The writing was on the wall. Having survived as the chair of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee for more than a week following his outrageous comments on a gang rape, pressure from women’s charities and opposition parties has forced his hand.
A motion tabled by Scottish Green Patrick Harvie said:
That the Parliament condemns the attitude that it considers was shown by Bill Aitken MSP on the subject of rape during a recent interview with the Sunday Herald newspaper; considers that Mr Aitken’s comments during the interview betray a disregard for the seriousness of rape and imply support for the view that a victim can be held responsible for this most vicious crime … and calls for Mr Aitken’s immediate resignation.
Speaking before news of his resignation, a spokesperson for Rape Crisis Scotland said:
We believe that it is right to consider whether it is appropriate that someone who holds such unhelpful views on rape is Convenor of our Justice Committee.
In a letter to Annabel Goldie, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Jenny Kemp of Zero Tolerance said:
Bill Aitken’s position as Convenor of the Justice Committee and as an MSP is now untenable. Women in Scotland need to know their parliamentarians take men’s violence against women seriously and especially those who are charged with developing justice responses to crimes of violence.
Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader and Equalities spokesperson, Johann Lamont said:
Bill Aitken’s comments were wholly unacceptable and it is clear that his position as Convener of the Justice Committee is no longer tenable. It is appalling that his response to this horrific crime was to find some way of blaming the victim.
Bill Aitken said (full statement below)
By asking a journalist by way of background during his inquiry to me, about the circumstances of a particular case I left myself open to misrepresentation. That is my fault and that is why I immediately issued a full and unreserved apology for any misunderstanding or distress it caused … Today, I am standing down as Convenor of the Justice Committee. I do so with a mixture of emotions. Frustration at allowing myself to be misrepresented. Anger at being misrepresented. And remorse to rape victims and their loved ones for any hurt they feel. But also in the hope that my true views can now be heard.
More reaction as we get it.
BILL AITKEN FULL STATEMENT BELOW
“In a speech in the Scottish Parliament in December I said:
““… no one would take a more serious view of violence against any woman than I would. Human trafficking, for any purpose, is totally unacceptable. The courts must react, and everyone is entitled to their protection. That is especially true in the case of many prostitutes, who work in a very vulnerable situation.”
“That was my view then. It is my view today and it will be always be my view.
“However by asking a journalist by way of background during his inquiry to me, about the circumstances of a particular case I left myself open to misrepresentation. That is my fault and that is why I immediately issued a full and unreserved apology for any misunderstanding or distress it caused.
“Unfortunately, the newspaper chose not to publish my full statement. It also decided not to publish any quotes from my second telephone call from the journalist during which I made my position clear. I leave it to others to comment on these facts and the reporting of a background conversation.
“But, however unfairly, an impression has been created that I hold certain views about rape.
“So, for the record, let me repeat again: Rape, in every case and for every victim is an abhorrent, vile violation. Every case and every victim must be treated equally. The circumstances of any case are only pertinent to the lines of inquiry which the police would follow.
“Whilst even the First Minister went on the record to say that he did not believe I held the views attributed to me, another Glasgow MSP has now tabled a motion calling for me to resign as Convenor of the Justice Committee.
“That Committee does and will continue to do important work even as we approach dissolution for May’s elections. I have been proud to lead it, and I am proud of its achievements.
“Some months ago, I announced that I would not be seeking re-election to Holyrood in May.
“In politics, you have to have a thick skin. But this issue is no longer about me. For far too many people, perception is reality.
“Today, I am standing down as Convenor of the Justice Committee.
“I do so with a mixture of emotions. Frustration at allowing myself to be misrepresented. Anger at being misrepresented. And remorse to rape victims and their loved ones for any hurt they feel. But also in the hope that my true views can now be heard.
In all my years as a City Councillor, a JP and an MSP I have spoken out against criminals and spoken up for victims of crime. That will not change in retirement. I will continue to battle for justice for all.