Pentlands MSP quits after Nicola Sturgeon calls for more female members

Edinburgh Pentlands MSP Gordon Mcdonald.
Edinburgh Pentlands MSP Gordon Mcdonald.
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A male MSP has quit a key Holyrood body after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared it “unacceptable” there were no women members.

SNP backbencher and Edinburgh Pentlands MSP Gordon Macdonald is to stand down from the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB). Party bosses confirmed his place would be filled by a female MSP.

Green MSP Andy Wightman declared he would also stand down from the SPCB after Holyrood had “agreed to a mechanism for appointing a more gender-balanced Corporate Body”.

The Corporate Body makes decisions on a range of issues concerned with the running of Holyrood, including how the Parliament’s budget is allocated, staffing and security.

It has faced questions in the wake of the allegations of sexual misconduct that are engulfing politics north and and south of the border, with several female MSPs asking what action it is taking to deal with the problem.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I think the situation with the Parliament’s Corporate Body, where there are no women represented on it, is unacceptable and will have to be addressed and resolved by this Parliament.”

Ms Sturgeon spoke out after First Minister’s Questions, where she had been asked about the problem of sexual harassment.

She pointed out MSPs will shortly consider new legislation, which will require public bodies to ensure women make up half of their board members, and added that the Parliament “has a duty to lead by example”.

She stated: “That’s a matter for all of Parliament to address but I think I am making pretty clear what my views on that are.”

Some 30 minutes after Ms Sturgeon spoke, the SNP announced that Mr Macdonald would be standing down from the SPCB.

The party said he was recovering from an operation and would not be able to attend meetings of the SPCB, which is made up of Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh and representatives of the five parties at Holyrood, until after the New Year.

Mr Macdonald said: “It has been an honour to have served on the Parliament’s Corporate Body and to contribute to the running of Scotland’s Parliament.

“Having recently undergone an operation, I realise that it will not be possible for me to fully undertake my duties on the Corporate Body over the coming weeks and have made the decision to step down.

“Given the importance of the Corporate Body and the work it is taking forward, I believe it is vital to have a full complement of members in place.

“My decision will also enable the SNP to nominate a female representative to the Corporate Body, to follow in the footsteps of Tricia Marwick and Linda Fabiani.

“I look forward to working with my successor when I am back to full health.”

In also standing down, Mr Wightman said: “If Parliament fails to do this within a reasonable timescale, I will be left with no option but to stand down regardless.”

Mr Wightman said he was taking action because he believed that “the structures of our Parliament should be representative of the public we seek to serve”.

Meanwhile, Mr Macintosh wrote to party leaders calling for an “early meeting” to discuss the situation, pointing out that changing the membership of the SPCB would require the backing of Parliament, while altering the way the body is made up such as by requiring women to be included would require rule changes.

The Presiding Officer said: “In previous sessions, the SPCB has included female members and, in fact, last session had a majority of women. This leads me to firmly believe that it is possible for political parties to work constructively together to achieve greater gender balance on the SPCB now.”

The movement to change the board’s structure comes with a host of Westminister MSPs having been stood down or suspended from duties. Former defence secretary Michael Fallon has been the most high-profile casualty, having resigned from the role last week.