A North East MSP has said he hopes a “line can be drawn” after he was cleared of financial impropriety following a lobbying row.
Peter Chapman quit the Tory frontbench in May after it emerged he had tried to sway Aberdeenshire councillors to back the ANM Group’s Thainstone expansion.
It came after a voicemail was leaked in which he was heard attempting to persuade local members.
The former rural affairs spokesman, who has 50,000 fixed value shares in the co-operative, apologised and referred himself to a standards watchdog for an “honest mistake”.
It then emerged the MSP had also approached council planning officers via one of his staff to discuss the plans and a further complaint was made to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life.
The second complaint was made by a Ricky Taylor, who is understood to be a member of the SNP’s Banff and Buchan branch, who alleged financial impropriety.
An investigation was launched and its findings were subsequently handed over to the Scottish Procedures and Public Appointments (SPPA) committee.
In his ruling, SPPA convener Bill Kidd said: “We agree with the findings in fact and conclusion of the commissioner that there is no evidence to suggest that Peter Chapman’s actions amounted to paid advocacy, as prohibited by Section 4 of the code of conduct for MSPs and by the Interests of Members of the Scottish Parliament Act.
He added: “While the member did advocate on behalf of ANM Group in his capacity as an MSP, we agree with the commissioner that there is no evidence to demonstrate that Peter Chapman – whose shares in ANM Group are of a fixed value – agreed to act on behalf of ANM Group in return for, or in expectation of, receiving a payment or benefit in kind from them.
“In addition, there was no evidence of a connection between the member’s action and the level of interest due to him in respect of his shareholding.”
Mr Chapman said he was pleased with the findings and hoped to move on from the row.
He said: “Stepping down from my front bench role was one of the hardest decisions I have ever taken, but I believed it was the right thing to do.
“I did not want the proceedings to impact upon the rural brief at such an important time when unimpeded scrutiny of this SNP government is required.
“I hope a line can now be drawn under this and I can get on with representing the people of the north-east, something I have always been very passionate about.”