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Political scandals that have rocked Holyrood during 20 years of devolution

MSPs have been locked up, party leaders forced to step down and a First Minister made to resign.

The Scottish Parliament has been rocked by several scandals during its 20 year existence, including the resignation of First Minister Henry McLeish over an expenses scandal (PA)
The Scottish Parliament has been rocked by several scandals during its 20 year existence, including the resignation of First Minister Henry McLeish over an expenses scandal (PA)

The Scottish Parliament has not been short of scandal in its first 20 years.

MSPs have been jailed, leaders forced to step down and there has even been the resignation of a first minister.

Here are some of the memorable scandals to have happened at Holyrood in the past two decades.

A muddle, not a fiddle

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Henry McLeish resigned as first minister over undeclared income from subletting his office (David Cheskin/PA)

In his own words it was “a muddle not a fiddle” but Officegate resulted in Henry McLeish becoming the first and only first minister to resign after being embroiled in a scandal.

Just one year and 13 days into the role, the former footballer and academic stepped down because of what he described as his “fatal mistake” – failing to declare subletting a floor in his Glenrothes office.

The expenses scandal, despite originating in 1987 after Mr McLeish was elected to Westminster, drew persistent questioning in the Scottish Parliament and proved a “distraction” from all other business.

Mr McLeish rose to Scotland’s highest office following the shock death of Donald Dewar, beating Jack McConnell – the man who would become his successor – in a ballot of Labour’s national executive and MSPs by 44 votes to 36.

Taxi for McLetchie

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Former Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie stepped down over cab expenses claims (David Cheskin/PA)

Using taxpayer-funded taxis for party purposes brought David McLetchie’s leadership of the Scottish Conservatives to an end.

He stepped down as head of the party in 2005 after it was revealed he had claimed £11,500 on taxi fares over five years – more than any other MSP.

Upon his resignation, Mr McLetchie said he was standing down with a “heavy heart” because of the damaging effects of the coverage on his party.

He led the Tories in Scotland from 1998 and was elected to the first Scottish Parliament, where he remained as an MSP until his death from cancer in 2013.

Sheridan sent down

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Tommy and Gail Sheridan arriving at Glasgow High Court during his trial for perjury (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan was sentenced to three years in jail for lying in court about an affair and a trip to a sex club.

Sheridan had previously been successful in defamation action against the News of the World in 2006, winning £200,000 after it reported he was an adulterer who visited swingers’ clubs.

But after a three-month trial at the High Court in Glasgow, Sheridan was found guilty of lying about the newspaper’s claims and sent to prison for perjury.

Sheridan, who was kicked out of the Labour Party under Neil Kinnock for militant entryism, was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and again in 2003 before losing his Glasgow seat in the 2007 election.

Curtains for Watson

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Former Labour MSP Mike Watson outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court, where he was sentenced for wilful fire-raising (Danny Lawson / PA)

Drunkenly setting fire to curtains in a hotel resulted in Labour MSP Lord Watson being put behind bars for eight months.

He was charged with two counts of wilful fire-raising after burning curtains at an Edinburgh hotel after the Scottish Politician of the Year awards in 2004.

The life peer was caught on CCTV in the hotel reception in the early hours taking matches out of his sporran before one of the curtains burst into flames.

He pleaded guilty to one charge, resigned as the Glasgow Cathcart MSP and director of Dundee United, and was sentenced to 16 months in jail, serving half the sentence in prison.

Domestic abuser jailed

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Bill Walker was convicted of a string of attacks against his three former wives and a step-daughter between 1967 and 1995 (David Cheskin/PA)

Domestic abuser Bill Walker was jailed after committing a series of attacks on three of his former wives and a step-daughter.

The former SNP MSP for Dunfermline was suspended and later expelled from the party after the allegations surfaced.

He initially refused to vacate his Holyrood seat after the verdict.

Walker was described as being in “extreme denial” by the sheriff, who convicted him of 23 charges of domestic abuse and one breach of the peace after a two-week trial in 2013.

He was sentenced to 12 months in jail for the numerous attacks between 1967 and 1995.

Alexander’s dubious donation

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Wendy Alexander during First Minister’s Questions before her resignation (David Cheskin/PA)

Wendy Alexander became the second Scottish Labour leader to resign after an expenses scandal.

She was elected unopposed as the party’s leader following Labour’s Scottish Parliament election defeat by the SNP in May 2007.

Investigations by police and the Electoral Commission into allegations that her campaign had accepted a £950 donation from Jersey-based property tycoon Paul Green spelled the end of her year as leader.

Mr Green was not registered as a voter in the UK, barring him from donating, although the Electoral Commission and Crown Office decided not to take further action against Ms Alexander or her campaign team.

She resigned as leader in June 2008 and stood down from the Scottish Parliament in 2011.

PA

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