No Second Jobs for MSPs

We rightly mock the archaic rules and culture that pervades Westminster. But as Holyrood comes up for its 20th anniversary, it needs reformed and improved (pension investments being one area being looked at). One idea to do so comes from Labour MSP Neil Findlay who is launching a Private Members Bill at the Scottish Parliament that seeks to ban second jobs for MSPs.

The issue has risen in recent years – with controversy over Kezia Dugdale taking time out to go on a lucrative reality tv show – or former MSP Douglas Ross, now an MP, being berated for refereeing at football matches. The impression was often that they were not taking their duties seriously.

Findlay explains:

“Trust in politicians, governments and the wider political process is, arguably, at an all-time low. When someone is elected to Parliament they are there to carry out a public duty, and I believe the focus ofMSPs should reflect the importance of that position, if it doesn’t – then the rules should enforce it.”

Looking at Holyrood’s register of interests – where MSPs must record outside pay and positions – is revealing.

Whether its company directorships, earning from property or land ownership – MSPs can have considerable external, additional income.

This might mean that they just don’t pay attention to what should be their primary focus, or it can lead to multiple conflicts of interest.

The proposed legislation would set a cap on outside earnings – which might prove difficult for some of the Tweedier land-owning Conservatives.

This legislation should have a cross-party appeal, improving Holyrood and creating a better set of standards than that witnessed at Westminster.


You can reply to the consultation here.

The consultation is open until May 2nd.


Comments (9)

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  1. Iain Miller says:

    Long overdue in my opinion …..

  2. Blair says:

    MSP’s as part of their life long learning need to gain experience. I believe the public would be happy for our politicians to gain such experience in non management positions within our public sector or within the foodbanks so many people now depend on. Politicians may be knowledgeable about their own constituency but it wouldn’t do them any harm to gain this experience with a different local authority.

  3. Willie says:

    One can understand the very valid concerns that ordinary folks have about MPs and MSPs having second jobs.

    Gideon Osborne, Nicholas Fairbairn et al one does not to have look far to find troughers.

    But banning politicians from having a second job is not by anyway clear cut.

    Infringing people’s rights to work, whatever the motivation is a serious issue – especially when a fickle electorate can chuck you out on your ear

    Moreover in the case of Dr Phillips Whiteford who is a consultant breast surgeon who works for free during her holidays, why would you want to ban her from such good works. We need more surgeons not less.

    Moreover would you deny her the right to keep her extremely high level skill up to date, have her lose her practice certificate.

    Having a skill aside of a politician be it doctor, nurse, teacher, engineer, or whatever is something you want folks to keep up.

    So yes as a gut reaction against politicians like the hapless Kezia Dugdale may be a well intentioned populist motive, but is it well founded.

    And do we really want to encourage an ignoramus class of politicos who do not have any skill base to maintain and then retain beyond being a politician.

    So yes, not at all clear cut.

    And of course, like messrs Tony Blair, Alistair Darling or Gordon Brown who all waited till they left office before picking up Uber remunerative jobs in banking finance. how do you regulate that.

    1. John B Dick says:

      Don’t forget that the political jobs are limited short term .

      Would you want to be treated by a dentist who had been away from the tools for four or five years and had not been in touch with other profssionals with experience of new procedures and standards.?

  4. Craig P says:

    I was going to say that an independent income is more likely to guarantee independent thought if a person is not entirely dependent upon party largesse, then I looked at our current crop of politicians for evidence that an outside income leads to independent thought away from what their parties tell them to say, and then I thought well, that’s that argument buggered.

  5. George Gordon says:

    The survey page link to the Consultation Document is broken!

    1. George Gordon says:

      Correction – the link is very slow! When it opened, it does not contain the Annex on Exceptions, which is what I was looking for.

      1. George Gordon says:

        There is no Annex, but they refer at least 6 times to the exceptions being in an **Annex**, when in fact it is in an **Appendix**. (ouch!)

  6. SleepingDog says:

    If you view a MSP’s role as a generalist one, someone who has to represent all of their constituency equally, being too closely tied to one or more outside interests may blinker them rather than provide useful experience. In addition, MSPs’ roles are unusually focused on future changes, so they should really be trying to break away from existing paradigms to see further.

    I hear the oft-repeated call that they should have business experience. Since about 90% of businesses apparently fail in their first year, and as many others presumably succeed by luck, the talents of underlings, inherited wealth, corruption and exploitation, I am not sure how useful such a pedigree would be. If anything, I’d say MSPs should have a good grasp of a range of technologies, law, the environment, psychology, and the physical, biological and social sciences; and have strong literacy (including digital literacy) and numeracy skills. Along with data analysis, logical and critical thinking. Public speaking and interpersonal skills. Empathy (they may do a better job if they have actually suffered at some point in their lives; I cannot see the point of pampered public representatives).

    They are unlikely to have all this, so I expect they should be working full time to bring themselves up to speed, certainly enough to understand what specialists within and without their team are telling them.

    I was on a human rights course recently, and several UK learners commented on unresponsive MPs. I don’t know what the real rate of response is, let alone the quality, but here is one compilation of statistics:

    If MSPs were mandateable, recallable delegates, then they could get away with a skillset that clearer conveys the mandate from their electorate. But if they are supposed to be capable of producing their own wise counsel, I don’t think they should be expending valuable time and effort on pursuing parallel careers, or serving other masters, or dwelling on their own enrichment. Moreover, we should be extending occupational bans so that they cannot land post-parliamentary lucrative jobs as rewards for lobbying for special interests.

    At least until we develop a better method of collective decision-making.

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