TORY MSPs “prejudiced” the committee probe into Michael Matheson and so the SNP will not support its recommendation of sanctions, First Minister John Swinney has said.

The SNP leader called out Annie Wells, the Tory MSP who recommended the 27-day suspension for Matheson, after her party leader Douglas Ross raised the issue of Matheson’s sanctions at First Minister’s Questions.

Earlier on Thursday, the Holyrood standards committee announced that it had unanimously backed docking Matheson’s pay for 54 days after he lied about an £11,000 iPad bill.

It also backed – but not unanimously – Wells’s call for a 27-day suspension.

The recommendations will have to be approved by parliament, and Swinney was asked if he would back them.

Ross said: “When the scandal came to light, the SNP circled the wagons and backed him to the hilt. They said he was a person of integrity and character.

“The SNP said this matter was closed, but they must surely accept the full scale of the deceit and abuse of trust.”

He added: “So will John Swinney do the right thing and kick Michael Matheson out of the SNP?

“And does the First Minister accept that the SNP were wrong to fully support Michael Matheson?”

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Responding, Swinney said: “I have to make clear to Parliament that Michael Matheson is a friend and a colleague of mine.

“He has made mistakes. He has resigned from the Cabinet and he paid the roaming costs in question. There has been no cost to the public purse.

“But as I consider the findings from the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, I have a significant concern.

“I believe this process has been prejudiced, and let me explain why.

“Stephen Kerr and Annie Wells both made comments about this case, long before it came to the committee, that prejudged the case.

“Stephen Kerr (below) had the good grace to admit that he could not, and I quote, could not meet the committee requirement to be unbiased, so he removed himself from the committee.

The National:

“He was replaced by Oliver Mundell, who made no public comment on this case, and I have no issue with Mr Mundell’s participation in the inquiry.

“But Annie Wells did make public comments. On November 27, Annie Wells said that Michael Matheson’s, and I quote, desperate efforts to justify his outrageous expenses claim have been riddled with lies, cover ups and the need for us all to suspend our disbelief.

“If a constituent came to me and said they were about to face a disciplinary panel at work and one of its members had made prejudicial comments about them, I would come down on that employer like a tonne of bricks.

“That is the situation that Michael Matheson is facing here, and that is why I will not be supporting this sanction.”

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In response, Ross said the Tories would look to bring a motion to parliament calling on Matheson to resign his seat.

He said that the motion would be brought to Holyrood for a vote "next week".

Scottish Labour's Anas Sarwar also hit out at Swinney for his decision to back Matheson, claiming the SNP leader had demeaned his office within two weeks of taking power.

The Scottish LibDems have also called for Matheson to resign his seat.

There is currently no way to remove an MSP until the next Holyrood election, unless they voluntarily resign.

At Westminster, a recall petition is triggered if an MP is suspended from the Commons for more than 10 days.