolate in London, as required by national guidance and the House's guidance, Ms Ferrier “acted selfishly in her personal interest and in defiance of the public interest”.

The Committee also said the MP had "knowingly and recklessly exposed members of the public and those on the parliamentary estate to the risk of contracting COVID-19 and demonstrated a disregard for the parliamentary and national guidance in place."

They said this was compounded by the fact she lied to the SNP Chief Whip and delayed notifying the parliamentary test and trace team.

"Ms Ferrier acted dishonestly," the Committee said. "In doing so, Ms Ferrier would have caused significant damage to the reputation of the House."

The Committee also said that the fact that Ms Ferrier's actions constituted a breach of the criminal law in Scotland has "caused significant damage to the reputation of the House."

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When determining her punishment, the Committee said they took into consideration that Ms Ferrier's "failure was not a single misjudgement, but a series of deliberate actions over several days."

They said the MP's actions "demonstrated, in particular, a lack of honesty, one of the Seven Principles of Public Life."

The Committee also stated that “if Ms Ferrier had been a public sector employee in a position of trust or leadership, she could have faced severe disciplinary consequences, potentially including dismissal, for these or similar actions”.

The recommendation that Ms Ferrier be suspended for 30 days is one of the longest punishments handed down by the Committee. 

However, there was some disagreement over the length of the punishment. 

Aberto Costa MP, backed by the other Tories, and the SNP's Allan Dorans suggested reducing the sanction to nine sitting days which is under the recall threshold.

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said there should be a by-election in the seat.

He said: “Margaret Ferrier’s reckless actions put people at risk and rode roughshod over the rules everyone else followed.

“It is right that Parliament has thrown the book at her for this unacceptable behaviour.

“There are still serious questions for the SNP to answer on what they knew and what they did at the time.

“Ferrier should do the right thing and stand down as an MP.

“Even Nicola Sturgeon called for her to resign – now (Scottish First Minister) Humza Yousaf must do the same.

“If Margaret Ferrier doesn’t resign the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West can exercise their right to boot her from office.

“Her constituents deserve better and that means a by-election.”

Details of Ferrier’s law-breaking first emerged in October 2020. 

Just weeks before, despite experiencing a “tickly throat” and taking a Covid test, she did not self-isolate as the rules demanded at the time.

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On Sunday 26 September, the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West attended mass at St Mungo’s Church, Glasgow, where she read from the bible to the congregation of around 45 people.

She then headed to Vic’s bar in Main Street, Prestwick, South Ayrshire, where she stayed for around two-and-a-half hours.

Despite feeling unwell, Ferrier travelled to London on the Monday, taking a taxi from her home in Cambuslang to Glasgow Central station.

She picked up some shopping from Marks & Spencer before catching the train to London Euston.

When she arrived, she checked into the £200-a-night Park Plaza Hotel, Westminster Bridge, before heading to the Commons.

In one of the most staggering moments of the whole affair, at 7.15pm that night, Ferrier took part in a debate on Covid.

“I start by paying tribute to all NHS key workers and volunteers in my constituency for their care and commitment over the past seven months,” she told MPs.

Afterwards, Ferrier then sat at a table in the MPs’ tearoom – usually allocated for SNP members – speaking at length to the DUP’s Jim Shannon.

When she received the positive result at 8.03pm by text and email, she then met with the then SNP chief whip Patrick Grady 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. 

Ferrier returned to her hotel at 9.20pm then, the next morning, headed back to London Euston to catch the train to Glasgow.

Test and Protect attempted to contact the MP four times but were unable to do so, leaving two voicemails.

It was another day before Ferrier told SNP colleagues that she had Covid.

At the time, they believed she had tested positive after taking a test once she had arrived back in Scotland.

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.

At a meeting in the office of the House speaker, Mr Grady was told police would have to be involved.

After the party confronted Ferrier she then referred herself to the Met and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and published a statement on twitter.

“There is no excuse for my actions,” she said.

“Despite feeling well, I should have self-isolated while waiting for my test result and deeply regret my actions.

“I take full responsibility and I urge everyone not to make the same mistakes that I have and do all they can to limit the spread of Covid-19,” she added.

Despite the claim to have taken full responsibility, Ferrier initially pleaded not guilty when charged with culpable and reckless conduct in January last year.

That paved the way for a 10-day trial, which was only averted after she changed her plea.