Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 17:34 UK

Labour leader faces one-day ban

Wendy Alexander

Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander should be banned from parliament for one day after breaking donation rules, a Holyrood committee has recommended.

The parliament's standards committee ruled that she failed to declare donations to her leadership campaign on her register of interests.

Parliament is now in summer recess and will have to wait until September to vote on the recommendation.

Ms Alexander said she acted on advice from Holyrood officials.

The cross-party standards committee earlier ruled she should have declared 10 donations to her leadership campaign last summer on her register as an MSP.

The committee, which spent more than two hours meeting in private, was split on taking action against her but eventually voted to recommend the ban by four votes to three abstentions.

They wanted her hung, drawn and quartered
David Whitton
Labour MSP

Ms Alexander, the MSP for Paisley North, had said clerks to the standards committee wrongly told her it was unnecessary to declare donations.

She later updated her register with details of the donors, who each gave about 1,000 to her campaign, after the Scottish parliamentary standards commissioner, Dr Jim Dyer, decided the donations should be treated as gifts.

The two Labour MSPs on the committee, Cathie Cragie and Marlyn Glen, said no sanctions should be imposed.

They were joined by Tory Jamie McGrigor, who said there were "mitigating circumstances" in the case.

Nationalist MSPs Dave Thompson, Christina McKelvie and Keith Brown - the committee convener - backed the action, along with Lib Dem Hugh O'Donnell.

Ms Glen said the Scottish Labour leader had "fallen foul of a flawed system", but Mr Brown said a breach in the rules had occurred before Ms Alexander sought advice.

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Labour MSP David Whitton, who played a key role in Ms Alexander's campaign, said of the result: "They wanted her hung, drawn and quartered.

"The result of this ballot didn't actually mean anything - whether it's one day, a week, a year - it doesn't really matter."

The committee's recommendation for the ban ruling was the latest development in the saga of donations to Ms Alexander's leadership campaign.

She expressed "deep regret" that her team accepted an illegal 950 donation from Jersey-based businessman Paul Green, although the Electoral Commission found there was not sufficient evidence to prove an offence and did not report her to prosecutors.

Concerns over the standards committee's recommendation were raised in the Scottish Parliament chamber, just before MSPs went on their summer holidays.

'Substantive issues'

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald said the issue could raise serious difficulty, adding: "We are advised under our code of conduct to seek the advice of parliamentary clerks, the parliamentary clerks take legal advice.

"If then the standards commissioner produces legal advice offering the opposite solution, what position does that leave any member?"

Labour's Jackie Baillie called for the code of conduct for MSPs to be reviewed to put beyond any doubt items which required to be registered given "that there are gaps in the code".

Holyrood Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson said the issues raised were "substantive" and promised to consider them and come back to MSPs.

Earlier, Ms Alexander was unable to fully take part in first minister's questions, after losing her voice.

She asked the first question, before her deputy Cathy Jamieson took over.


SEE ALSO
Alexander 'broke Holyrood rules'
25 Jun 08 |  Scotland
Alexander in clear over donation
07 Feb 08 |  Scotland
Alexander donation probe 'robust'
15 Mar 08 |  Scotland
Alexander verdict 'a whitewash'
08 Feb 08 |  Scotland
Alexander reported over donations
03 Feb 08 |  Scotland

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