Monday, 16 June 2014

Family matters, part two

I wrote a piece for today's Herald about Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick, who has decided to play no role in a review of the Parliament's ban on MSPs employing their relatives. This is because she currently employs her son.

 Here is an extended version of the article.

By Paul Hutcheon

HOLYROOD’s presiding officer is to absent herself from a review of the ban on MSPs employing their relatives over a potential conflict of interest.
Tricia Marwick will play no part in the exercise due to her employing her son Steven as a constituency assistant.
In response to public concern, MSPs voted in 2010 to stop themselves hiring close family members at taxpayers’ expense.
The curb applied to new hires and also meant existing employees would have to find alternative employment by mid-2015.
This date was chosen as it fell months after the Parliament election was scheduled to take place.
However, the date of the Parliament poll has since been put back a year.
As revealed by the Herald, Holyrood’s governing corporate body is now “likely” to revisit the timing of the family ban in light of the election decision.
Supporters of a change believe waiting until after 2016 will result in a fall in the number of MSPS who employ relatives, and reduce the chance of a legal challenge.
However, senior Holyrood figures fear a review could lead to the reversal of the ban in its entirety, as Westminster still allows MPs to employ one family member.
When a possible review was discussed at the corporate body earlier this month, Marwick, who chairs the body, excused herself from the discussion.
She will also absent herself when the matter comes back to the corporate body later this year.
According to the latest parliamentary register, Steven Marwick is listed as having worked part-time for his mother for a period until April 2009, and full-time thereafter.
Twelve MSPs are listed as employing a close family member, including the SNP’s Stewart Maxwell, whose wife is registered as a part-time researcher, and Labour MSP Michael McMahon, whose spouse is a parliamentary assistant.
 John Wilson, an SNP MSP, said:
“I welcome the Presiding Officer’s decision to absent herself from any deliberations on this matter, which followed a review by Sir Neil McIntosh.
“However, I trust that the consideration of this issue will take on board the strength of public feeling on the matter of MSPs employing their relatives.”
A Scottish Parliament spokesman said:
“At last week’s SPCB meeting, the Presiding Officer absented herself from a brief, informal discussion on the employment of family members. 
“The Presiding Officer will again absent herself from any future discussions or decisions on the matter.”