Nicola Sturgeon defends SNP investigation into MSP’s inappropriate behaviour

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Nicola Sturgeon has defended her party’s handling of an investigation into the inappropriate behaviour of former childcare minister Mark McDonald.

The First Minister and SNP leader said that while any party would want to reflect on such circumstances, the process followed had been “robust”.

Ms Sturgeon has made clear her view that Mr McDonald should step down as an MSP after he resigned from the SNP on Tuesday.

Mark McDonald has resigned from the SNP but will continue as an independent MSP (Danny Lawson/PA)
Mark McDonald has resigned from the SNP but will continue as an independent MSP (Danny Lawson/PA)

The MSP for Aberdeen Donside has apologised for causing “hurt and offence” to two women but said he intends to stay on at Holyrood as an independent MSP.

Ms Sturgeon was asked what lessons her party could learn from the case on a visit to Portobello, Edinburgh, ahead of International Women’s Day on Thursday.

She said: “I think any party who has a politician who ends up in this position will want to look reflectively at that but I was determined, and the party was determined, to make sure that a robust process was followed.

“We ensured that the investigation was independent, that it took the time to thoroughly investigate the allegations that were made and, of course, those findings were shared with Mark McDonald earlier this week.

“I think it’s important that these processes are in place and that is what the SNP made sure of.

“Supporting women to come forward, making sure that a robust process is in place, allowing an investigation to happen and then making sure that nothing is swept under the carpet in that – I think these are things all of us have a duty, in circumstances that are very difficult and not of our choosing to be in, that we seek to do the right thing.”

SNP bosses launched an investigation into reports of inappropriate behaviour by the married father-of-two, with allegations made by three women.

The findings were shown to Mr McDonald on Monday, with investigators concluding the MSP’s inappropriate behaviour had been “deliberate in nature” and he should have known not to act in this manner.

The behaviour is said to include sending inappropriate and unwanted text and social media messages, causing distress to women through his unwanted attention and exploiting his position of power, with the investigation finding there had been “persistent behaviour over an extended period of time”.

Mr McDonald has been absent from the Scottish Parliament since the allegations against him were first made in November 2017 but plans to return next week.