IN a surprise move, the Government announced that it will be postponing the Commons vote on whether to suspend former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier from Parliament for 30 days, as was recommended by the Commons' standards committee in March.

The MP had spoken in Parliament while awaiting the results of a Covid test in September 2020 and then took a train home to Glasgow – despite learning that she had tested positive when she should have remained in self-isolation at her London home.

The MP was then expelled from the SNP group in the Commons but despite calls for her to resign from SNP MPs, as well as MPs from other parties, she continues to sit as an independent. 

She was later sentenced to 270 hours of community service at Glasgow Sheriff Court last year after she pled guilty to a charge of culpable and reckless conduct.

On Monday, the decision to suspend her from the House of Commons for 30 days was upheld on appeal by an independent panel of experts, paving the way for a formal vote by MPs.

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Once this vote had passed, as was widely expected, the process for recalling her as an MP and holding a by-election in her Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency would have been triggered.

However, on Thursday – shortly before the vote had been due – the Deputy Speaker was unexpectedly notified that the Government had "not moved" a motion to allow MPs to decide on a recommendation.

No reason for the decision not to move the motion was given by the Conservative government but it is widely believed that supporters of former prime minister Boris Johnson had threatened to vote down the motion as they fear that their lying law-breaking hero could face a similar sanction, which could potentially cause a by-election in his seat.

A defeat in such a by-election would be intensely embarrassing for the Conservatives, far more than a defeat in Ferrier's seat would be for the SNP.

Ferrier was a backbench MP who held no brief within the SNP Westminster group before having the whip removed.

Johnson is a former prime minister who not only remains a member of the Conservative Party but still harbours ambitions of retaking the leadership.

It's hardly surprising that the Tories are keen to avoid any possibility of this coming to pass.

Speaking to The Guardian, Labour MP Chris Bryant, chair of the Commons standards committee, said: "The Government apparently suddenly heard that Boris Johnson supporters were going to vote down the motion. So they suddenly pulled it.

"I'm afraid all this shenanigans does is bring the House of Commons further into disrepute."

He added: "It just feels as if there are some people who just don't want to uphold standards in public life and the Government hasn't got the willpower or the ability to enforce discipline."

The Government insisted that the vote would now take place after the Whitsun recess, which ends on June 5, when the House had a sufficient quorum of MPs.

However, Bryant dismissed this as an excuse, saying that Labour managers had informed the Government that there would be plenty of MPs in attendance on Thursday.

Labour complacent in Rutherglen

Ian Murray, Labour's shadow Scotland secretary, who was harbouring hopes of no longer suffering the humiliation of being his party's only Scottish MP, claimed on Thursday that the decision to postpone the vote came about due to an "unholy alliance between the Tories, the SNP, and Margaret Ferrier”.

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To be fair, Ian knows a lot about unholy alliances; he only has a job thanks to an unholy alliance between the Edinburgh South Labour constituency party and local Tory supporters in his douce middle-class seat. It's not the SNP which does deals with the Conservatives, it's the Labour Party in Scotland that stoops that low.

The decision to postpone the vote means that the earliest possible date that a by-election can be held in Rutherglen and Hamilton West is now October – that is if Johnson's allies fail to postpone the vote again.

On Friday, First Minister Humza Yousaf accused Labour of complacency over the possible by-election and acting as though they had already won it.

He said: "The Labour Party have already decided before a by-election is even called that they've won it, and that's complacency. And that's, of course, this is why the Scottish Labour Party are in the position that they're in."

SNP's independence convention 

Meanwhile, SNP’s policy convenor Toni Giugliano has defended the party's decision to restrict its independence convention, due to be held in Dundee on June 24, to party members only.

He insisted that the rescheduled conference, originally intended to be held in March, "doesn't take anything away" from other pro-independence political parties or from non-affiliated Yes groups.

There has been criticism that the event excludes representatives from the wider Yes movement. 

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Earlier this month Alex Salmond, the leader of the Alba Party, wrote to the SNP and the Scottish Greens calling for a cross-party independence convention.

However, Giugliano insisted that the SNP must have space to decide on its own preferred route to independence before it can enter talks or negotiations with other parties.

Speaking to The National's Holyrood Weekly podcast, he said: "The SNP is a political party, and as a political party it is entitled to have its internal democracy processes. The SNP as a political party needs to have its space to have its discussion about its preferred route to independence.

“That doesn't take anything away from other political parties, or groups or organizations who have had their own discussions and their own events. And of course, there is a space for us all to come together. What this is, is an internal discussion amongst SNP members about what they believe the means to achieving independence should be."