Former allies of Mark McDonald call for resignation – but former provost backs him

The young SNP hopefuls 8 years ago: (Left to right) Kirsty Blackman, Mark McDonald, John West and Callum McCaig

Former close party colleagues of disgraced MSP Mark McDonald dramatically turned their back on him yesterday and called for his resignation.

Pressure has been piling on the Aberdeen Donside member, who on Tuesday resigned the SNP whip and now plans on sitting as an independent, after an internal party probe found he sent inappropriate and unwanted texts and messages to two women.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that he should “give his constituents the opportunity to elect a new MSP.”

And last night two close former colleagues, Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman and her brother John West, joined the chorus.

The pair had first been elected to Aberdeen City Council along with Mr McDonald and former Aberdeen South MP Callum McCaig in 2007.

Mr West said of his former ally on social media: “Mark should resign. Like almost all politicians (myself included), Mark McDonald was never elected for his good looks and winning personality.

“Conduct unworthy of @theSNP is clearly beneath MSPs too.”

Ms Blackman said: “An independent investigation concluded, unequivocally, that Mark McDonald’s behaviour was not appropriate.  He has accepted that conclusion and taken the decision to resign.

“Mark McDonald was elected as an SNP MSP.  As he has now resigned from the SNP he should also resign his parliamentary seat.  His constituents should have the chance to make an informed choice about who will represent them at Holyrood.”

The investigation ruled that his conduct had been “deliberate in nature” and that he had been “exploiting his position of power”. A total of 18 witnesses were interviewed following complaints from three women.

Mr McDonald has been absent from Holyrood since allegations first surfaced in November.

He quit his post as early years minister but remained as an SNP MSP while the party investigated.

The married father-of-two, is expected to return to parliament next week.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “I think he should do the right thing. He should step down and there should be a by-election.”

But although allies have proved hard to come by for Mr McDonald, last night former Aberdeenshire provost Hamish Vernal spoke in his favour.

The former SNP councillor for Inverurie and district said: “Given that very few have actually seen the report that it was based on, including Mark McDonald himself, I am disappointed that so many are quick to condemn him on the basis of so little information some of which is speculation and some innuendo.

“He has admitted his behaviour fell below accepted standards, behaviour that I do not condone. He says it involved no physical contact.

“He has apologised, unreservedly, to those concerned and taken advice over a period of time as to his behaviour.

“He has resigned his party affiliation. This seems to me to be appropriate and sufficient.

“Mark McDonald, in my opinion, needs time now to continue to serve his community, something he has never stopped doing, and be given the opportunity to make amends.”

When contacted yesterday, Mr McDonald’s office said it had nothing to add to the statement given on Tuesday.

He said at the Dunavon hotel in Dyce on Tuesday: “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 this report that I have done so.”