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Holyrood votes to bar Green MSP from committee meeting over rule breach

Green MSP Maggie Chapman is to be barred from a Holyrood committee meeting after MSPs approved a sanction on her for breaching their code of conduct.

MSPs voted by 99 to 11 with one abstention to bar the Green from one meeting of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee.

It comes after she failed to declare an interest during a meeting of that committee in May last year.

With the committee considering controversial gender recognition reforms, Chapman had been questioning the chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland – but she failed to mention her previous employment as chief operations officer at Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre.

Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee last week unanimously ruled that by doing this Chapman had breached both the MSPs’ code of conduct and legislation concerning MSPs’ interests.

Standards committee convener Martin Whitfield said that Chapman’s actions meant that “transparency was missing” from her questioning.

He said: “We live in an age now where there is a great deal of scepticism and mistrust in politicians.

“In order for us to challenge those perceptions it is incumbent on us to act with integrity and respect the rules in the code of conduct.

“It is also incumbent on us, I believe in certain circumstances, to exclude a member from the proceedings of the Parliament where a member has failed the requirement to declare an interest.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell said his party accepted the decision that Chapman had breached the code of conduct, but “struggled” with the decision to impose a sanction on her.

He said in previous cases where MSPs had failed to declare an interest, no punishment had been imposed by the Parliament.

Ruskell said: “This case against Maggie Chapman relates to a previous employment which had long since concluded at the time the item of business took place in this Parliament.

“So there was no way Chapman could have benefited financially from the subject under discussion that day.”

The Green went on to raise concerns that the decision to sanction his colleague could set a precedent that leaves MSPs “financially tied to all our previous employers for an indefinite period”.

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