UK parliament watchdog says Scottish MP should be suspended for COVID breaches

LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) - A Scottish lawmaker faces a 30-day suspension from Britain's parliament after its standards committee said she had broken the rules when she made a long train journey when she had COVID-19, in a move which could end up triggering a by-election.

Margaret Ferrier tested positive in September 2021 after speaking in Britain's House of Commons. Instead of isolating as was mandatory at the time for anyone with a positive test, she took a train more than 400 miles back to Scotland.

Ferrier has apologised for what she has called "an error in judgment", but has resisted calls to resign.

The Committee on Standards said on Thursday that Ferrier had committed "significant breaches" of five principles of the code of conduct for members of parliament, including selflessness, accountability, and honesty.

Ferrier, who was at the time was a member of parliament for the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), was suspended from her party and now sits as an independent.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Daniel Greenberg said Ferrier had placed "her own personal interest of not wishing to self-isolate immediately or in London over the public interest of avoiding possible risk of harm to health and life".

Members of parliament will be asked to vote on the recommended 30-day suspension, which if MPs back it would trigger a recall petition. If signed by 10% of voters in Ferrier's parliamentary constituency, this would then mean she has to put himself forward for re-election.

Any by-election would be a test of the opposition Labour Party's ability to win back seats from the SNP in Scotland, where it used to be dominant.

Four MPs of the ruling Conservative party who were involved in investigating Ferrier's actions wanted a suspension of nine days, which is below the threshold which could potentially trigger a by-election, but were defeated.

The Conservatives are a majority on a separate parliamentary inquiry looking at whether former prime minister Boris Johnson intentionally misled lawmakers about illegal parties held at his Downing Street office during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Alexander Smith

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