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.


# Taldor83 2012-11-22 18:00
I hate it when people use the phrase "I apologise" instead of "I'm sorry". Sounds so insincere. Either way, he still looked a little smug after apologising though.
# JRTomlin 2012-11-22 18:02
About time! The behavior in Holyrood is all too frequently outrageous. Labour needs to stop whingeing about it and tell their people to act like adults, as do ALL the parties.

I suspect this was by way of a shot across the bow. Hopefully, they'll take the PO's meaning.
# bodun 2012-11-22 20:39
But look what the dastardly SNP have been up to...
# nchanter 2012-11-22 18:11
I witnessed FMs QT today and when my children were young I would not have allowed them to watch it. I am more and more disgusted with the performance of MSPs. It is not acceptable they shame the office and parliament of Scotland.My big question is who in he88 voted for these morons.
# gus1940 2012-11-22 18:20
[Admin - This comment has been removed. We would remind all posters that gratuitous insults will see comments removed and possibly accounts closed.]
# cjmasta 2012-11-22 18:49
Could this be the start of the presiding officer clamping down on the name calling and ugly style of debate we see all too often these days?
# Marian 2012-11-22 18:53
The shenanigans we see each week at FMQ will continue unabated for as long as the unionist parties at Holyrood continue with their long established practice of providing an inexhaustible supply of third rate politicians.
# Alathia 2012-11-22 18:53
Unfortunately for Mr McMahon he has an attitude problem with authority which seems to permeate thought certain parties at Holyrood .
It is up to the party leaders to crack down on this kind of behaviour but shall we hear anything apart from 'no comment' from Lamont...
# oldnat 2012-11-22 18:56
Response of Labour lawyer Ian Smart is astonishing - "The ability of the placewoman of the administration to arbitarily suspend opposition MSPs is more worthy of Zimbabwe than Scotland"
# pmcrek 2012-11-22 19:45
Thats a staggering response, I posted this over at Wings, however I believe it is relevant here also.

A quick history lesson on Labour legend Dennis Skinner MP’s parliamentary history, just for the Scottish Media…

Dennis Skinner MP, suspended from Westminster Parliament in 1992 for referring to John Gummer as “slimy” and a “wart”.

Dennis Skinner MP, suspended from Westminster Parliament in 1995 for calling the Government crooked.

Dennis Skinner MP suspended from Westminster Parliament in 2005 for joking that the Government front bench were on cocaine.

Dennis Skinner MP suspended from Westminster Parliament in 2006 for accusing the Deputy Speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst of leniency towards Theresa May “because she’s a Tory.”

Notably the last example implies anyone calling into question the integrity of the P.O. in the chamber, is deserving a suspension for bringing parliament into disrepute also.
# xyz 2012-11-22 19:52
That's more like it. Why is our PO so soft on these reprobates??
# pmcrek 2012-11-22 21:03
I believe this issue stems from the beginnings of the parliament, there was a political if not pseudo-cultural ideal of the new parliament reflecting the "robust" debate stereotypically attributed to "working class" Scotland

As such, I dont believe this is Ms Marwick's fault as worse has been said in the past under other P.O.'s which should have been punished yet wasn't.

Unfortunately in my opinion, she is now going to take a pile of the flak from the media for eventually giving in and showing a justifiable level of discipline sorely lacking since the Scottish parliament was reconvened.
# Harry.Shanks 2012-11-22 19:20
It's far too little too late from the PO.

If there is really to be a clampdown then it should have started today with Lamont being instructed to withdraw her "Pinocchio" jibe rather than the wishy-washy "mind your language" rebuke.
# westender 2012-11-22 19:41
Gary Robertson of Good Morning Scotland obliquely provided much of Johan Lamont's script for today's First Minister's Question Time with his ambushing of John Swinney earlier in the week.Robertson repeatedly tried to get John Swinney to admit that he knew the figures Alex Salmond issued last week on college expenditure was incorrect.
# bringiton 2012-11-22 20:03
Suspension should mean losing wages because you are not doing your job.
However,since this would apply to most of the opposition at Holyrood I don't suppose there is much mileage in this suggestion.
# Zed 2012-11-22 20:30
Labour have gone cuckoo. They really have.....
# govanite 2012-11-22 20:36
I wish the PO had dealt with this form of language more rigourously & much earlier. Labour really bring ridicule on all members of our parliament with their unfit behaviour.

Bravo John Scott - we really have had enough Miss Lament.

I agree with Westender too. Robertson at the BBC was on message with his effort, sad transparent effort to ambush Swinney.
# Breeks 2012-11-22 21:04
Condemning Labour is a waste of breath, but it's very revealing to see how content they are to see both the Parliament, and the offices of First Minister and Presiding Officer treated with such disrespect. I know of no other country where such disrespect would be tolerated.

I also think that Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick needs to much more forceful in bringing such an unruly house to order. It isn't her fault it's the way it is, but it is her responsibility to make sure the functions of government are not hijacked by the current myopic barracking and mob rule. It's embarrassing, particularly while so many eyes from around the world are watching Scottish politics.

Imagine for a moment Allan Grogan taking the place of Lamont - and how much richer and constructive the process of Scottish government would be.
# mudfries 2012-11-22 21:18
I watched First Ministers questions live today and was shocked as usuall by the behaviour of the labour benches, what an embarrassment to the scottish parliament they are, Lamont tries to crack jokes and all the stooges behind her know it is compulsory to laugh even though she is as funny as a broken leg, but the thing you notice overall from the labour benches is the huge feelings of hatred towards Aleck Salmond and the SNP, they still havent got over the fact they lost power to the SNP and still think they have a Divine right to rule in Scotland I think, labour really behave like a shower of yobs in that building. Its always interesting to watch it live then watch it later on the BBC after the footage has been through the BBC anti independence propaganda department, those people really have a job on their hands trying to make the Unionist partys look good at first Ministers questions!
# Triangular Ears 2012-11-22 21:37
O/T but I've just noticed that mistyping the NNS url as redirects to Bitter Together.

Is there some way that NNS can challenge this obvious cyber-squatting? I wonder what other similar URLs they are squatting on.
# Edna Caine 2012-11-23 00:55
Don't see a great problem with that. The more people that see the paucity of the Belters' arguments and the ineffectiveness of their communications strategy the better.

They apparently pay their Communications Director £100k p.a. Where does this money come from?

It is probably not spent on Scottish steaks -

"Mr Shorthouse ... added: "It took the fabled rubbishness of the Scottish hospitality sector to a new level."

Great communicator on behalf of Scotland?
# .Scot 2012-11-23 06:31
Whoa! This has to be a breach of Netiquet in order to increase lonely website hit rates by misleading the electorate & ordinary internet using public. Surely, even the "Campaign to save the Unionists" must be ashamed that such misleading (& possibly criminal) antics are being deployed in the name of Better together?

Dearest NewsnetScotland , there is legal precedence;

A 'cloaked' URL is the use of domain forwarding, or inserting control characters into the URL so as to appear to be genuine while concealing the true address.
This may be fraudulent or to make fun of the body whose website it purports to represent. The purpose is often malicious, fraudulent or phishing.
An example: in November 2006 two spoof websites, and, were produced claiming that Microsoft had bought Firefox and released Microsoft Firefox 2007.
# ogan86 2012-11-23 07:59
This is really shocking that they should stoop so low. Although having said that, it's difficult to tell who actually owns that domain name as they've used WHOIS Privacy to conceal the registrant details (you can see this using any domain dossier tool). I wonder who it could actually be - someone from Bitter Together or just some meddling troll?
# teuch 2012-11-22 22:07
Crying shame this sort of behaviour exists, but at least it detracts from the real business and progress ( or lack of it ) that the scottish taxpayer is getting from Holyrood, not to mention the small but well paid army that supports it.
Its about time they all grew up - all of them, no party excluded-
and started asking and answering the key questions re devolution (or not) and the true state of the Scottish economy.
# Embra 2012-11-22 22:20

I wave watched FMQ's every week for years and I can honestly say that Alex Salmond takes a lot of crap from these guys, more recently becoming increasilngly personal.
To lump Alex Salmond in with Johan and Ruthy who are political and intellectual pigmies in comparison is not the fault of AS.
Do not believe what the so called Scottish media show you in small clips, you have to watch it unedited to see what really is going on.
# teuch 2012-11-23 07:46

Don't disagree with you, but this just reasserts my personal view that Holyrood is failing us. Perhaps if there were less of the cheap jibes and more honest debate we would get a feel for all the possibilities for Scotlands future, devolved or not. At the moment it just isn't there is it.
# oldnat 2012-11-22 22:08
Good to see that the new Independent/Green MSP group has formed. It has the same Parliamentary status as the LDs, but is on the right side!.
# pmcrek 2012-11-23 02:14
Yeah well chuffed at this. Speaking from the Green corner. its a great step forward for us and a stronger base for us to argue the more radical potential of a yes vote in 2014.

From a personal point of view as well I cant wax lyrical enough about how much I admire and respect Ms MacDonald.
# Mei 2012-11-23 14:12
So they should be in line for the third question at FMQ every other week instead of Rennie.
# Barontorc 2012-11-23 01:14
I have been trailing the disaster of FMQ since it began and the conduct of Labour MSPs has descended to a level that is quite unacceptable and abhorrent.

The Scottish Parliament is not a school playground, it must aspire to greater status than that. We have serious business to conduct in that place.

I wish the Presiding Officer and her clerks took a zero tolerance approach to anything uttered that clearly lowered the tone. She has been remiss in this and it has to stop.

It is a different issue of course when falsehoods are espoused and go uncorrected nor apology be formally made. That is a serious breach and should be hammered.

Do we want a farce made of this institution or not?
# robert de brus 2012-11-23 04:00
Of course all of this is governed by the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament under rule 7.3 Order in the chamber in particular paragraphs 2 and 3.

2. Members shall at all times conduct themselves in an orderly manner and, in particular, shall not conduct themselves in a manner which would constitute a criminal offence or contempt of court.

3. Any member who is in breach of paragraph 2 may be ordered by the Presiding Officer to leave the chamber and may be excluded from the chamber—
(a) on the order of the Presiding Officer for such period as the Presiding Officer thinks fit but not beyond the end of the next sitting day; and
(b) for such further period as the Parliament may decide, on a motion of the Parliamentary Bureau.

I have to agree it is long overdue that the general misbehaviour in the chamber is severely curtailed by the Presiding Officer.
# ochyes 2012-11-23 07:54
I used to love watching FMQ. But now it is a farce - it is Westminster style politics, which is something Scotland needs to reject. It puts me off politics - this sort of behaviour wouldn't be acceptable during dicussions or questioning in the workplace.

I had hoped the SNP would rise above the fray and conisgn this way of working to the bin
# Embra 2012-11-23 09:18
How would you like AS to respond to the ridiculous questions from the opposition?

I have watched FMQ's for years and the abuse launched at AS is disgusting, but why don't we play the Unionist game and blame AS as well.

Any ideas on how you would like AS to rise above such behaviour?

Please wake up...this is a concerted campaign by the media and opposition to undermine FMQ's, the FM, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish government.
# Koenig 2012-11-23 08:52
You'll probably find the behaviour by Labour is deliberate. Everyone in this party work for London and as such try at every attempt to subvert the Scottish Parliament and democracy at every turn. They'll want people to be put off and disappointed in the Parliament and democracy to keep London in control.
# Ready to Start 2012-11-23 09:19
Discrediting the Scottish Parliament is all part of the Unionist strategy to diminish any Scottish institution (including BBC Scotland) portraying them as being incapable of running their affairs without subsidies and expertise from London.
# Breeks 2012-11-23 09:26
I'm not a sycophant, nor do I agree with everything the SNP delivers, but I'm with Embra, and think we should appreciate how well Alex Salmond deals with this type of muck slinging pressure.

While a growing army does appreciate him, it may take years, even decades before all the people in Scotland come to realise just what the man is doing for Scotland.
For such a man to be called Pinocchio by one of the most wooden public speakers who's every action is controlled by strings from Westminster is an irony too far. It's high time Johann Lamont wished upon a star and 'got real' herself.
# BillCo 2012-11-23 11:09
Alex Salmond is obviously a political giant amongst opposition pygmies.

What we are witnessing is the Lilliputian tactic of stabbing him constantly with verbal arrows around his shins in order to attempt to bring him down. They can't tackle him at an intellectual level so they resort to scurrillous name calling and mudslinging.

The 'Big Lie ' technique of Joseph Geobbels, in which the constant repeat of a lie or an insinuation will eventually be accepted as the truth, is alive and well and on full display in Scotland. The opposition parties hammer away long enough, in their estimation, in the hope that the message will stick in minds of the electorate. They are, of course, ably assisted in their task by the 'un-biased' BBC.

I've got news for them - the electorate are not as dumb as they seem to think. This is all going to backfire on them bigtime.

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