Scottish Labour in call to clean up Holyrood after political 'circus'

Anas Sarwar has condemned the “circus” of the past week in Scottish politics, and suggested that Alex Salmond’s newly launched Alba party – which the former SNP leader claims can secure a supermajority for independence in May’s Holyrood elections – is “not about a tactic to get a referendum, this is about revenge”.

The Scottish Labour leader spoke of a crisis of trust in the parliament brought about by the fraught inquiries into the Scottish government’s handling of sexual harassment complaints against Salmond.

“Have the last number of weeks brought into sharp focus the principles of transparency and accountability in our parliament?” he asked. “Of course they have, and even the most ardent SNP supporter would have to recognise that.”

Speaking to the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists’ Association, Sarwar also announced that he would launch a “clean up Holyrood” commission after the election to consult on ideas “to give Scotland a parliament that can better hold the government to account”.

He said: “The idea that during this pandemic election that you have a circus [which] is about egos, settling scores, old arguments, betrays what I think the Scottish people expect of this parliament. We cannot allow the circus of the past week to become the circus of the next five weeks and the next parliament.”

The consultation will explore a number of questions directly raised during the Salmond inquiry saga. These include: the introduction of parliamentary privilege at Holyrood to give MSPs who raise issues the same protection as MPs; the election of committee conveners by the whole Scottish parliament; strengthening the power of committees to compel witnesses to give evidence; and splitting the dual role of the lord advocate. Currently the person holding this post not only the head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, but also a minister in the Scottish government and its principal legal adviser.

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The consultation will also investigate the reform of freedom of information legislation to increase transparency and look at introducing a right to recall MSPs in exceptional circumstances.

Asked if he would share a platform with Salmond after the former first minister announced he was writing to Ofcom and broadcasters to demand Alba’s inclusion in election coverage, Sarwar said he did not think he should be included in the debates.

“This is not a serious attempt to influence the politics or shape what our priorities should be for the next five years,” he said. “I don’t even believe it’s a serious attempt to argue for independence or a referendum. What it is is a political campaign that is trying to cover a bid for revenge. I don’t think our election campaign should be derailed by a circus or a SNP psychodrama.”



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