Margaret McDougall, Labour MSP for West Scotland Region, has announced she will stand-down at the Scottish Parliament Election in May 2016.
Mrs McDougall was surprisingly elected to Holyrood in 2011 after Labour lost most of its ‘big-hitter’ MSPs in that year’s SNP landslide victory. The former North Ayrshire councillor had been seen as ‘making up the numbers’ on Labour’s regional list – the Proportional Representation element of Scottish Parliament elections – but when the party began to lose constituency members, candidates from low positions on lists unexpectedly found themselves as MSPs.
After becoming what one senior Labour source described as the party’s “accidental MSPs”, Margaret McDougall established an office in Irvine – the West Scotland Region also includes Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston.
As a backbench Labour MSP Mrs McDougall held a very low-profile until an investigation by the3towns revealed she had charged her evening meals and drinks to the public purse. Despite receiving a salary of £58,000, the Labour member had taxpayers fork-out almost £600 for meals and £120 for ‘refreshments’ in just one financial year.
Previously, the3towns also reported that, while serving as a Labour councillor in North Ayrshire, Margaret McDougal charged the public for attending services to remember the dead of two World Wars. The then councillor for Kilwinning submitted two mileage claims of 10 miles, pocketing £4.00 on each occasion, in relation to attending the town’s armistice parades in 2009 and 2010.
This week Mrs McDougall announced her intention to stand-down as an MSP, saying, “It has been an honour to have represented people in this local community for over 16 years. During that time I have seen many positive changes in the area and I feel it is the right time for me to take a step back and pass on the baton.
“Scottish Labour faces a period of renewal following May’s General Election result and I feel our future electoral prospects are best served by a new generation of Labour politicians.
“Whilst I will remain an MSP until next May’s election and will continue to represent my constituents to the best of my abilities, I will be doing all I can to help elect [Labour candidate] Joe Cullinane as the next MSP for Cunninghame South. Joe replaced me as a Councillor in Kilwinning and his campaigning since then has shown that he would make an excellent MSP for this area.”
Cunninghame South’s SNP MSP, Maragret Burgess, has already announced she will not seek re-election next May and the party is in the process of selecting a candidate.
The SNP won the broadly-equivalent seat of Central Ayrshire with a majority of over 13,000 at the recent UK Election and is firm favourite to retain Cunninghame South in May 2016.