A former SNP MSP has sparked fury after announcing he intends to continue sitting as an independent Member of the Scottish Parliament despite allegations of domestic violence.
Last month, the Sunday Herald’s Investigations Editor, Paul Hutcheon, reported accusations of domestic abuse over four decades by three former wives and a teenage step-daughter of Bill Walker which led the SNP to first suspend and then subsequently expel the MSP for Dunfermline West from the party altogether following consideration of the issue by its disciplinary committee.
Walker, however, has made clear his intention to both appeal the decision made by the SNP whilst also pledging to continue serving at Holyrood.
Arguing his innocence, Walker has declared:
“I am definitely continuing as MSP and shall resist any calls for me to stand down. I have had dozens of messages of support by email, by text and by phone from people across Dunfermline.
”People have been offering me their support as a potential victim of a smear campaign. I will continue to do my best for the people of Dunfermline at the Scottish Parliament.”
The decision, however, has been met with anger and upset from opposition politicians.
For Labour, calling on local SNP members to stop supporting Walker, Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty argued:
“Bill Walker should go. He’s not fit to be an MSP and is an embarrassment to the area. The SNP locally should disown him and stop members writing letters to the press in his support.”
Other opponents, meanwhile, called on the MSP to examine his conscience, with a spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives responding:
“The SNP have taken the correct decision in pursuing this course of action, and the MSP concerned must now examine his conscience on whether he thinks it’s right to continue taking thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money for the next four years.
“The honourable thing would be for him to step down from his role as a member of the Scottish Parliament.”
• Justice for Jane Clough 13 Oct 2011
It was a view echoed by Willie Rennie, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
The SNP say they will comment only after Walker’s appeal against his expulsion from the party had formally been lodged and processed.
Seeking to compare the case with that of Labour MP Eric Joyce, an editorial in the Sunday Herald this weekend argued:
There can be no place in politics for someone with Walker’s track record. Over four decades, from the 1960s to the 1990s, he was accused by three wives of cruelty and abuse.
One wife told this paper she was punched in the face and nearly hospitalised by Walker, while a teenage step-daughter told a court he had turned a saucepan inside-out by striking her with it.
Now that his actions have caught up with him, Walker should accept the SNP’s vote to expel him and waive his right to appeal.
More importantly, he should use this moment to remove himself completely from public life.
For despite being kicked out of his party, he is still entitled to remain at Holyrood as an independent MSP for another four years and so collect some £230,000 in salary.
In that regard, his case echoes that of Labour’s Eric Joyce, who recently admitted a drunken assault in a Commons bar, but remains an MP because he cannot be forced out of parliament. The examples of Walker and Joyce should make all parties reflect on whether elected politicians should be subject to recall procedures if they break fundamental bonds of trust with electors.
Zero Tolerance, the charity campaigning against domestic abuse, says Walker should do the “honorable thing” and stand down.
He owes it to the people of Dunfermline to quit.