THE former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier has lodged an appeal against a possible 30-day suspension from the Commons for breaching Covid rules.

It's not clear on what grounds the disgraced politician is fighting the proposed sanction. 

If her appeal fails and MPs back the punishment, recommended by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, it will trigger a recall petition in her Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency, which could ultimately result in a by-election. 

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Ms Ferrier was found guilty of culpable and reckless conduct at Glasgow Sheriff Court last August after she admitted travelling on a train in September 2020 despite knowing she had Covid. 

The MP also spoke in the House of Commons and visited a number of locations in Glasgow, including a mass in Mungo’s church and a bar in Prestwick, Ayrshire, while waiting on the results of a Covid test.

She was ordered to carry out 270 hours of community service after pleading guilty to wilfully exposing people “to the risk of infection, illness and death”.

In his investigation, Daniel Greenberg, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, said 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”.

At the time, the MP accepted breaching paragraph 17, however, she claimed she did not breach paragraph 11 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 Ms Ferrier had “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 the length of 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”.

There was some disagreement over the 30 days with some of the Committee's Tory MPs and the SNP's Allan Dorans backing calls for the sanction to be reduced to nine sitting days.

Recall petitions are only triggered when the suspension is for ten days. 

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Under the rules, 10 per cent of her constituents would need to add their names to the petition to trigger a by-election. 

Speaking earlier on Monday, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he was “confident” enough people would be willing to do just that.

Ms Sarwar said there was still “plenty of anger” in the local community.

Speaking to journalists, the Scottish Labour leader said that “quite clearly there is the potential for a recall petition (and) a realistic hope of there being a by-election”.

He added: "There’s plenty of anger and frustration, and people realising they have a local MP who broke the law and hasn’t been there fighting their corner.

“We’re confident we can get the numbers, but we’re not complacent about that, we have got to do the hard work.”

Mr Sarwar questioned whether the SNP would be a willing participant in the recall process. “I imagine it will be only us doing the hard work, other political parties I imagine might want to sit out the process," he said.

"My challenge to them would be put your money where your mouth is, get out there, get the signatures in and let’s elect a local champion that is on the side of local people in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.”

Scottish Labour is confident of victory in the constituency. On Monday night, the UK Labour party's deputy leader Angela Rayner met with Rutherglonians during a campaign stop with Mr Sarwar. 

The Herald:

First Minister Humza Yousaf has already said he would welcome a by-election in the constituency. 

He said: “We’ve said from day one that Margaret Ferrier should have stepped down because of her reckless action.

“I look forward to fighting that by-election on our strong track record.

“We’ve got strong support in Rutherglen and right across that region. But it will take hard work.”

Ms Ferrier - who was an SNP MP at the time of the offence, but subsequently lost the party whip - has been approached for comment.