UK & World News

  • 7 September 2013, 22:55

MSP Bill Walker Quits Over Domestic Abuse

MSP Bill Walker, who was convicted of 23 domestic abuse charges, has submitted his resignation to the Scottish Parliament. 71-year-old of Alloa, in Clackmannanshire, was convicted last month of a string of domestic abuse offences against his ex-wives but had refused to quit his seat despite pressure from campaigners and MSPs, many of whom signed a petition calling for him to go.

He said in a statement: "It has been increasingly difficult for my wife and my staff to deal with the media interest in my case. That same media onslaught has also made it impossible to properly represent my constituents and their interests.

"My trial process on domestic abuse charges still continues at Edinburgh Sheriff Court with the sentence not due to be announced until September 20 after the receipt of the reports ordered by the court.

"However, circumstances have made it very difficult to continue as MSP, hence my decision to withdraw now."

The former SNP MSP for Dunfermline was ejected from the party when the allegations surfaced.

He was found guilty following a trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last month for attacks against his three ex-wives and a stepdaughter between 1967 and 1995. The maximum sentence he could receive is one year in prison.

Under the law, only politicians sentenced to more than a year in jail are disqualified, so he could not have been forced out of parliament.

In his resignation statement, he said it had been a "pleasure" to serve his constituents since May 2011.

He added: "After September 20, there will be an opportunity for me to consider whether there are grounds for appeal and, under legal advice from my solicitor, I shall be making no further comment at this stage."

His resignation means a by-election will be held in Dunfermline.

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie, who put forward the petition calling for the politician to resign, said: "Good. Bill Walker should have understood immediately the gravity of his situation but it has taken 16 days for the penny to drop.

"It is sad that he continues to blame others instead of taking responsibility himself for his own actions. It would have been wrong for someone convicted of so many counts of domestic violence to return to Parliament. I'm pleased he's gone."

An SNP spokesman said Walker's position was "untenable", adding: "People across the political spectrum have been demanding that he resign his seat, and it is right that there will now be a by-election so that the people of Dunfermline can elect a new MSP."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Parliament said: "The Presiding Officer has received the resignation of Bill Walker, effective from Monday."