Mark McDonald
Image caption Mark McDonald now sits as an independent MSP

Mark McDonald has given his first speech at Holyrood since quitting as a minister in November 2017.

The Aberdeen Donside MSP representative now sits as an independent, having resigned from the SNP following a conduct probe.

His speech on Wednesday was his first in exactly six months, following a lengthy absence from the parliament.

He has insisted he is justified in staying on as an MSP, despite calls from other members to quit Holyrood.

Mr McDonald’s last Holyrood speech was closing an education debate for the government, in his role as early years minister, on 2 November, 2017.

He quit his government post two days later, saying that “some of my previous actions have been considered to be inappropriate”. A week later, he was suspended by the SNP after “new information” emerged about his conduct.

After an internal investigation lasting several months, the MSP announced he was quitting the party but would stay on as an independent.

He returned to Holyrood in March despite calls from other members – including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – for him to quit and force a by-election. As an independent member, he was allocated a new office – initially in the parliament’s basement – and a new position in the chamber, behind the Labour group.

His speech in Wednesday’s debate, on the campaign to maintain free-to-use cash machines in rural communities, made no reference to his absence or the circumstances surrounding it.

Mr McDonald’s conduct is currently the subject of a probe by the public ethics watchdog.

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