An MP facing the final moments of her career in Parliament has taken to begging constituents not to sign a recall petition that would force a by-election in her constituency.
Margaret Ferrier, who was elected as an SNP MP in 2019, lost an appeal against a suspension from the Commons after she was found to have brought Parliament into disrepute over a number of major Covid rule breaches.
MPs voted to suspend Ms Ferrier for 30 days, well above the 10 day suspension threshold that entitles constituents to request a by-election.
If 10 percent of Ms Ferrier’s constituents demand a by-election, one will be called – and the SNP has already found a replacement candidate.
The Herald reports that both Labour and the SNP are confident that the 8,113 signatures will be hit, meaning Humza Yousaf will face a major electoral test in the seat.
READ MORE: Shamed ex-SNP MP suspended from House of Commons paving way for by-election
Rather than going quietly, Ms Ferrier posted a statement on her MP website begging voters to support her and not back an election.
Her open letter begs constituents: “If you wish to see me continue as your MP, then do not sign the petition paper.”
She adds: “As an Independent MP, my constituents are my top priority and always have been”.
“I do not have any desire or need to play into party politics, which inevitably distracts from constituency issues and the needs of local residents.
“While parties have already spent months arguing about their candidates for a by-election that has not even been confirmed, they have disregarded the very real issues faced by many in our community.”
Ms Ferrier claims “many constituents have expressed to me that they do not want a by-election”.
Amid confidence from Labour and the SNP that the by-election will be called, she adds: “It is ultimately up to the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West to decide what happens next – not Westminster, not Holyrood, and certainly not any political party HQs”.
In March, the Commons’ Standards Committee concluded Margaret Ferrier 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”.
On Saturday 26 September 2020, Ms Ferrier, having developed symptoms of COVID-19, took a COVID-19 test. The following day she attended church and had lunch with a family member.
On Monday 28 September 2020, Ms Ferrier travelled to Glasgow Central Station by taxi and took a train to London. She attended the House, taking part in a debate, and ate in the Members’ Tearoom. She received a text that evening informing her that she had tested positive for COVID-19.
Ms Ferrier consequently informed the SNP Chief Whip that she would be returning to Scotland the next morning, giving as the reason that a family member was unwell.
She did not disclose her test result to her Chief Whip. Ms Ferrier then travelled by train to Glasgow the following morning.
The upcoming by-election, if successfully triggered, will be the first major test of the SNP’s new First Minister Humza Yousaf.
Ms Ferrier won the seat in 2019 – under the much more confident leadership of Nicola Sturgeon – with a slim majority of 5,230.
Under current polling, it should be an easy Labour victory that will raise hopes they can topple the increasingly unpopular SNP next year.