By-election to be held after COVID rule-breaker MP Margaret Ferrier loses seat

Margaret Ferrier has lost her parliamentary seat following a successful recall petition.

A by-election will now be called for the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency in Scotland.

Ms Ferrier was ruled to have damaged the reputation of the Commons and put people at risk when she took part in a debate at Westminster after travelling by train while suffering from coronavirus in September 2020.

She was later charged by police and ordered to undertake 270 hours of unpaid work after admitting culpably and recklessly exposing the public “to the risk of infection, illness and death” as a result of her behaviour.

She was subsequently suspended from the Commons for 30 days, which triggered the recall petition.

The petition – signed by more than 10% of the constituency’s electorate – opened on 20 June and closed at 5pm on Monday. South Lanarkshire Council announced the results on Tuesday night.

Three other MPs have also faced recall petitions previously, but there has never been one in Scotland since the procedure was introduced in 2015.

Ms Ferrier won the seat for the SNP in the 2019 general election but was later forced to sit as an independent after losing the party whip when her COVID breach came to light.

Both Scottish Labour and the SNP have their eye on the seat. Labour plans to put forward teacher Michael Shanks as their candidate, while SNP will field Katy Loudon.

Ms Ferrier is also entitled to run as a candidate again.

What did Margaret Ferrier do?

Ms Ferrier developed COVID symptoms on Saturday 26 September 2020, and after taking a test still went to church and had lunch with a family member the following day.

The rules at the time stated Ms Ferrier should have been isolating until she received her test result.

On the Monday, still awaiting the result of the test, she travelled by train to London, took part in a Commons debate and ate in the members’ tearoom in parliament.

That evening she received a text telling her the test was positive but instead of isolating, she travelled back to Scotland by train the following morning.

‘I have grown as a result of my actions’

Ms Ferrier ignored numerous calls to resign.

After the Commons Standards Committee recommended that Ms Ferrier be suspended for 30 days, she appealed against the decision.

She said: “While I of course deeply regret my actions, I have also grown as a result of them.

“There are ways they have made me a better parliamentarian, reminding me of the privilege that I hold in this job and the way that my words and actions can impact in positive ways, too.

“It is why, despite all the hard part of remaining in the public eye, I have not shirked my responsibilities and have continued to regularly attend parliament and engage with my constituents.”

In May, an independent expert panel upheld the original judgement and Ms Ferrier was subsequently suspended.

The panel said she “acted selfishly”, adding: “She acted with blatant and deliberate dishonest intent.”

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