Smith Commission: SNP councillors who burned devolution report could be expelled from party

Nicola Sturgeon is under pressure from political opponents to discipline the firestarting SNP politicians

Zachary Davies Boren
Wednesday 03 December 2014 16:52
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Nicola Sturgeon has suspended four SNP councillors for involvment in the burning of a copy of the Smith Commission report - which recommends devolved powers for Scotland - and releasing footage of the stunt on Youtube.

The four members of Renfrewshire Council, who could face disciplinary action and expulsion from the party, were reprimanded by First Minister and SNP leader Sturgeon for "not acceptable behaviour".

Political opposition in Scotland have seized on this incident, demanding a response from the SNP's leadership.

The four people who apparently performed the stunt - former Renfrewshire Council leader Brian Lawson, Mags MacLaren, who runs transport minister Derek Mackay's constituency office, Will Mylet and Kenny MacLaren, who is a researcher for SNP MSP Stuart McMillan - have been suspended pending the outcome of disciplinary procedures, SNP national secretary Patrick Grady has confirmed.

In the video, Lawson, Mylet and Mags MacLaren are stood outside the council's Paisley headquarters, setting fire to a copy of the Smith Commission report which was published last week.

As the report is burns, Mylet faces the camera and says: "This is the Smith Commission report, and this is what we think of it.

"No real powers for Scotland yet again from Westminster. We've been lied to again."

Kenny MacLaren was also said to be involved, although he is not seen in the clip.

After the online footage emerged, Scottish Labour interim leader Anas Sarwar demanded Sturgeon set out what action would be taken against the councillors.

Sarwar also called on the First Minister to apologise to Lord Smith of Kelvin, who chaired the Smith Commission, and to all of Scotland.

The SNP had two representatives on the Smith Commission, which was set up by the UK Government to look at Scottish devolution package, including Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

Nationalist leaders have said they believe the report does not go far enough, but have also welcomed the proposed new powers for Scotland.

Sturgeon said: "Many people are disappointed with the result of the referendum and the level of devolution recommended by the Smith Commission; however, Scotland will only make progress if we debate our views openly and with respect.

"It is essential that, in that debate, conduct does not fall short of the high standard that is rightly expected by the public. My clear view is that setting fire to something because you don't agree with it is not acceptable behaviour."

Scottish Conservative constitutional spokeswoman Annabel Goldie, who was also a member of the commission, said: "This juvenile posturing is a huge embarrassment to the SNP, which actually sat on the Smith Commission and signed up to the agreement.

"The SNP's subsequent response to the Smith Agreement raises big questions about its ability to accept the referendum result, which was a rejection of independence and an endorsement of devolution.

"Silly antics from these councillors not only diminish their party but show disrespect to a democratic judgment."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "It is to Nicola Sturgeon's credit that she responded promptly to condemn the behaviour of her own councillors."

But he said: "The longer-term challenge for the First Minister is that these senior SNP members are not lone voices. So many nationalists rose to the defence of the councillors in defiance of the SNP leadership.

"The radical package of powers agreed by the all-party Smith Commission should be celebrated rather than burnt in a bin. Yet for these nationalists everything short of independence is condemned as dangerous."

Additional reporting by PA

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