By Martin Kelly
A Labour MSP who shouted at Holyrood’s Presiding Officer during a parliamentary debate has been suspended from the chamber.
Michael McMahon called out – “You’re out of order” – after Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick had called for order during a heated debate on college funding.
The debate had been called after First Minister Alex Salmond apologised last week for reading out the wrong funding figures.
After being identified as the person who had shouted, the Labour MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill was subsequently asked by the Presiding Officer to withdraw the remark and apologise, which he did. However Mr McMahon was then summoned to the PO’s office and today it was announced that he had been suspended from the chamber.
The conduct of the Labour MSP was slammed by the SNP who called his outburst “unacceptable”.
In a statement, an SNP spokesperson said: “It is very sad that Labour’s negativity and obsession with the First Minister and the SNP has now boiled over into attacking the integrity of the office of the Parliament’s Presiding Officer.
“Mr McMahon has made a number of inaccurate statements in the chamber – for which he has never apologised or corrected.
“All Labour MSPs must now reflect on how their behaviour is being perceived by the wider public, and the leader Johann Lamont has to take responsibility for this unacceptable conduct.”
The Labour MSP responded to the suspension by claiming it was “disproportionate” and insisting that he had been penalised because he had “apologised too quickly”.
Mr McMahon accused the Scottish Government of being allowed to mislead without any censure and added: “I certainly do not believe that its justification stands comparison with those who have previously been suspended and I believe that it is wrong for government ministers to mislead parliament free of any punishment.”
However Mr McMahon has himself inadvertently misled the chamber, when in September 2009 the Labour MSP claimed that Skills Development Scotland had “chosen to abandon one of the hardest hit areas in Scotland to save the £100 a week”
It later emerged that the agency had not in fact closed the Bellshill office but had merely altered opening times.
In June this year, Mr McMahon falsely claimed that the First Minister had called HMRC on behalf of David Murray. Mr McMahon later failed to correct this when given the opportunity, instead a statement that afternoon he added:
“I stand by my comments and Alex Salmond knows they are true, as his response showed how much the truth gets under his skin.
“The First Minister has shown in the past that he is happy to come running to the aid of his bigwig friends when they are in trouble. For example, the way he tried to pressurise HMRC to apply special treatment in the wake of the damage caused to Rangers by his pal Sir David Murray.”
This week Sir David Murray was cleared of any wrongdoing when a tribunal ruled that the controversial EBT payment system used by Rangers during his years in charge was not illegal.