Shamed MSP quits the SNP amid sex row
6 March 2018, 15:26
The Scottish Government's former childcare minister has said he will stay on at Holyrood - despite admitting his behaviour to two women fell below professional standards.
Mark McDonald said he quit the SNP with immediate effect as he announced plans to remain as MSP for Aberdeen Donside.
The former Scottish Government minister added he will return to Holyrood next week to sit as an independent MSP.
The married father-of-two has not been at the Scottish Parliament since allegations about his conduct first came to light in November 2017.
He resigned from the Scottish Government on November 4, with reports saying he had sent a text message to a woman which included a reference to a sex act - with Mr McDonald describing his behaviour as "inappropriate".
He was suspended by the party 12 days later after fresh allegations about his behaviour came to light, with SNP bosses launching an investigation.
Mr McDonald said on Monday he was allowed to read the findings of that investigation for the first time, although he said he had not been given a copy of either the findings or the substantive report.
He stated: "The findings, which I cannot disclose other than in very general terms, confirm that I have accepted that my behaviour towards two individuals fell below the level of professionalism that they were entitled to expect of me, whether in a professional or a social context.
"While at no stage was my behaviour in any way physically abusive, and while it was certainly not my intention to cause any upset, discomfort or offence to those concerned, it is clear through the concerns highlighted in the report that I have done so.
"That is something which I deeply regret. I would like to take the opportunity here and now to offer a public and unreserved apology to those individuals for the hurt and offence that I have caused them."
As a result of this, Mr McDonald said he had contacted SNP bosses to "advise of my immediate resignation from the party".
He now plans to return to the Scottish Parliament next week - insisting it would have been "inappropriate" for him to attend while the investigation was being carried out.
"Before then, I will be taking a few days to spend some time with my family, for whose love and support I am grateful each and every day," he added.
While he was suspended from the SNP on November 16, Mr McDonald said he was first informed of the allegations he was facing on January 14 2018 and was interviewed four days later "when the precise detail behind those allegations was placed before me for the very first time".
He went on to state that on February 9 he was told the report would be ready in "days rather than weeks" - but added it was March 5 before he was allowed to see its findings.
During his absence from Parliament, he insisted he had "continued to act diligently as a constituency MSP".
Mr McDonald also said he had had "ample opportunity" to reflect on his previous conduct, saying he had been working with a behaviour coach "who has helped me to reflect and better understand how aspects of my behaviour might be seen by others".
The MSP continued: "My behaviour coach considers that I have been willing not just to reflect on the mistakes I have made, but more importantly, that I have demonstrated a clear willingness to change as a consequence of that reflection."
Labour parliamentary business manager Rhoda Grant said: "Mark McDonald decided his conduct was not fit for a minister or an SNP MSP - but somehow it is acceptable for an MSP without party affiliation.
"People in Aberdeen Donside will rightly question that. It looks like Mark McDonald has put the reputation of the SNP before what is best for his constituents."