Margaret Ferrier claims SNP chiefs forced her into scripted apology and 'hung her out to dry' after Covid rule breach
UNDER-fire Margaret Ferrier claims SNP chiefs wrote her a script apologising for flouting Covid rules — then “hung me out to dry”.
The Nats MP, 60, revealed party bosses ordered her to refer herself to cops and sign off on the drafted statement during a virtual meeting.
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She said she was then informed an hour later that the party whip was being removed — a decision she believes was only made due to public fury over her 700-mile round trip to Westminster with coronavirus.
The Scottish Sun on Sunday revealed exclusively that Ms Ferrier was “contrite” over her actions.
But she insisted she will not resign from her £80,000-a-year job.
Recalling the conference call with party heads, the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West told how she felt railroaded into making a public announcement that wasn’t even written by her.
She said: “One official said ‘we need to be proactive and we need to get a statement out in your name — quickly.’
“They shared this statement during the call.
“You were getting pushed and told ‘read the statement now. What do you think?’
“Someone told me to phone the police and said the statement would say I had already done so. I was going to refer myself in any case.
“I was told that when I had done that to come back to them and let them know because they wanted to put the statement out as soon as possible. At the beginning, I didn’t know what the urgency behind the timing of it was.
“After that, I phoned the local police five minutes later.
“I phoned one official back who was of the opinion this needs to go out as soon as possible. She said ‘I want it to go out at 5.45pm.’”
We told how Ms Ferrier took a train journey to London on Monday, September 28, despite taking a test on the Saturday due to mild symptoms including “a tickly throat”.
She gave a speech to MPs in parliament before finding out she was positive for the bug on the Monday night.
She returned to Glasgow by train the following day.
Ms Ferrier was then ordered to take part in the conference call at around 4pm on the Thursday — the day after admitting she’d made the trips to the SNP’s chief whip.
But she claimed she was then given just five minutes to warn others that the statement was being released.
She added: “I just felt it was very pushy. You’ve just been told you have Covid. You’re stressed, with a lot of things going through your mind.
“You’re wanting somebody to help you. I said at that point ‘hang on a minute — as soon as this goes out am I going to be bombarded with abuse?’
“They were not considering the fact that I had only been diagnosed with Covid and I don’t know how that’s going to affect my mental state.
“It just went crazy. I still haven’t looked at Twitter, but I have heard about it.
“People going crazy sending you abusive and threatening messages and emails.”
The statement — which gave little context — sparked a public backlash.
It said: “I apologise unreservedly for breaching Covid-19 restrictions by travelling this week when I shouldn’t have. There is no excuse for my actions.”
Ms Ferrier was then told in a conference call at 6.52pm that the whip was being suspended.
She added: “Bearing in mind that’s quite late and having been told I’m not well.
“They were sorry. They were going to have to take the whip off me, but I would get back in because I was cooperating and had been honest.
“Losing the whip was more of a slap in the face because of all the hard work that I have done for the party since I joined it.
“I could appreciate the party’s decision at the time.
“They told me they would be able to contain this situation.
“Why suddenly have we got to the point where they have to take the whip from me?
“It was because the statement went out and it escalated.
“They pushed me to make a self-referral to the standards commissioner straight away. I was intending to refer myself anyway. You can imagine how sad and angry I was. I felt I was being hung out to dry.”
Ms Ferrier said she’s received backing from SNP figures and rivals but believes she is being bullied into resigning.
Ms Ferrier added: “I have got a lot of support from colleagues who are very angry about the way I’ve been treated by the party.
“I’ve also got support from politicians from other parties. I’ve got other people thinking it was ridiculous the whip was taken off me so quickly.
“I’m trying to protect my staff as well. I’ve not gone into hiding. I’ve been trying to make sure they are okay.”
We told how the MP “panicked” after finding out she had the virus.
But she defended her earlier decision to travel to London and speak in Parliament after showing symptoms and taking a test.
She revealed she got the shock news of her positive result in her Westminster office after taking part in a House of Commons debate.
Scottish Government guidance clearly states that anyone showing Covid symptoms must stay at home.
But Ms Ferrier claimed she was unclear on the rules when she took the train south — and believed she had followed advice for MPs when she returned to Scotland.
She added: “I made an error in travelling. However, having looked at the guidelines, I may not have fallen foul of any regulations or recommendations at all. I would hope people would remember that I have been honest since the start and I could have easily kept quiet about the positive result.
“However, I chose as always, to be honest with my party and electorate.”
An SNP spokesman said: “Margaret Ferrier’s actions were reckless and indefensible.
“The SNP took swift and decisive action to remove the SNP whip, a move supported by the SNP group, and suspend her from the party.
“While there is an internal process ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”
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