Campaigners against domestic abuse are to increase calls for a disgraced MSP to resign with a rally outside the Scottish Parliament today (Tuesday).
Bill Walker was convicted of a string of domestic abuse offences against his ex-wives last month but refuses to resign his seat despite the guilty verdict and public pressure, including a petition signed by 88 MSPs.
Members and supporters of NUS Scotland Women’s Campaign, Scottish Women’s Aid and Zero Tolerance will gather outside Holyrood this afternoon as MSPs return after the summer break.
Organisers of the rally are calling for Walker to step down immediately.
Jenny Kemp, coordinator for Zero Tolerance, said: “Bill Walker must resign as an MSP.
“Making laws and policies for Scotland is a privilege, and one that a man who’s been convicted of 23 crimes against women does not deserve.
“Perpetrators of domestic abuse are not fit to hold public office, especially in a parliament that has been so progressive on violence against women.”
Walker, from Alloa in Clackmannanshire, is due to be sentenced in late September. He was found guilty of 23 charges spanning almost three decades following a trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
He carried out the attacks against his three ex-wives and a stepdaughter between 1967 and 1995.
The former SNP MSP, who was ejected from the party when the allegations surfaced, denied the charges.
The law states that any elected member jailed for more than one year will be disqualified.
But in summary cases heard in sheriff courts in Scotland, the maximum sentence that can be handed down is one year, allowing Walker to remain as an MSP even if he is jailed.
The 71-year-old faces having his wages curtailed if he is jailed. Holyrood’s presiding officer, Tricia Marwick, has instructed officials to look at the Scotland Act and advise the Parliament’s corporate body on members’ pay and conditions.
The measure will be considered by the corporate body on Thursday.
The Scotland Act gives Parliament the power to set out pay provision, meaning changes could be made by MSPs without referring to Westminster. Disqualification of a member is a matter for the UK Parliament.
Breaches of the MSP code of conduct do not apply to private and family matters.
Lily Greenan, manager of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “Bill Walker is a serial offender against women, with 23 convictions for assault over a 30-year period.
“Scottish Women’s Aid believes he is therefore not suitable to hold public office, and calls on the Scottish Parliament to use any means at its disposal to remove him.
“There are also questions to be answered as to why this case was heard at summary trial.
“We will continue to press for these answers to ensure that all women who experience domestic abuse receive appropriate and meaningful justice from the courts.”