Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Sunday, 17 May 2009 15:27 UK

Scots MPs split over Martin calls

Mr Clegg said the Speaker was 'a dogged defender of the way things are'

Scottish MPs from the main parties have split over whether the Speaker of the House of Commons should step down.

Michael Martin is looking increasingly vulnerable after an unprecedented demand for his resignation from UK Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

The call, amid the expenses row was backed by Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander, but dismissed by Tory MP David Mundell.

The SNP's John Mason said he had not made his mind up, while Labour MP Jim Sheridan declined to be drawn.

Meanwhile, as revelations about MP expense claims continued, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill suggested the system at the Scottish Parliament may need to be looked at again.

As a new MP, he's been perfectly fair to me as the chair in the commons
John Mason
SNP MP

Mr Clegg has become the first party leader to call for Mr Martin to resign, saying the Westminster parliament could go down in history as "rotten" and that it needed a Speaker who would push through radical reforms.

Mr Alexander, the MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, warned against making Mr Martin - MP for Glasgow North East - a "scapegoat" for irresponsible expense claims from MPs.

But he told BBC Scotland's Politics Show: "The need for reform in parliament is so great and, without any relish, Nick is saying and I'm saying the Speaker should stand aside.

"We need a Speaker who is going to be a champion for reform, not a roadblock to reform and I think that, too often in the past, Michael Martin has, on things like freedom of information and on changing the rules on MPs' expenses, not taken the reformist road."

Mr Sheridan, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, said the Speaker had been the victim of bad advice and information from his officials - but declined to say whether he should go.

"Michael's a man of the highest integrity and, I think, thinking long and hard about his future and I sincerely hope he does the right thing for him and his family," said Mr Sheridan.

Mr Mundell said he wanted to hear from Mr Martin on how he was going to resolve the expenses matter.

'Addressing concerns'

"The public are very angry - MPs all have to take personal responsibility and we can't duck that - but I think it is up to the Speaker now to set out how he sees this issue going forward," said the Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP.

Mr Mason said he had not made up his mind over whether Mr Martin should resign, and said many MPs were desperate to shift the spotlight off themselves.

The Glasgow East MP added: "As a new MP, he's been perfectly fair to me as the chair in the Commons - I've almost always got to speak when I wanted to, so I have no personal problem with him."

Mr Mason went on to say the SNP was perhaps "a bit less guilty" when it came to its MPs' expense claims.

Nationalist Angus Robertson, the MP for Moray, has been highlighted for claiming £20 for a corkscrew - but Mr Mason said other parties were involved in controversial claims worth thousands of pounds.

Meanwhile, Mr MacAskill told BBC Scotland that, while Holyrood was changing the system were MSPs can claim mortgage interest payments on second homes in Edinburgh, the Scottish Parliament "couldn't rest on its laurels".

"We never say never in politics and we have to make sure that we're always addressing concerns," he said.

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald called for any profits made "from money drawn from the public purse" under the system to be returned when homes are sold.



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