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by Kirsteen Paterson
31 July 2023
Margaret Ferrier recall petition to close in Rutherglen and Hamilton West

Margaret Ferrier MP

Margaret Ferrier recall petition to close in Rutherglen and Hamilton West

The recall petition which could cost Covid scandal MP Margaret Ferrier her seat in parliament will close tonight.

Voters in Rutherglen and Hamilton West have until this evening to decide if they will seek the removal of their representative. 

Scottish parties stepped up their campaigns in the area weeks ago in a bid to capture the seat.

The recall petition opened in June after the House of Commons voted to suspend her from parliament for a 30-day period for breaching the MPs' code of conduct.

The length of exclusion meant the recall petition was automatically opened and if 10 per cent of registered voters add their names, Ferrier will lose her seat and a by-election will be called.

Elected as an SNP member, the two-time MP has sat as an independent since it emerged that she had broken Covid travel rules.

Ferrier was awaiting the results of a coronavirus test when she took a train to London in September 2020. She received a positive result and returned by rail the next day, without telling the party whip the reason for this.

She was later charged with culpable and reckless conduct by Police Scotland and sentenced to 270 hours of community service at Glasgow Sheriff Court, having admitted that she wilfully exposed people to "the risk of infection, illness and death".

Ferrier apologised for her actions, saying she "deeply regrets" them and that there is "no excuse". In an interview with the Sun on Sunday, she said she had "panicked" on receiving her diagnosis and the virus meant she was "not thinking straight".

In a statement posted on her website last month, Ferrier urged constituents not to sign the petition, saying "many" locals had told her "they do not want a by-election". She said: "I made a mistake - for which I continue to apologise and have faced severe punishment. It has not deterred me from doing right by constituents and continuing to fight on their behalf. I hope that my constituents will recognise this."

With 81,124 registered voters in the area, 8,113 of these must sign the petition to force a by-election, which Ferrier would be free to contest.

She had a majority of 5,230 when she won the seat from Labour for the SNP in 2019. Both of those parties now have candidates in place and activists have been targeting locals.

The vote on Ferrier's suspension was in line with the recommendations of the Commons' standards committee, which found that she had "acted with blatant and deliberate dishonest intent". Its report said: "She acted with a high degree of recklessness to the public and to colleagues and staff at the House of Commons. She acted selfishly, putting her own interests above the public interest."

The recall petition is the first to be held in Scotland. New applications to sign by post closed on July 14 and in-person sign-ups end at 5pm tonight. Seven designated signing places are located throughout the area.

Counting is expected to take place tomorrow and the results will be passed to the Speaker of the House of Commons before being announced to the public.

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