A former Scottish Government minister is to return to Holyrood despite investigators finding he exploited his position to pester women.
Mark McDonald quit the SNP on Tuesday but plans to be back in the Scottish Parliament next week as an independent MSP.
His ex-boss Nicola Sturgeon called on him to step down from his seat “to give his constituents the opportunity to elect a new MSP”, which could pave the way for a sensational return to frontline politics for former first minister Alex Salmond.
The Dundee University graduate told a press conference that his behaviour towards two women, which included an allegation of sending a lewd message, had fallen below standards and caused them distress.
The SNP published a summary of their findings from an investigation into his behaviour involving three women, which came to light in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations.
The party, which used private investigators, said Mr McDonald sent “inappropriate and unwanted” messages through text and social media, causing the complainants distress.
His behaviour was “persistent” and involved an exploitation of power, the party investigation concluded.
The probe also looked into another allegation of “inappropriate physical contact during a social event”, but investigators were “not able to reach a definitive conclusion on this matter”.
Speaking in his Aberdeen Donside constituency, Mr McDonald said: “The findings, which I cannot disclose other than in very general terms, confirm that I have accepted that my behaviour towards two individuals fell below the level of professionalism that they were entitled to expect of me, whether in a professional or a social context.
“While at no stage was my behaviour in any way physically abusive, and while it was certainly not my intention to cause any upset, discomfort or offence to those concerned, it is clear through the concerns highlighted in the report that I have done so.
“That is something which I deeply regret. I would like to take the opportunity here and now to offer a public and unreserved apology to those individuals for the hurt and offence that I have caused them.”
Mr McDonald, who earns £62,000 as an MSP, said he had been working with a behaviour coach “who has helped me to reflect and better understand how aspects of my behaviour might be seen by others”.
The married father-of-two resigned as childcare minister on November 4 following reports he referenced a sex act in a message to a woman.
He was suspended 12 days later after further allegations came to light.
An SNP spokesman said: “Investigators concluded that Mr McDonald had been deliberate in his actions and should have been aware that it was not appropriate for an individual in his position to be behaving in such a manner.”
Labour and the Tories said members of the public will question why Mr McDonald is still sitting as an independent MSP when his conduct was judged to fall below the standards of being an SNP MSP.
A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: “The parliament will be discussing practical arrangements for his return with Mr McDonald shortly.”