Parliamentary praise has been given to a Scottish weekly which successfully campaigned to remove a politician convicted of serial domestic abuse from office.
The Dunfermline Press has been applauded by its local MP as setting an “excellent example” in bringing former MSP Bill Walker to justice.
in 2011, shortly after his election as the town’s representative at Holyrood, Walker was accused of repeatedly assaulting women in his family over almost 30 years and in August last year was convicted of 23 counts of domestic violence against three of his ex-wives, as well as a brutal assault against his stepdaughter which saw him break a frying pan over her head.
However because of the current law, which requires a sentence of a year and a day in custody before disqualification, Mr Walker could not be removed from his £60,000 a year job.
He was jailed for exactly one year, and released in March this year after serving half of his sentence.
Walker attempted to cling to his seat, but eventually bowed to public pressure and resigned last month after a campaign by the Press.
Discussing the proposed Recall Bill, which would give the public the right to remove MPs sentenced to jail, Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty said: “Only after a tenacious campaign by the Dunfermline Press newspaper did Mr Walker bow to public pressure and resign.
“I place on record my thanks to the Press for the public service it performed.
“That was an excellent example of a local newspaper providing leadership in its community, but it should not be the responsibility of a newspaper to take on that role.
“Parliament should be acting now to ensure that no constituency is in that ridiculous situation again.”
Walker had previously ignored a motion signed by 90 MSPs calling for him to resign in the wake of his conviction.
The Press’ campaign was launched on September 5 last year and, after a response from hundreds of readers, Walker quit just 48 hours later.
Simon Harris, Fife regional editor at the Press, said: “I thought enough was enough and so the Press ran a banner piece under the masthead on the front page – ‘Join our campaign to force MSP to quit’.
“Inside, we ran a coupon headed ‘Walker must go’ and encouraged readers to fill it in under the heading ‘Let’s send him a message’.
“We wrote: ‘If he won’t listen to them, surely he’s got to listen to you – his constituents. Let’s send him a message loud and clear: we don’t want you dragging the name of Dunfermline through the gutter any more or doing any more damage to this proud city.’
“In less than 48 hours hundreds had sent in the coupons and also signed our online petition and on he resigned.