Mark McDonald resigns from the SNP: Full statement

Written by Mark McDonald on 6 March 2018 in Inside Politics

Read in full: Mark McDonald announces his decision to resign from the SNP

On 4th November 2017, I announced my resignation from my position as Minister for Childcare & Early Years. I did so because I had been made aware of behaviour which had caused upset and offence. I apologised for the offence I had caused, and the First Minister stated, in respect of this, on 6th November that while it was correct that I resigned as a minister it was not behaviour which would require my resignation as an MSP.

On 16th November 2017 I was advised that, following the party receiving new information regarding my behaviour, that I was to be suspended from the SNP pending a full investigation. At the time, I made clear that I would cooperate fully with the investigation.

At that point, I decided that it would be inappropriate for me to attend Parliament while this investigation was underway. Although I had yet to be advised of the detail of the allegations which had been made against me and given an opportunity to respond formally, I was given the impression that the investigation would take a matter of a few weeks to conclude. It has clearly not done so, and I regret the extended absence this has caused.

I wish to stress that throughout this process, I have continued to deal with local constituency casework, meeting with constituents to discuss their issues, and attending local constituency engagements.

I was informed of the allegations I faced on 14th January 2018 and was interviewed four days later, when the precise detail behind those allegations was placed before me for the very first time. I was given the opportunity to fully respond to the allegations which I did genuinely and openly.

I was told on 9th February, after requesting to know when the report would be concluded that the timescale would be one of days, rather than weeks. Yesterday afternoon I was allowed to read the findings for the very first time, although I have not been given a copy, either of those findings or of the substantive report.

The findings, which I cannot disclose other than in very general terms, confirm that I have accepted that my behaviour towards two individuals fell below the level of professionalism that they were entitled to expect of me, whether in a professional or a social context.

While at no stage was my behaviour in any way physically abusive, and while it was certainly not my intention to cause any upset, discomfort or offence to those concerned, it is clear through the concerns highlighted in the report that I have done so.

That is something which I deeply regret. I would like to take the opportunity here and now to offer a public and unreserved apology to those individuals for the hurt and offence that I have caused them.

I was advised that the second complainant, who came forward on 16th November, had expressed that they wished to receive a personal, written apology from me, and I have today sent that apology to them. It is genuine, and heartfelt, and I hope it can go some way to helping to overcome the upset that has been caused.

Last week, in response to the survey at Holyrood on harassment in the workplace, the First Minister said that the most important change that could take place would be for individuals to change their behaviour. I agree with this, and want to say a little more about what I have done in this regard.

Throughout this period, I have had ample opportunity to reflect on my behaviour, and how it can be perceived, both in the instances covered in the report as well as more generally. Over the past four months, as I indicated in my statement of 13th November, I have also engaged with a behaviour coach, who has helped me to reflect and better understand how aspects of my behaviour might be seen by others. My behaviour coach considers that I have been willing not just to reflect on the mistakes I have made, but more importantly, that I have demonstrated a clear willingness to change as a consequence of that reflection.

Being prepared in this way to see myself as others might see me was a daunting but necessary step for me to begin to truly understand the potential effects on others of my past actions. As a result, I hope that I am well on my way to becoming a better, more empathetic and considerate person for having undertaken these sessions, although that will clearly be for others to determine.

There has been much discussion of the issue of power. We as politicians often like to assume that election or elevation to high office does not change us as people, and for many that is the case, but it does change the dynamic of our relationships with others, and that was something which I had not fully appreciated.

I have thought long and hard over these past few months about how to move forward following this process, whatever its outcome was. Throughout, I have been mindful of some comments attributed to colleagues in media articles which have appeared. I have, as I said I would, cooperated fully with the investigation and respected the process, and have refused to respond to speculation and innuendo from any quarter. I will continue in that manner.

Throughout this, as I have said, I have continued to act diligently as a constituency MSP despite my absence from Parliament. Although I considered it an immense privilege to have the opportunity to serve as a Minister in the Scottish Government, my first and most important priority has been to represent the constituents of Aberdeen Donside – the community where I live, and where I grew up.

I have thought carefully about how I can best continue to serve those communities, who did me the honour of re-electing me in May 2016, and to take forward their priorities, and champion the causes that matter to them. That desire to continue to represent the interests of these people and these communities has led me to make a decision regarding my future.

I have today emailed the national secretary of the SNP, and the chief whip of the parliamentary group to advise of my immediate resignation from the party. I have further advised the parliamentary authorities that I will return to Holyrood next week to sit as an independent MSP, and have asked them to make the necessary arrangements to allow this to happen.

Before then, I will be taking a few days to spend some time with my family, for whose love and support I am grateful each and every day. I would ask that we be given some space for that period, that my staff are able to go about their duties without intrusion, and constituents visiting my constituency office are able to do so in the knowledge that their privacy will be respected.

I would further repeat previous requests that no individual should be asked to identify themselves, nor should people who purport to speak for others seek to identify individuals. This process should be one where the wishes of individuals to remain anonymous, if that is what they ask, should be respected by everyone. I have said nothing in my remarks which seeks to identify people, and that will remain the case.

I will resume my parliamentary duties next week, taking forward the priorities and speaking for the people of Aberdeen Donside, who it has been my privilege and honour to serve since 2013.

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