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by Kirsteen Paterson
11 May 2023
Green MSP Maggie Chapman censured for rules breach during meeting on gender reform

Maggie Chapman on the Green benches in the Scottish Parliament

Green MSP Maggie Chapman censured for rules breach during meeting on gender reform

Maggie Chapman breached the MSPs code of conduct by failing to declare a financial interest during consideration of gender reforms, a committee has found.

The prominent Green MSP should have declared that she had been a senior officer of Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre during committee scrutiny of the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill, the committee said.

Failure to do so when asking the head of Rape Crisis Scotland about the "network" of services crossed a line on "transparency and openness", it found.

A complaint was made after the North East Scotland MSP led the questions during a May 2022 meeting of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, to which she belongs.

Chapman said she had followed "convention", but the ruling Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments (SPPA) Committee said it is the rules, not convention, which must be adhered to.

Its members have unanimously backed censure for the MSP.

SPPA convenor Martin Whitfield said any breach of the members' code of conduct is a "very serious matter".

He stated: "The committee notes that central to the members’ interests regime are the principles of transparency in relation to matters that could be thought to influence a member’s actions, speeches or votes in the parliament and the need to assess whether an interest could reasonably be considered to influence or to give the appearance of influencing the ability of the member to participate in a disinterested manner in any proceedings of the parliament.

"The committee believes that for those watching or reading the proceedings of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee of 31 May 2022, a declaration by Maggie Chapman MSP of her declarable interest would have provided the transparency and openness that the standards regime requires in relation to members’ interests."

Chapman worked as chief operating officer of Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre until June 2021 and the position is listed in her register of interests.

She declared the link at the beginning of the equalities committee consideration of the GRR Bill, but did not do so at the meeting in question.

She told the SPPA Committee that Rape Crisis Scotland Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre are "completely separate entities and have distinct governance, employment and funding arrangements".

However, the committee determined that "a person watching or reading the proceedings might reasonably consider there to be a connection between the two organisations".

Chapman's question referred to the work of the Scottish rape crisis network as "having been trans-inclusive for 15 years" and invited its chief executive "to say a bit more about how the medicalisation of trans identity had been dealt with".

The SPPA Committee said that though Chapman "made an assessment that her declarable interest was not sufficiently related" to the GRR Bill, a declaration "should have been made before pursuing a line of questioning that referenced the network of rape crisis centres which includes Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre".

Chapman said she is "disappointed" with the committee's conclusion, which she called "unprecedented". She stated: "I have never sought to hide my previous employment with a rape crisis centre, which ended on 30 June 2021. This is published in my written Register of Interests and I also declared it at the first meeting of the committee. 

"It is also clear that there could be no way in which I, or anyone else, could gain financially or otherwise from my engagement in committee proceedings. 

"I simply, if mistakenly, did not view my former employment, which had ceased months before the committee meeting, as being of enough significance to make further oral declarations.

"I appreciate the consideration of this matter by members of the SPPA Committee due to my omission to declare my past work supporting rape survivors. I will strive to avoid any such confusion in future. 

"While I acknowledge the one meeting sanction imposed, it is in my view unprecedented compared with previous considerations of complaints against other MSPs. 

"I apologise to colleagues who have to deal with it and thank them for their courtesy in considering this matter."

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