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Scottish Socialist MSPs suspended after G8 protest

BBC News
 

SSP protestFour Scottish Socialist MSPs have been banned from parliament for the month of September and for disrupting business with a protest over the G8 summit.

They marched to the front of the chamber brandishing placards reading Defend Democracy, demanding the right to protest at Gleneagles.

Presiding Officer George Reid suspended the sitting and the group who took part in the protest.

The MSPs will also lose their salaries and allowances during their exclusion.

The pre-planned protest by SSP leader Colin Fox and his party colleagues Frances Curran, Rosie Kane and Carolyn Leckie interrupted question time on Thursday.

Mr Fox also clashed with MSPs from other parties in the lobby after he was asked to leave the chamber.

The in-house demo concerned next week's summit where the socialists claimed parliament had failed to secure the right to demonstrate at Gleneagles.

However, BBC Scotland understands a deal has been struck with the police to allow a demonstration close to the site next Wednesday.

The protest began after Ms Leckie raised a point of order, claiming that parliament had failed to uphold a motion supporting the right to protest during the G8, passed during a debate several months ago.

After raising placards behind the first minister, the female Socialist MSPs refused to leave the chamber.

'Absolutely meaningless'

Ms Leckie said: "We are planning to be here until the parliament starts doing its job properly. This parliament won't uphold its decisions."

Mr Fox said when he asked the first minister about the issue, he had expected Jack McConnell to update MSPs on talks involving Perth and Kinross Council and the police over protesters' demands to be allowed within earshot of the summit.

Mr Fox said: "But he said nothing and effectively said the resolution passed four months ago was meaningless.

"For us, the central issue is whether parliament takes decisions which are absolutely meaningless.

"We thought the protest we felt we had to make was entirely proportionate."

However, Mr Reid said: "For elected members to act in such a grossly undemocratic fashion is an absolute contempt of parliament.

"And they compounded that contempt by refusing to leave the chamber. They cannot hope to be simultaneously on the barricades and on the benches of this parliament."

To applause from MSPs in the chamber, Mr Reid said: "Those who claim to speak for others should never, ever deny that right and that privilege to other elected members."

The Scottish National Party MSP John Swinney said: "All this crowd are interested in doing is performing stunts and disrupting parliament.

"They've got a privileged position, they're members of a democratic parliament."

'Absolutely predictable'

Labour's Susan Deacon warned the protest would undermine the efforts to make poverty history.

She said: "To have that key message deflected by the antics of a few is, frankly, tragic. And I think those who are responsible should hold their heads in shame."

The Conservative's Bill Aitken added: "Absolutely predictable but at the same time deplorable and very, very childish.

"What sort of an impression does this create?"

MSPs have agreed to convene Holyrood's standards committee in emergency session, which has the power to exclude the Socialist MSPs from the entire Holyrood complex and dock their pay and allowances.

An anti-G8 protest group lobbied MSPs at Holyrood and asked the first minister to allow it to march past Gleneagles.

G8 Alternatives urged Mr McConnell to back its plans to walk past the G8 summit site on 6 July.

They were allowed to hold their demonstration inside the security cordon surrounding Holyrood.

The SSP leader joined them outside the parliament building and Mr Fox told protesters Mr McConnell had been "evasive" about their right to protest.

Mr Fox added: "There's a week to go. He gives us no details of where we'll assemble, where we'll march or where we'll rally ."

On Tuesday, Holyrood's Public Petitions Committee backed the protest and agreed to send the request on to Mr McConnell.

 

July 2005

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