Listening to "Good Morning Scotland" today, I was informed that this was likely to be a tawdry debate, which was the opinion of all those people asked to comment on it. I hope that the debate will not be tawdry in any sense. If it is conducted properly, I think that it will show the great strength of the parties here to debate a point of principle no matter how much we disagree with that point-and I profoundly disagree with the terms of the amendments to be discussed.
However, it is important at the outset to stress what has been achieved rather than what remains to be achieved. I want to start by paying a very strong tribute to the people who have taken part in the special sub-committee on allowances, which is responsible for the motion in my name on the business list. Four weeks ago-although it seems like four months ago-that small group was asked to convene to discuss the possibility of bringing forward a scheme of allowances to the Parliament on behalf of all the parties. That group has met on innumerable occasions to examine in very great detail the items contained in the motion.
Thanks are due to everyone on that group: Andrew Welsh from the SNP; David Davidson and Lord James Douglas-Hamilton from the Tories; Robert Brown from the Liberal Democrats; Jack McConnell, who was preceded by Patricia Ferguson and Kate Maclean from the Labour party. I know that the new politics has arrived when I am prepared to offer thanks and congratulations to Jack McConnell. That should be noted carefully.
I also need to thank others who have worked on the motion: the clerks and lawyers who have worked very long hours, the secretaries and others who have typed up endless drafts, and the couriers who have taken versions of this motion round Scotland on various weekends. I particularly thank one who came all the way to my house in Argyll and managed to make it at 2 o'clock in the morning. That was the Scottish equivalent of a Marco Polo journey.
We have produced a detailed motion out of all that work and deliberation, but there is one extremely important area still unresolved and it will affect the ability of many members to do their jobs.
I will talk first about what appears to have been agreed. This motion is a revolutionary motion. It establishes what is, I hope, the best, most comprehensive and most transparent scheme of
At the outset of the discussion process, it was obvious that what this Parliament, every member and every party, had to do was to sign on to a system that would be completely transparent. This system requires those in this chamber to account-to the penny-for all of their allowances. It makes sure that allowances are provided on the basis of what is expended. The purpose of providing allowances is to support members in the work that they do. All those points are enshrined in this motion. I am glad that in the scheme there will be a clear schedule of publication. That will cover the work and allowances for each member of the Parliament and for the staff who work for them.
The principles of openness and accountability run through this motion, and are intended to do so. As the years go by and the allowances are published, I hope that it will become obvious that members of the Parliament are using the resources provided to them to do the job that they have to do because these resources are provided by the people of Scotland for the people of Scotland. Those resources are only available to members of the Parliament to allow them to undertake the role for which they have been elected.
The motion is complicated and I do not want to further complicate the matter by going through every paragraph. There is a detailed scheme for publication. There is also a scheme for enforcement so that if any person thinks that allowances are being misused, there is a way to pick up on that at the earliest notice, and that is in the interests of every member of this Parliament. There is a scheme for virement so that money is not misused or is drawn in the right way and to ensure that we make the proper use of resources. Where we can use resources more effectively by pooling with one or more members, we should certainly do so.
There is a scheme for uprating, as it is important that we do not have this debate every year and that once we have set the scheme of allowances we leave it alone, unless it does not work properly. There is a requirement in the scheme that within 18 months it should be reviewed by an independent group for the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. That will let us see how well it is working. It would be wrong for members to return to consider this scheme year after year. We want a scheme that works well and can move forward.
The final two rules are important: these are the rule of equality and the rule of general allowances. The issue of general allowances is self-explanatory. There need to be allowances for resources for staff to assist members in their work, allowances to make sure that offices are run
Another principle that runs through this scheme is that there should be the right of appeal on any decision that appears unfair. So if members feel that they are being treated unfairly, for example, if they are two minutes or a couple of miles from one of the limits in this scheme, they can discuss that with the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.
There is provision for an exceptional needs allowance where constituencies are too large to be serviced in a single journey and there is a scheme for an overnight subsistence allowance. There are travel allowances for staff and family, for we should not forget that this is a family-friendly Parliament and must be so for members who come from some distance away. There is a disability allowance, a winding-up allowance and provision for an independent review.
Then there are some radical innovations. The allowances code seeks to define and police the way in which allowances can be used. That will be extremely useful to every member of this Parliament in ensuring that the scheme works for them.
The scheme provides everything that members need to do their jobs. It arose from the members of the allowances group, where there was considerable agreement. However, in one area agreement has not been possible. I greatly regret that, because the issue at the heart of the disagreement is the issue of equality. Equality of treatment does not mean, as I have heard endless people say in television and radio debates, equality of treatment for members of this Parliament. What strikes at the heart of this motion is that the amendments might prevent equality of treatment for voters.
Listening to Mr Russell, I cannot contain myself any longer. I believe it was in October last year that Mr Russell was adopted as the Scottish National party candidate for the Cunninghame South constituency, where he stood against me. In the seven months before the election, if the people of Cunninghame South saw him on more than five occasions we were very lucky. On occasions the SNP were reduced to playing tapes of Mr Russell on the main street. He was notable by his absence, and that must have been frustrating for people in his party.
Order. The member must resume her seat when I am on my feet. Interventions must be brief and that intervention was quite long enough. If you wish to speak, you should press the button and I will call you to speak.
I am sorry that the member for Cunninghame South could not contain herself-I was into only the second sentence of this section, so I am glad that I did not go any longer. I do not want to pay any attention to that unhelpful intervention. I refer Ms Oldfather to the point that I made at the beginning of the debate. We want to have a debate about principles, and we do not want to have that type of old politics. Let me return to the matter that I was addressing.
Equality of treatment is at the heart of this motion: not equality of treatment for members, but equality of treatment for voters. By definition of the Scotland Act 1998, every member here is a constituency member. If people write to this Parliament asking who their member of the Scottish Parliament is, they get a letter back informing them that they have eight members. I received such a letter this morning, which was also copied to Mr Jack McConnell and the Parliament information office.
A very senior member of the front bench put it rather well when, in a letter to Lord Neill in August 1998, he wrote, talking about the Neill committee:
"I drew the committee's attention to the additional provision we have made in the Scotland Bill for individuals to stand for election at the regional level. The position of these individuals will technically be the same as a party list, although they may in practice perceive themselves more as 'super constituency' candidates"- not constituency candidates, but super constituency candidates.
The letter was written by Mr Henry McLeish, and he goes on to say:
"We will of course need to be able to apply expenses provided to them in a way which is seen to be fair."
What we are trying to do is to provide a system that is fair. It is fair to say that every member will work as a constituency member. Indeed, members from lists will work over much larger constituencies-super constituencies. I could not have put it better myself. There might well be a
Please could I continue? I will give Mr Home Robertson a chance in a moment.
I have heard three arguments against treating constituency and list members as equal. The New Zealand example is much quoted, especially by the Labour party. It is a false comparison. There are no list constituency members in New Zealand; they are national members. The German system makes no differentiation between members. The Welsh system is the same as ours, and the Labour party has now agreed that allowances should be the same for all members there.
In a television debate at the weekend, I heard that it did not matter what happened in Wales, because it was important that Scotland had the freedom to do what it wanted. Even if Scotland was to get it wrong, it was important that it had that freedom. As far as I am concerned, the decision that was taken in Wales was correct. It was based on a principle that I would ask be used here. There is no allowances system in the world that is based on the interpretation by one party of what members of the other parties are likely to do. There is no allowances system in the world that is based on an interpretation of the electoral system after the vote. That simply does not work.
In the circumstances, I think that both amendments are unhelpful and I would urge the movers of both amendments to withdraw them as Mr Andrew Kerr has withdrawn his. Those amendments will impede the work of this Parliament. We should encourage every member in this chamber to work as hard as possible for the people who put them here. The system that is proposed in either of those amendments will damage that.
While I think that the Liberal Democrat amendment seeks to help, it is rather curious. It seems to favour parties that have only one member elected on a regional list, let alone one member elected on five regional lists. I do not think that is fair. If we are to have a debate that is honest and straightforward and of the new politics-and I sincerely hope that we will-we must address that principle. Is there a principle or not in the Liberal Democrat amendment? I do not believe that there is.
We should reach the final point of agreement so
That the Parliament in accordance with section 81(2) of the Scotland Act 1998 (c.46), make provision for the payment of allowances to members of the Parliament and that the following provisions should have effect:-
There shall be a Members' Allowances Scheme ("the Scheme") which shall make provision to be implemented by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body ("the SPCB") for the payment of allowances to members of the Parliament.
The following Parts A, B and C together with the Annexes attached shall be the Scheme:-
Rule 1 - Interpretation and commencement:
(1) In this Scheme-
"parliamentary complex" means the place where the Parliament or any of its committees or sub-committees meets from time to time; "remuneration of staff" includes gross salaries, employers' national insurance contributions and employers' pension contributions; "main residence" means the property in which the member is resident for council tax purposes under section 75 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992; "other residence" means any residence which the member owns or leases other than his or her main residence, and any reference to a Part is a reference to the Part so lettered in this Scheme and any reference to an Annex is a reference to the Annex so lettered in this Scheme.
(2) This Scheme shall come into force 24 hours after the passing of the resolution giving effect to the Scheme.
Rule 2 - Verifiable Expenditure:
(1) The SPCB may, on an application for the purpose made to it by a member in accordance with this Scheme, make payments to that member by way of allowances for the reimbursement of expenses incurred by that member.
(2) Allowances for which a member is eligible shall be paid by the SPCB only upon the production to the SPCB of evidence of relevant expenditure.
(3) The SPCB shall provide forms for the purposes of administering the Scheme which members shall complete and sign in order to claim the relevant allowance.
Rule 4 - Publication:
(1) The SPCB shall publish the following information for each financial year in respect of each member in such form as the SPCB may determine-
(a) details of the allowance expenditure incurred; and
(b) the names of the staff employed by the member.
(2) A copy of the information published under paragraph (1) shall be kept by the Clerk at the office of the Clerk and shall be available for inspection by any person on the days and at the times when the office of the Clerk is open.
Rule 5 - Enforcement:
(1) The SPCB shall be responsible for supervising members' adherence to the Scheme.
(2) Where eligibility for any of the allowances in this Scheme is in dispute, and cannot otherwise be resolved, the matter shall be referred to the SPCB for determination.
(3) Any member may make a complaint to the SPCB about another member where he or she has reason to believe that allowances under this Scheme have not been expended in accordance with the Scheme (hereinafter referred to as an improper use of allowances), and where such a complaint is made, the SPCB shall hear that complaint within one month.
Rule 6 - Virement:
(1) Subject to paragraph (2) of this rule, a member shall not vire amounts between one allowance and another allowance.
(2) A member may vire up to 25% of his or her local office costs allowance to use for staffing or up to 25% of his or her staff allowance to use for local office costs provided that written notice is given to the SPCB.
Rule 7 - Uprating:
(2) The SPCB shall, unless the Parliament does not agree, uprate the motor vehicle allowance in line with the maximum rate in respects of vehicles over 1199cc set for local government under section 46 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, and the uprating will become effective at the same time as it does for local government.
(3) The SPCB shall uprate the motorcycle mileage allowance at the same time as and in accordance with the corresponding allowance set for staff of the Scottish Administration.
(4) The SPCB shall uprate the pedal cycle mileage allowance at the same time as and in accordance with the maximum tax-free allowance set by the Treasury.
Rule 8 - Parliamentary Duties:
(1) All of the allowances referred to in this Scheme are to be used only for the purpose of members carrying out their Parliamentary duties.
(2) In this Scheme, "Parliamentary duties" means the undertaking of any task or function which a member could reasonably be expected to carry out in his or her capacity as a member of the Parliament including:
(a) attending a meeting of the Parliament;
(b) attending a meeting of a committee or sub-committee of the Parliament of which the member is a member or which the member is required to attend because of being in charge of a Bill or other matter under consideration by the committee or sub-committee or for any other valid reason relating only to the business of the committee or sub-committee;
(c) undertaking research or administrative functions which relate directly to the business of the Parliament;
(d) attending meetings for the purpose of representing electors or explaining the application of policy including attending meetings for the purpose of seeing a constituent or constituents;
(e) attending Parliamentary party group meetings in Edinburgh;
(f) attending any ceremony or official function or national or international conference as a representative of the Parliament or with its authority; but does not include a member's activities which are wholly in relation to that member's role as a Party spokesperson or representative
Rule 10 - Allowances: general:
(1) Where a member has claimed an allowance from any other source, the member shall not be eligible to claim the same allowance under this Scheme.
(2) Where a person becomes eligible for an allowance part way through the financial year, then the amount of any allowance payable under this Scheme shall be apportioned on a pro rata basis.
(3) Where a person ceases to be a member part way through the financial year, the SPCB shall decide whether or not any allowance shall be apportioned on a pro rata basis.
Part B - AllowancesStaff Allowance:
(2) Subject to sub-paragraph (3), staff employed by a member will be employed on the terms and conditions determined by the SPCB from time to time.
(3) A member may employ his or her staff on conditions which are more favourable to the employee than those determined by the SPCB provided that this does not entail the member exceeding the amount of his or her staff allowance.
(4) Staff of a member shall be bound by the Allowances Code at Annex A.
(5) Whilst the remuneration of staff shall be the responsibility of the member, the SPCB shall provide:-
(a) payroll services for members' staff; and
(6) A member may pool his or her staff allowance with another member or other members in order to employ staff who are shared between or amongst them, provided that -
(a) a member of staff remains the employee of a single member; and
(b) the members concerned give written notice to the SPCB.
Local Office Costs Allowance:
(1) Subject to sub-paragraph (2), a member shall be eligible for an allowance of £10,000 for each financial year to enable the member, within the constituency or region from which he or she was returned -
(a) to run an office; and
(b) to meet with constituents either on a one to one basis or as a group.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of sub-paragraph (1), this allowance may be used for the following:
(a) lease of a property or rental of premises;
(b) the provision of utilities;
(c) the purchase or lease of office furniture or equipment or the purchase of stationery.
(3) Where local office costs are higher than in other parts of Scotland due to the state of the local economy, a member may refer the matter to the SPCB for its determination as to whether the member should be eligible for an allowance greater than the amount mentioned in sub-paragraph (1), but in any event no greater than 10% of that amount.
Members' Travel Allowance:
(1) A member shall be eligible for the reimbursement of travelling expenses necessarily incurred by that member in performing his or her Parliamentary duties.
(2) In this paragraph -
"travelling expenses" means -
(a) the actual cost of any travel ticket purchased or fare paid in making a journey, or part of a journey, by public transport;
(b) where such a journey, or any part of such a journey, is made by means of a motor vehicle, motor cycle or pedal cycle, owned or wholly maintained by the member, such amount per mile travelled on the journey, or that part of the journey, by means of that motor vehicle, motor cycle or pedal cycle as is described in sub-paragraphs (3) to (5);
(c) in exceptional circumstances, with the approval of the SPCB, the actual cost of car hire and associated petrol costs; and
(d) tolls and carparking charges; "public transport" means any service or services provided to the public at large for the carriage of passengers by road, rail, air or sea but includes travel by taxi service only where the use of such a service is required for reasons of urgency or where it is not reasonably practicable for the member to use other forms of public transport.
(3) The rate of the motor vehicle mileage allowance will be the maximum set for local government under section 46 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and shall apply to all motor vehicles irrespective of engine size or annual mileage.
(4) The rate of the motorcycle mileage allowance will be the corresponding maximum rate set for Scottish Office employees.
(5) The rate of the pedal cycle mileage allowance will be at the level of the maximum tax free allowance set by the Treasury.
(6) Any travel outside Scotland shall be eligible for reimbursement only where the travel concerned has been authorised in advance by the SPCB.
Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance:
(2) Where a member's main residence lies within a constituency mentioned in Group Two of Annex B, the member shall be eligible for an overnight subsistence allowance of up to £80 per night for each night that he or she requires to stay overnight for Parliamentary duties in Edinburgh.
(3) Where a member's main residence lies within a constituency mentioned in Group Three of Annex B, the member shall be eligible for a total allowance of £9000 for each financial year comprising either -
(a) an allowance of up to £80 per night for each night that he or she requires to stay overnight for Parliamentary duties in Edinburgh; or
(b) subject to sub-paragraph (4), an allowance in order to cover the costs of those items mentioned in sub-paragraph (5) below, where such costs are a necessary consequence of having to stay overnight for Parliamentary duties in Edinburgh.
(4) Where the member claims an allowance under sub-paragraph (3)(b) part way through the financial year, then the amount of the allowance payable under that paragraph shall be apportioned on a pro rata basis.
(5) The costs referred to in sub-paragraph (3) relate only to the provision and use as residential accommodation of a property located in the City of Edinburgh and are -
(a) the rent payable for the lease of the property;
(b) the interest on the capital required to purchase the property;
(c) council tax;
(d) factoring charges; and
(e) the provision of utilities.
(6) Where a member's main residence falls within Group Two of Annex B, the member may refer his or her case to the SPCB and, where there are extenuating circumstances, the SPCB may determine that the member may for the purposes of this paragraph be treated as if his or her main residence fell within Group Three of Annex B.
(7) The SPCB shall publish for each financial year information about any allowance payable under this paragraph including the name of the city, town or village where each member's main residence is located .
(1) This paragraph applies to members from those constituencies or regions which are set out in Annex C.
(2) A member shall be eligible to claim an exceptional needs allowance of up to £80 per night where it is unreasonable for the member to return to his or her main or other residence before or after undertaking Parliamentary duties within the member's constituency or region.
Overnight Subsistence Allowance:
(1) Subject to sub-paragraphs (4) and (5), a member shall be eligible for an overnight subsistence allowance where he or she requires for the purpose of carrying out his or her Parliamentary duties to spend a night away from his or her main or other residence.
(2) The amount of the overnight subsistence allowance shall be:-
(a) up to £80 per night; or
(b) up to £100 per night in Greater London; or
(c) in respect of a stay outside the United Kingdom an amount determined by the SPCB.
(3) Any claim for overnight subsistence in connection with a stay outside Scotland shall be eligible for reimbursement only where the stay concerned has been authorised in advance by the SPCB.
(4) A member is not eligible for an allowance under this paragraph in connection with Parliamentary duties in Edinburgh.
(5) A member is not eligible for an allowance under this paragraph in connection with Parliamentary duties within his or her constituency or region.
Staff Travel Allowance:
(1) This paragraph applies only to staff employed through the SPCB payroll service.
(2) Each member is eligible for an allowance in respect of the cost of 40 single journeys for each financial year between their constituency or region and the Parliamentary complex by members of their staff.
(3) The SPCB shall keep a record of each member's entitlement to an allowance under this paragraph and its use to date.
Family Travel Allowance:
(1) Each member is eligible for an allowance in respect of the cost of 12 single journeys for each financial year between his or her constituency, region or main residence and Edinburgh for each member of his or her immediate family.
(2) In this paragraph, "immediate family" means -
(a) the member's spouse or another nominated person; and
(b) any child under the age of 18; and for the purposes of this paragraph "child" includes any step child, adopted child, foster child or any other child living with that member as part of his or her family.
(3) The SPCB shall keep a record of each member's entitlement to an allowance under this paragraph and its use to date.
(4) In order to qualify for the family travel allowance, a member must register with the SPCB who are his or her immediate family eligible to take part in the Scheme.
(1) This paragraph applies to any member whose ability to undertake his or her role as a member is impaired by reason of disability.
(2) The SPCB may award an allowance up to a maximum of £10,000 per session to a member for him or her to use in any way which the SPCB decides is helpful to the member in undertaking his or her work.
Winding Up Allowance:
(2) The amount of the winding up allowance shall be the equivalent of one third of the staff allowance and local office costs allowance payable in any one financial year to which the member would otherwise have been entitled.
Part C - Independent Review:
For the purposes of determining the success or otherwise of the practical operation of the Scheme, the SPCB shall, within 18 months of the coming into force of this Scheme, set up an independent review of the operation of the Scheme and following the review make recommendations to the Parliament.
ANNEX AALLOWANCES CODEA: Relationships Between Members:
(1) Any constituent can approach any MSP within his or her constituency or region.
(2) If a constituent seeks to approach a particular MSP, the constituent must be directed to that MSP by other MSPs or their staff.
(3) All MSPs have a right to hold surgeries within the area for which they were returned.
(4) Any constituent from outside a region who approaches an MSP with a constituency issue should be directed initially to a relevant MSP.
(5) Any list MSP who raises a constituency issue should notify the relevant constituency MSP at the outset unless the consent of the constituent is withheld.
(6) Any MSP who is approached by a constituent with an issue related to a reserved matter (e.g. social security) should consult with the appropriate Westminster MP.
(1) Each MSP should have one Parliamentary office base within the area for which he or she was returned that will be his or her registered local address for correspondence.
(2) All MSPs' offices will be presented as 'The Office of Ms X, Member of the Scottish Parliament' in the Parliament's colours. It should be possible to identify the party affiliation of the MSP as well, if desired.
(3) Parliamentary offices may be acquired in association with political party premises, but must be a clearly definable office space. Party political material is not permitted to be externally displayed in areas occupied by the Parliamentary office.
(4) Parliamentary offices should be suitable for public access.
(5) MSPs will be able to use offices/locations, other than their main base, within the area for which they were returned for surgery and other purposes.
(1) Premises, or the relevant part of premises, acquired as Parliamentary offices should be used only for parliamentary activities, and not for party business.
(2) During the hours that they are employed by an MSP under his or her staff allowance, an MSP's employees may not undertake any significant party political activity.
(4) Premises, or the relevant part of premises, acquired as Parliamentary offices shall not be used as a base for canvassing or election campaigning, or any party activity related to elections.
(5) Parliamentary stationery and office equipment must not be used for party purposes.
(1) Each MSP has a duty to ensure that he or she utilises the allowances to which he or she is eligible for the purpose for which they were intended. This includes any allowances for which he or she is eligible, but which are utilised by members of staff or immediate family.
(2) Each MSP has a duty to ensure that he or she adheres to the terms of this code in spirit and in practice.
East Lothian North East Fife Central Fife Kirkcaldy Dunfermline East Dunfermline West Ochil Falkirk East Falkirk West Cumbernauld & Kilsyth Airdrie & Shotts Coatbridge & Chryston Hamilton North & Bellshill Motherwell & Wishaw Hamilton South Glasgow Anniesland Glasgow Ballieston Glasgow Cathcart Glasgow Govan Glasgow Kelvin Glasgow Maryhill Glasgow Pollok Glasgow Rutherglen Glasgow Shettleston Glasgow Springburn Strathkelvin & Bearsden Paisley North Paisley South Stirling Perth Dundee East Dundee West Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale
Aberdeen Central Aberdeen North Aberdeen South Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine Angus Argyll and Bute Ayr Banff & Buchan Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley Clydesdale Clydebank & Milngavie Cunninghame North Cunninghame South Dumbarton Dumfries East Kilbride
ANNEX CELIGIBILITY FOR EXCEPTIONAL NEEDS ALLOWANCEA: Constituencies of over 250,000 hectares:
Argyll & Bute Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross Galloway & Upper Nithsdale Inverness East, Nairn & Lochaber North Tayside Ross, Skye and Inverness West Roxburgh & Berwickshire West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Western Isles
On 6 May, I was elected by the people of Airdrie and Shotts and the surrounding villages to provide them with a strong voice in the Scottish Parliament.
I am proud to represent the constituency in which I have lived all my life. I know the constituency and I care about it. I understand my constituents' concerns and problems and, most important, I identify with them and their hopes and aspirations.
My constituency in the heart of Lanarkshire-where people were once proud of the vital role that they played in Scottish society-has been destroyed. I want our new Parliament to play its role in rebuilding Airdrie and Shotts.
As I grew up, I watched as my parents'
When the people of Airdrie and Shotts voted, they knew exactly what they wanted from a Scottish Parliament and the representative they elected. They wanted a Parliament that would improve and invest in their schools, as Labour will. They wanted fewer children in every class and more teachers and classroom assistants. Labour will deliver that. They wanted new schools. They knew that Labour would also deliver that. They wanted policies that would bring an end to the cycle of poverty in Airdrie and Shotts. That cycle means that one in every five of our children grows up in poverty, and that one in every three families lives on state benefits. That is why the new deal is being embraced in my constituency. The people working with the Airdrie citizens advice bureau whom I met yesterday believe that they are well on their way to gaining skills and qualifications that will make them employable.
As I said, more people in my constituency die as a result of heart disease than in any other part of Scotland. [Laughter.] These are important points and I intend to make them. My constituents know that Labour will deliver. That is why we have invested £500,000 at Monklands district general hospital and why we intend to double the number of heart bypass operations. Those are the issues that are important to the people who live in my constituency, that they want our Parliament to deal with and on which they want their representatives to speak out.
Yesterday, I was at a local college where one of
I speak today because, once again, the nationalists and the Tories are lining up to enter what appears to be a cosy alliance to call for better resources for themselves. At best, that is self-interest. At worst, it is greed that exhibits a blatant disregard for prudent use of taxpayers' money.
The people of Airdrie and Shotts gave me a clear mandate to represent them, and them alone. It is my constituency office that they will visit and my surgeries that they will attend. I alone am accountable to the people of Airdrie and Shotts.
I do not believe that there is, nor do I want there to be, two classes of MSP. However, it is essential that the additional work load that I and other constituency MSPs will have is recognised.
I have already made it clear that I will not allow members to intervene.
In New Zealand, where a similar voting system is in operation and where regional list and constituency members are elected, the additional work loads of constituency members are recognised and they are allowed additional resources to deal with them. That does not discriminate against elected members, but supports them and allows them to carry out their duties to the best of their abilities.
The people of Airdrie, Shotts and the surrounding villages will visit my constituency office when it is set up in Shotts and they will attend my 11 surgeries, which start next weekend. Volunteers and voluntary organisations will attend my open days and they will expect me to work on their behalf to resolve the difficulties that they encounter and to represent their interests at all times.
The people of Airdrie and Shotts gave me their mandate. I am honoured to be their representative, I will work tirelessly on their behalf for the next four years and they will hold me to account. I do not want taxpayers' money to be spent on setting up a second constituency office or a second MSP to take on casework with which I am already dealing. I believe that I am more than capable of representing all the people of Airdrie and Shotts and so do my constituents-that is why for every vote received by my closest opponent, I received more than two.
I have already said that I will not allow members to intervene. I do not know how much clearer I can make it.
I promised that our Parliament would legislate fairly and in the best interests of all Scots, not just the few. I also promised that there would be sound and prudent management of Scotland's finances. Scottish Labour is committed to delivering and to ensuring that we make the most effective use of our resources. I do not believe that it would be in the interests of Scots if one of the first acts of this eagerly awaited Parliament was one of waste that prized the narrow political interests of members above the interests of the people they claim to represent. I am pleased to support this amendment.
I move, as an amendment to motion S1M-40, in the name of Michael Russell, in Part A (General Rules) leave out "Rule 9 (Equality)" and insert -
"Rule 9 - Equal Opportunities
Through payment of appropriate allowances, the Scheme shall allow all members equal opportunity to carry out their Parliamentary duties, taking account of the constituencies or regions from which they were returned."
In Part B (Allowances), paragraph 1 (Staff Allowance), sub-paragraph (1), leave out from first "member" to "£36,000" and insert "constituency member shall be eligible for an allowance of £36,000 and a regional member shall be eligible for an allowance of 60% of that amount".
In Part B (Allowances), paragraph 2 (Local Office Costs Allowances), sub-paragraph (1), leave out from "member" to "£10,000" and insert "constituency member shall be eligible for an allowance of £10,000 and a regional member shall be eligible for an allowance of 60% of that amount".
I must say that, over the past few months, as I daydreamed from time to time about making my maiden speech in this chamber, the topic of members' allowances was never the one that I was on my feet to address.
I share Mr Muldoon's frustration-I think it is felt by many of us. We want to start to address the questions that matter to the people of Scotland, such as the health service, education systems and housing-I will not go into all the issues that I want
It is a shame that we are debating this issue in this way. As Mr Russell said, there is no need for us to stoop to the level of making this a tawdry debate because much of this motion is welcomed whole-heartedly by all parties. There is only one sticking point.
I hope that members will accept the Liberal Democrat amendment. The motion is important: it is not about high politics but about making politics work for people. It is about ensuring that we give the people of Scotland the quality of service that we want to give them. It means giving MSPs the tools that they need to do their job.
I dispute the points made by Karen Whitefield. Every member has been elected to serve the people who elected them. I am proud to serve the people of Edinburgh West and I know that every other member is proud to serve the people who sent them here. I do not think that we should be scoring points against one another on the back of that.
It is important to give MSPs the tools they need to do their job and to be super MSPs. That means we need staff, offices, stationery and all the other things that go towards doing the job. Those items may be boring and uninspiring but, quite frankly, they are the building blocks of our democracy. Without them we do not do our job properly.
The motion is also about putting in place an allowances scheme that represents value for money for Scottish taxpayers and is, as Mr Russell rightly said, open, transparent and subject to scrutiny. It is about setting down the relationship between members. During the next 18 months and beyond, the relationship between constituency MSPs, of which I am one, and list MSPs will evolve. I do not think that any member claims to know exactly where that relationship is going. MSPs have to give one another respect.
The motion is also about protecting staff rights and the rights of the public to have access to their MSPs through surgeries, for example. Each of those is an essential component of a modern parliamentary democracy.
On staff allowances, we support the motion as it stands. Many of us may think that constituency MSPs will have a bigger postbag than list MSPs but, as I have said, the relationship will evolve and I do not believe that anyone can say categorically today how it will evolve.
We do not believe that the introduction of first and second-class MSPs is in the best interests of this Parliament or the people we seek to serve. Some will argue about that, but we do not think
All MSPs will have duties that they need staff to perform. That is why we are happy to support the motion on that point. Our amendment recognises that MSPs have been elected to represent different constituencies; there are first-past-the-post and regional list constituencies. Our view is that it is reasonable to have an office allowance for the constituency. For constituency MSPs that means an office in their constituency; for party list MSPs it means, under our amendment, a regional office to be used by regional members. That maintains the link with the constituency the MSP was elected to serve and reduces the amount of public money that is spent on what might prove an unnecessary, and possibly sometimes confusing, plethora of political offices.
Our amendment sets out the details of payments for all to see. We recognise, however, that while our proposals work well in cities such as Glasgow, they have limitations in areas such as South of Scotland, the Highlands and Islands and North-East Scotland, so they are covered by the exceptional needs allowance.
We are pleased that the scheme will be subject to an independent review within 18 months. It would be amazing if the scheme did not have some teething problems. I welcome all the work that was done by the members of the group and the supporting officials, but there will be teething problems and odd things will happen. I call on the corporate body to keep an eye on the scheme. At the end of the period, the independent review should be able to propose any necessary changes and present them to Parliament.
Liberal Democrats believe that the issue of allowances is for Parliament to decide. My group will have a free vote on the matter, as will some other parties. I hope that colleagues from all parties will see that the Liberal Democrat amendment gives each and every member the chance to serve the people of Scotland to the best of their abilities. I commend it to members for their support.
I move, as an amendment to motion S1M-40, in the name of Michael Russell, in Part A, rule 9 (Equality), at end insert "subject to paragraph 2 of Part B".
In Part B, paragraph 2 (Local Office Costs Allowance), sub-paragraph (1), leave out "sub-paragraph (2)" and insert
In Part B, paragraph 2 (Local Office Costs Allowance), after sub-paragraph (2), insert-
"(2A) Where in a particular region more than one regional member is returned from a registered political party's regional list, the amount of local office costs allowance for which each such regional member is eligible shall not be £10,000 but shall instead be computed as follows-
(a) there shall be added together the amount of the office costs allowance referred to in paragraph (1) in respect of one such regional member and 30% of that sum in respect of each of the other such regional members;
(b) the resulting total sum shall be divided by the number of such regional members; and
(c) that amount shall be the local office costs allowance for which each such regional member shall be eligible.
(2B) Subject to sub-paragraph (2C), where sub-paragraph (2A) applies the office costs allowance shall be used to enable the regional members concerned-
(a) to run only one office in the particular region; and
(b) to meet constituents either on a one to one basis or as a group; and accordingly some or all of the regional members concerned may pool all or part of their allowances under this paragraph in order to run such an office provided that the members concerned give written notice to the SPCB.
(2C) Where sub-paragraph (2A) applies in relation to a region mentioned in section C of Annex C (eligibility for exceptional needs allowance: the largest regions), the SPCB-
(a) may determine after inquiry that the regional members concerned may run one additional office because that is necessary for the regional members concerned to carry out their Parliamentary duties effectively; and
(b) in those circumstances may increase the local office costs allowance to which each of the regional members concerned is entitled by such a sum as the SPCB may determine but the total of such increases shall not exceed 100% of the office costs allowance referred to in sub-paragraph (1)."
In Annex A (Allowances Code), section B (offices), paragraph (1), leave out "should" and insert "will normally have".
In Annex A (Allowances Code) section B (Offices), paragraph (5), leave out "and other".
I am slightly behind the times, but I am pleased to have been able to introduce a degree of humour into the proceedings.
There is nothing more unedifying than the sight and sound of elected members quibbling about
I do not recall Miss Whitefield showing the same concern for prudence with the public purse when she cheerfully voted with her colleagues in the Labour party and the Liberals to put into power this bloated Administration. I see from her speeches in the past that she has not consistently been opposed to public expenditure, so is it not with some hypocrisy that the Labour party proposes this amendment? The Labour party is seeking to deny those who might oppose it the opportunity of doing so effectively.
It is a pity that the debate has taken such a turn. Mike Russell's comments were particularly apposite; much has been achieved to enable this motion to be debated today. Achieving what has been achieved thus far must have been an exhaustive and, no doubt, exhausting process, so it is distressing that the atmosphere has been soured by what the Administration is seeking to do. What is it afraid of? Does it feel-Karen Whitefield denied it quite vigorously-that we who are elected as regional members will suborn Administration members' activities on behalf of their constituents? That is certainly not the intention.
People must work in partnership. The new politics decree that people should work in partnership for the better of the people of Scotland. What is happening today is an attempt to ensure that that does not happen.
Mrs Smith's amendment does not find any great favour. It is a typical Liberal ploy to fly midway between two areas of conflict. While what she said may have been offered in the spirit of compromise, it is not likely to have much support from us or the SNP.
Today, we are seeking to achieve a degree of equality. Is it not ironic that the Labour party, the great champion of equality, opportunity and equal rights for all, should be seeking to deny the Opposition the rights that it deserves-indeed requires-to ensure that this Parliament works effectively and in the best interests of all our constituents? It is depressing that Labour should adopt that attitude. We had hoped that things
I very much regret the fact that my first speech in this Parliament is on this matter-a matter that I, like my colleagues who have already spoken, feel should never have reached this chamber. It is before us today because of a scheme that has been dreamed up by new Labour with one simple aim-to stifle all opposition and to deny the people of Scotland the right of access to the MSP of their choice.
The SNP motion is about equality and democracy. It is about ensuring, for example, that the 83,000 people in West of Scotland who voted for my colleagues and me should have equal access to us, as their chosen representatives. That was the whole point of proportional representation.
Why should someone from Arran or Dumbarton have to travel to Edinburgh to meet their chosen MSP? There should be no difference between constituency and list members. We are asking for the means to serve our constituents-no more, no less.
The Labour amendment, by contrast, can only be described as politically motivated. We can disregard the flowery words that have been used about the public purse-as we in Ayrshire say, facts are chiels that winna ding. The facts are that the amendment flies in the face of the recommendations of the Electoral Reform Society of Great Britain and Ireland, which says that under PR there should not be two classes of MSP. It flies in the face of Scottish new Labour's Welsh colleagues, who describe the position of Labour in Scotland as a kick in the teeth for proportional representation. It flies in the face of Henry McLeish's pre-election pledge that all MSPs would be treated equally.
The Labour party's posturing about only trying to protect the public purse is undermined by the fact that under its amendment it is okay for the Labour party to have 20 constituency offices in the city of Glasgow, 10 for MSPs and 10 for Westminster MPs-although we might wonder what the latter will do in their 10 offices. All 20 offices can be had at the expense of the public purse.
I want to finish by paraphrasing Henry Ford-it
I, too, welcome the work that has gone into the proposals that are before us today and the transparency of the system that we hope to take on. It is important that people do not feel about our allowances the same way as people felt about the allowances that were previously given to the people in our positions. This is a positive move.
I and all my colleagues recognise that constituency and list MSPs are of equal value to the public. However, their roles over the next four years will be weighted differently. Constituency members will be recognised by local people and organisations, and will be the first port of call as a matter of course. We have to recognise the practicalities: most people in a constituency will come to the constituency MSP first.
It would be confusing and wasteful if other members appeared to be doing exactly the same job. It has been said that if a Tory voter, for example, has a problem, they will want to go to a Tory MSP, but such a course is unnecessary: problems are not party political and we should not be playing games with the issues that people raise with us. I will represent all Linlithgow constituents, whether they voted for me or not. I am sure that other constituency MSPs feel the same way.
We must recognise that if people go to a list MSP-I would not want to stop them doing so if that was their choice-they will be supported. Amendment S1M-40.1 recognises that there will be occasions when people go to a list MSP and it provides financial support for that. Allowances will be made available for list MSPs who are contacted in that way-proportional allowances. I thought that we were all in favour of proportionality these days.
The term "allowances" has perhaps been misused. All MSPs will receive the same wage, the same right to speak in Parliament and its committees and the same right to vote on all issues. The allowance is for a particular task: giving constituents a local place to go-the office-and providing support staff.
No, I will not.
This Parliament will draft legislation, monitor the effect of that legislation and question the Executive. There will be plenty of work for everyone. Suggesting that that is the role of list members does not downgrade that role, but recognises the difference between the contributions that are made. Only last week, Mr Salmond said that "one of the duties of members of this Parliament is to hold the Executive to account and to ask questions of the relevant ministers. That is only part of a member's duties, but it is every bit as important as being in the constituency and carrying out constituency work."-[Official Report, 19 May 1999; Vol 1, c 146.]
I agree. There is a role for constituency and list MSPs-but the role is slightly different. There is no question of there being two classes of MSP, which is what has been suggested.
No, I am just coming to the end of my speech.
We must spend taxpayers' money responsibly. Unnecessary duplication is a waste of money that could be spent elsewhere.
This debate does the Parliament some damage. It looks like we are just arguing in our own interests. If the real need for the money is to enable members to work for constituents, that can be explained to the public, who will recognise the benefit of ensuring that members who are doing the most constituency work will receive the allowance for it.
In that case, I will be brief. Mrs Margaret Smith is absolutely right to say that we should get on with the really important issues, but the arrangements that we are debating must obviously be put in place as quickly as possible.
In the Parliamentary Bureau, which is the committee that considers these issues and of which I am a member, there was agreement on the requirements, which can be summed up in four words: openness, accountability, accessibility and efficiency. There was disagreement about whether
We believe that there are strong arguments for parity and are supported in that view by no less a person than Scotland's First Minister, Mr Donald Dewar. On 25 March 1998, he wrote a letter to the Senior Salaries Review Body on the subject of salaries and allowances. He wrote:
"In considering these matters, no distinction is to be made between the salaries etc of members of the Scottish Parliament elected under the normal constituency system and those elected under the regional additional member system".
Read in context, it is quite clear that his letter related to allowances as well as to salaries. It cannot be dismissed as mere election rhetoric.
The Senior Salaries Review Body said in its summary of its response:
"Members of the devolved bodies would require the equivalent of two full-time staff"- and that "there are other office-related costs to be covered, such as the rent of constituency offices or the hire of rooms for surgeries. We recommend that Members may make vouched claims against an annual allowance."
It made no distinction whatever between different types of members of Parliament and it had been told not to make any.
I believe that the case that is advanced on behalf of New Zealand misses the essential point that Mr Michael Russell picked up: that list MPs there do not have individual constituencies. In this country they most certainly do. We should aim for parity, which is why the motion provides for local office costs allowances as well as for exceptional needs. The justification for local office costs is that list MSPs represent a huge area; for example, South of Scotland is approaching the size of Wales, stretching from Prestwick airport in the west to the fishing harbour of Eyemouth on the east coast. Several offices will be necessary in a regional constituency of that size if the job is to be done to high standards. The same considerations apply to the Highlands and Islands and North-East Scotland constituencies.
A positive decision on the motion would ensure that regional MSPs are able to give an excellent service. The test that should be applied must be what will give the best possible service to constituents throughout Scotland. If the motion succeeds, when the services of Scotland's 56 list
It is a matter of regret to me that my first speech in this Parliament is not about homelessness, poor housing conditions or one of the many issues that I care about. It is a pity that this debate is taking place at all. As Mike Russell said, most of the provisions of the motion were reached by consensus. It is a pity that that consensus has been cast aside by the Labour party. It serves none of us well in the eyes of the public that in this Parliament so far we have done little other than to discuss ourselves.
This debate should be about parity, principle and the Parliament itself-and about recognition that all MSPs are equal and that none is more equal than others. This debate is about principle in the shape of the Parliament. What we agree today will be difficult to change; other parties would be well advised to consider that point. The staff allowances and office accommodation allowances are not for the benefit of MSPs but are to allow us to do our jobs well and, most important, to provide a service to the people we represent. Until 6 May there was widespread acceptance that all MSPs would be treated equally and that constituents would have a choice of MSP to approach. It is a pity that Henry McLeish is not here to hear this again. He told the House of Commons in May 1998:
"The Scottish people value their Parliament and want it to work for them. The nation does not want the Parliament to work for any political party."-[Official Report, House of Commons, 19 May 1998; Vol 312, c 719.]
Ms Whitefield would do well to remember that when she talks about "my office", "my constituents" or "my community". Henry McLeish's words are a bit hollow considering the events of the past few weeks.
A number of Labour spokespeople have tried to suggest that there is a difference between list and constituency MPs and that list members will have a different role in this Parliament. My mailbag suggests that that is not the case. I have been contacted by constituents and I intend to take up their concerns and problems.
Donald Dewar said in a newspaper article that it is all a question of work load. Can we look forward to the Labour party arguing for a 60 per cent reduction in the allowances of Westminster members, because this Parliament and its members are taking on 60 per cent of their work? I think not. The Welsh Assembly has voted to treat all members equally, but the Labour party in Scotland has set its face against that principle. We
Fairness, democracy and equality should be non-negotiable, regardless of where the Parliament is situated. Today's proposals from Labour are hardly fair or equitable and certainly not in keeping with the spirit of the new democracy in Scotland.
It is difficult to enter a debate late and still try to bring something fresh to it, but I shall try to answer some of the points that have been raised. I point out to Karen Whitefield that I am aware of the problems in Airdrie. I worked and had an office there for several years. We should not, however, be too parochial when we are discussing a global issue, so that we can get on with the job.
I am concerned that people seem to interpret equality and parity differently. Today we must talk about the future, and about the foundation of the workings of this Parliament. All of us here today-and those who I note are missing-share equal responsibility for the good governance of Scotland. That is a tremendous honour, privilege and responsibility.
I point out, as have others, that regional members have huge areas to cover, with large populations. In common with Tricia Marwick, I have had pieces of information and bits of requests from all over the north-east. Last week, I received something from Macduff on the north coast and something from Dundee on the Tay. I shall follow up those communications. People recognise the role that we play, and will come to us for our different expertise. If somebody in the Labour party says that they cannot speak to the person of their choice, I suspect that that party has forgotten what democracy is about.
Today's issue is democracy-choice for the people of Scotland. It is by their choice that we are here, and we are here to serve them. If we receive a call in the middle of the night, it is our duty to respond immediately, not to take it through the office and get back to the person in three weeks' time because we are not allowed expenses to respond straight away. That would be nonsense. If we are to talk about responsibility, we should move forward and get on with the job.
All sorts of snide comments have been made on various issues. Someone suggested that we should consider the expenses of Westminster members, but that is for Westminster to decide.
Mr McConnell declares openly that he wants to share office accommodation with a Westminster member. If he is looking for a saving, perhaps he should consider the public purse and offer not to take some of the money himself. It is hypocrisy to play one game against the other. Let us be decent and move away from this petty subject, accepting that we are here because the people of Scotland wanted us here. It is our duty and responsibility to work for them, and everybody in this Parliament should be entitled to the support that they need to do the job.
I support Mike Russell's motion. Like many members, I read today an article that was penned by our First Minister, who has unfortunately not been able to attend. I hope that that same facility will be made available by The Herald to all members who want to participate in a debate but cannot attend on the day.
In his article, the First Minister talks about allowances based on work load. That is a pile of absolute nonsense, as I am sure Labour members who have recently left council chambers will agree. In Scotland today, there is sheer political inequality. Councillors, who are at the very bottom of the political ladder, get £6,000 a year in allowances, and they deal in the first instance with the overwhelming number of cases concerning local issues. In other words, local councillors' work loads are higher in most respects than those of members of the Westminster Parliament, who get a personal salary of £47,000 with another £50,000 or so in allowances. Councillors' work loads are certainly greater than those of our Euro MPs, whose salaries are £47,000 with another £53,000 on top, and many of whom are the Lord Lucans of Scottish political life. That is why the idea that allowances will somehow be based on work load is nonsense.
It is clear that there is selective democracy, selective principle and, perhaps more importantly, selective amnesia. All the helpful, informative and glossy material that the Scottish Office issued in the run-up to the elections stated that all MSPs would be treated equally and with parity, and that there would be no second-class MSPs.
I am more passionate about this debate than I am about the size of the MSPs' salary-which I think is bloated-because this debate is not, as has already been observed, about MSPs gaining anything for themselves. Rather, it is about MSPs being able to employ assistants, to have an office and to do their job properly. Any members who think that, because they are constituency MSPs, they will be the only people to whom constituents will come are far removed from reality. We must
We should have equality of treatment for all our MSPs. What is most important-and it has not been mentioned yet-is that payments to MSPs should be strictly monitored. Members should not be given largesse to do with as they will. If the Labour party fears that members of Opposition parties will misuse funds, it should monitor and report any such misuse. That is the right way in which to ensure that public money is properly used, but it is not right to use this debate to commit an act of political spite. I hope that members will support the motion. [Applause.]
I shall speak in favour of amendment S1M-40.1 and comment on some of the issues that have been raised in the debate. It is an honour to speak in the chamber as the member of the Scottish Parliament for Motherwell and Wishaw. During the next four years, every time I help someone in my constituency I will do it with the same pride that I felt on the day we opened this new Parliament for the first time in 300 years.
I will always regard my constituency duties as my first and No 1 priority as a member of the Scottish Parliament, but it is also an honour to be the Minister for Finance, to manage the money for which Parliament is responsible and to ensure that it is spent on the people's priorities in a way that will continue the good work that has been done by the Labour Government since 1997.
The Labour party has made it clear that we are reducing tax for working people, for people on lower pay and for businesses here in Scotland. At the same time, we are spending more on education, on health, on jobs for young people and on the other priorities of the people of Scotland. Labour is the party that can be trusted on tax, because it spends money on those priorities.
We have made a genuine attempt to reach an accommodation on members' allowances with the other parties.
I am sorry. Part of the new politics will be listening in this chamber. It is important that some of the members in this chamber learn to listen before they interrupt.
As Mrs Mulligan said, we need a system that is
We have tried to define the notion of equal opportunity for members to carry out their duties, so that we can make the allowances scheme work in practice. No member of this Parliament has an automatic right to receive cash from the public purse, either to carry out their duties or to be in their region or constituency. In the scheme's accommodation allowance we already differentiate between those who live in Shetland and those who live in Edinburgh. We differentiate on travel allowances, and we will differentiate on other allowances because the allowances scheme must ensure that members can do their business. It is right and proper that we should also differentiate on offices and on staff. The principles of fairness and equality can be implemented by this Parliament at the same time as we implement a scheme that differentiates between the work loads of the regional member and the constituency member.
I do not want people from Motherwell and Wishaw, or, in my role as Minister for Finance, anyone from anywhere else in Scotland, to come to me and ask why the Parliament did not choose to spend £1 million on something else.
I have only three minutes.
We have been flexible about the scheme. We have proposed five different compromises during the past three weeks, and none has been accepted. The response has been an alliance between the Conservatives and the nationalists that has seemed, at times, to be more about looking after themselves than about looking after Scotland.
This morning, I tried to find some comment about the prudent use of public finances in the various party election manifestos. I could not find a sentence in David McLetchie's manifesto-strange, for the party that used to be the party of sound public finance. The nationalist manifesto stated that the core issue for the SNP ministry of finance would be "To ensure the effective and prudent use of Scotland's public finances".
We will put the taxpayers and voters of Scotland first, and we will recognise the one relevant international example that gives us a lead. We will do what is best for Scotland. We will vote for this amendment, and I hope that the other parties live to regret the action that they are taking today.
On a point of order, Mr Presiding Officer. Please could you clarify that the time spent on interventions is not deducted from the speaking time of the member who has the floor, and that Mr McConnell and others, when asked to give way, can do so without diminishing the amount of time that they have in which to make their speeches?
The tenor of the debate has brought into question the status of MSPs. That is a shame. There should be no difference in the status of MSPs in this chamber in terms of the job that they do. I will not support the Labour amendment, because I believe that it will hinder the work of the three Conservative and four Scottish National party members who represent North-East Scotland.
I have a real problem with the SNP motion, because it talks about equal treatment. I was elected as the constituency member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine. I would quite like to open offices in Deeside, Donside and Kincardineshire, but I shall not do so; the motion will give me one office, and that is all I need.
The Liberal Democrat amendment is a good compromise between the two opposing viewpoints of Labour and the SNP. I do not like to use the word compromise on this point, but it is the answer to the problem. Constituency MSPs get one office to serve their constituents; they do not need more
This is the second occasion on which I have got to my feet to remind MSPs that we are talking about public money. I urge members to support the Liberal Democrat amendment.
If I recall correctly, I heard Jack McConnell on the radio this morning saying that all MSPs were equal. I refer to a cutting in The Herald , about Henry McLeish. As devolution minister, he said in evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee last July:
"The key notion is to make sure we have no two-tier membership. Everyone has a role to play and everyone will be viewed positively. There will be no difference."
Yet what are we getting this afternoon? We are getting a distinct difference. Speaker after speaker has made it plain that the money will not go into MSPs' pockets-it is for allowances. James Douglas-Hamilton mentioned the South of Scotland region and the vast area that it covers. Even the West of Scotland region covers a vast area, from the northern point of Loch Lomond down to the East Ayrshire district boundary, over to the west, including areas such as Arran and Cumbrae, and over to the central belt.
I wonder about the minority parties. Mr Presiding Officer, you are clearly an independent now, and quite rightly so, but with your stature, many constituents might make approaches to you. Will you be denied equality because you are not a member of the Liberal Democrat party in this chamber? You took that decision. Where does the Presiding Officer stand in this instance?
I return to the question of equality. Tommy Sheridan is right; he and I served together in the same council in Glasgow. In many local authorities, councillors are often the front-line troops, yet they are paid less than anyone.
There is a problem. The idea of list MSPs was introduced and approved at Westminster. The problem is that nobody specified what the duties of a list MSP would be.
We know the constituency MSPs' duties, as we know what Westminster MPs do, but what are the list MSPs supposed to do? Again, we have to consider the numbers game.
Annabel Goldie and I are the only two Conservatives in the whole of the West of Scotland. [MEMBERS: "Hurrah."] There will be more, have no fear. We might be asked to go anywhere in the West of Scotland, and we might want to open several different types of office. What will happen when constituency offices already exist, as is the case in Eastwood? If I use that office, will it get no share of the allowance? If constituents in Eastwood come to me, I will not turn them away but will take their cases on board. That is only right, otherwise what am I there for and what am I sitting in the chamber for? I am not here just to take part in debates and to travel around; there is more to it than that.
I say to our Labour and Liberal Democrat colleagues that their parties opposed apartheid, as the rest of us did. However, the line that they are following today will create second-class politicians; that line is totally wrong, and Labour and Liberal Democrat members know it.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to make the comments that I had hoped to make earlier. I apologise for being a little bit parochial, but I find it ironic, under the circumstances, that Mr Russell is leading the debate. The issue is not about two tiers of MSPs; MSPs are paid equally and they are equal. The people have a right to be represented and they will be represented by their constituency MSPs, the members whom they elected directly. Mr Russell was rejected by the voters of Cunninghame South and sometimes I-
No, I have waited a while to make my comments and I should like the opportunity to do so.
Quite frankly, it is not credible that constituents from my area in Irvine will travel across the South of Scotland to wherever Mr Russell chooses to set up his office, for example in Hawick, to visit him
The electorate, especially in Cunninghame South, will be deeply suspicious of a list MSP who showed scant regard for them during the campaign but now wants money to set up an office in the opposite part of the constituency. Local feeling on the matter is running high and that is reflected by an opinion column in the local newspaper, the Irvine Herald, a paper that is not known for favouring the Labour party.
No, I will not.
The Irvine Herald says that "the suspicion must persist that Mike Russell's flirtation with us was expediency of the carpetbagger variety, and his arrogant manner suggested a man who thinks he has bigger fish to fry in Edinburgh."
I cannot justify going back to the electorate of Cunninghame South to explain to them why £1 million of taxpayers' money should be spent on setting up an office for Mr Russell in Hawick, when it should be spent on services for my constituents. I call on members to reject Mr Russell's proposals.
Some of my colleagues in the Labour side of the partnership have a mindset problem, which I think will have to be addressed. I invite them to look at the allowances code, to which I do not think they will object. It allows constituents to approach any MSP in their constituency or region. It also says that all MSPs have the right to hold surgeries within the area for which they were returned.
The code lays down rules for the relationship between the two sorts of MSP. All MSPs are equal and should be treated as such. Unless the Labour members who have spoken today recognise that fact, there will be a major problem in the working of this Parliament.
This issue is not about Parliament against the Executive. It not even a matter for the political parties; it is for the members of the Parliament, and I hope that it will be determined in that way at the end of the meeting.
Let us be realistic, as a rank smell of hypocrisy has hung over some of the speeches that we have heard. If Conservative members-who, to a man and woman, are list members-were sitting where
The legitimate point is that members fear unseemly turf wars about business in their local areas. I think that those fears will turn out to be exaggerated. The Liberal Democrat amendment is designed to dampen down those fears, to deal with the problem and to suggest a reasonable formula. Staff allowances should be the same for list and first-past-the-post members; there is no argument about that among Liberal Democrat, SNP or Conservative members. I call on Labour members to recognise that list MSPs require the same staff support as first-past-the-post constituency members.
No, I will not give way.
Offices are a different matter. As Margaret Smith pointed out, the distinguishing point relates to the constituency in the local sense or the constituency in the regional sense. Mike Russell said that some people had called this debate tawdry. In fact, it has been a good debate, as debates go, but it is unseemly that it has had to take place at all. The matter could have been dealt with beforehand. I say to Jack McConnell that one of the reasons why it was not dealt with beforehand was that the Labour party was very late with its proposals-I do not remember five proposals being put before the allowances group.
No, I will not give way. The lateness of the Labour proposals meant that it was difficult for us to address what may have been a legitimate Labour point of view.
The people of Scotland want this Parliament to get on with its business. In the interests of the people of Scotland, let us accept the Liberal Democrat amendment and get on with the business of the Parliament.
Like many members who have spoken, I do not take great pleasure in the fact that my first speech should be in this debate. I stand here with some humility, recognising the responsibilities that have been put on me as a constituency MSP to represent the people of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, who showed
Although I have made several attempts to get the information, it seems that no terms and conditions have been determined. As we wish to be good employers, it is inconceivable that we should not act quickly to set those terms and conditions in consultation with a trade union. I believe that the appropriate union is the Transport And General Workers Union, which negotiates on behalf of the parliamentary staff in Westminster and of which I happen to be a member.
I want members to note the motion's next line, which says:
"A member may employ his or her staff on conditions which are more favourable to the employee than those determined by the SPCB".
I hope that some of us will do so.
Bill Aitken made a comment about fairness and justice, but I will not take lessons about fairness and justice from the Tories, who did not want a minimum wage or the limitations that result from a 48-hour working week. The members' information pack, which was very helpfully put together for us, tells members how to get their staff to opt out of the 48-hour rule. I hope that, after all the talk of family-friendly policies, no member of this Parliament attempts to do that-especially those of us who are wearing ribbons to show support for the Carers National Association. I do not believe that anybody-certainly not a member of this Parliament-should ask his or her staff to work more than 48 hours a week.
I finish on the point about equality for all members, whether they be constituency or list members. I was elected to do a job in Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley. I fully intend to do that job and I expect the list members to do theirs. Their job is no less valuable than mine, but it is different. List members are here to ensure political balance; they have different responsibilities and there may be different requirements to allow them to fulfil those responsibilities. Neither I nor-I hope-other members will have a problem with that arrangement.
We have to hand it to Labour members for their ability to make speeches with a straight face. New Labour talks about the new politics with a straight face, but then we hear Irene Oldfather's speech. Jack McConnell talks about financial prudence with a straight face then spends more than £500,000 on special advisers to prop up the Labour Administration. We see financial prudence go out of the window when the prospect of 20 new Labour offices in Glasgow springs up-perhaps Jack will take note and start to make some cuts.
Karen Whitefield made an interesting speech-she seemed to want the amount of money that members received to be connected to the number of votes cast. Perhaps I could make a special plea on the basis of the votes that were cast in Dundee, where the margin between Labour and the SNP was less than 3,000-in one of the seats, Labour has a majority of around 120. If there is to be a special dispensation on the basis of votes cast, perhaps I can be first in line.
The people of Dundee-and of constituencies elsewhere-should be able to go to whom they want. That is democracy. Community groups in Dundee have said to me that it is wonderful that they have a choice of members to go to. They should have that choice. What is wrong with that? I am sure that community groups will exercise their choice to maximum effect.
The Labour party is trying to prevent the Opposition from having the resources that it needs to do its job well. That will not go down well with the community groups of Dundee, the voters of Dundee or voters throughout Scotland. Labour is being driven by panic, not principle, and the party will be seen for what it is.
Self-interest dressed up in high moral tone is still self-interest. Members should be more honest about some of the things that they say in debates. Frankly, the comments made by John Young were offensive.
We have a new and complex system: we have both constituency members and list members. That system was introduced because we wanted to keep the connection between the local constituency and its representative in Parliament. In doing that, we recognised that there was a difference between list and constituency MSPs. We have come here in different ways and the Parliament must address how we manage those differences.
I have heard members bandy around words such as equality. Anyone who has tried to deal
There is no doubt that MSPs are here as equals: we all earn the same wages. In a previous existence, I was a secondary school teacher and I earned the same as every other principal teacher who did that job. I did not feel that I was being treated unequally because the science department got a larger requisition than my department did. Its hardware needs were more expensive that those of my department and I recognised that the allowance system reflected the needs of individual departments. We must address the needs and responsibilities that the allowances in the Scottish Parliament have to meet.
The point is not that I am entitled to an allowance, but that I am entitled to an allowance of up to a certain amount. I would ensure that anyone who claims an allowance has to justify it.
We also have to recognise that there are difficulties. It is my responsibility to represent the people of Pollok-all the people of Pollok, not just the healthy majority who elected me.
I am not taking any interventions, so members may as well not bother bobbing up and down.
According to Mike Russell's argument, I represent the people of Pollok; Tommy Sheridan, who was beaten in Pollok, represents the whole of Glasgow; and Kenny Gibson, who was beaten in Pollok, represents the whole of Glasgow-presumably, they do not represent Pollok, where they were defeated.
Alternatively-still following Mike Russell's argument-Tommy Sheridan and Kenny Gibson represent the people who voted for their parties. However, the allowances should not be used to promote direct party interest. I would condemn anyone in any political party who attempted to use them in that way.
The other position that Mike Russell might be suggesting is that the people of Pollok are represented by eight MSPs: me and the seven members who represent the whole of Glasgow. Anyone can see that I will be the first port of call, the first person to whom people will come-I am not saying that I am the only person-and that there will be a clear difference between my responsibilities and those of the seven list members.
Certainly-this is my last point. The charge that we are allowing neither opposition nor access would be justified if the list MSPs were not going to receive any allowances. There is a differential allowance in recognition of the differential work load. We need a monitoring system to check whether, in fact, there is a differential work load; if there is not, we must change the system. The people of Scotland need to be represented and they must not suffer because of debates about individual allowances.
I believe in parity and equality. Members may say that I would say that because I am a regional member. I would like to think that I would say it even I was a constituency member. I agreed with much of what Mr Davidson said. He and Mr McLetchie-with whom I have sparred-have as much right to be here as me or any constituency member. Mr Russell made a valid point when he said that the issue was not just parity of treatment for members, but parity of treatment for voters, the people whom we are here to serve. The division between members is very unfortunate.
I read, with interest, the First Minister's article in The Herald today about his busy weekend, which included holding two surgeries and dictating two full tapes on Sunday. I am sure that he has a very heavy constituency work load; this weekend, I had a heavy regional work load, too. He cannot tell me now what my work load is going to be: it is far too early in the session to say what the work load of regional and constituency members will be.
The First Minister told us what he did at the weekend, so I will tell him what I did. First of all, on Friday, I went right up to Edzell, in the north-east of my region, and had a meeting with Sir Bob Smith and patients from Stracathro hospital to discuss that hospital's future. I went down to Perth to have a meeting with councillors about issues of concern to them. I went across to Crook of Devon to attend the Fossoway gathering-which featured, I am glad to say, on "Scottish Lobby"-and to talk to constituents. I went over to the Stirling constituency to discuss the question of the national park in the Trossachs, which Dr Sylvia
As the First Minister and members such as Mr Salmond and Mr Swinney, who were at Westminster, know-
I do not have time to give way, but I will give way the next time if I can.
A member's job is as elastic as he or she chooses to make it, and that is true for both regional and constituency members. In my view, we need the same resources-and parity and equality of treatment-so that we can serve our voters equally. That was Mr Russell's crucial point, and I agree with him.
A lot of cant and hypocrisy has been in evidence during this debate and I do not agree with anyone, from whatever party, who said that they regret having to speak during it. We have this period before the Parliament assumes its powers so that we can get such matters out of the way before we get down to serious business. We cannot bring 1 July forward any faster than it will come naturally, so we should deal with these issues when we have the opportunity to do so, before the Parliament's business comes along.
I thought it illuminating that Mr Russell said, in his opening remarks, that we must not have two classes of MSP and then immediately went on to say that he represents a super-constituency, while the rest of us represent ordinary constituencies. Presumably he is a super-MSP and I am just a fairly average, run-of-the-mill MSP. Let us be honest and look logically at this issue. It is not a question of whether there is a distinction between the two kinds of MSP because-I am sorry, Michael-quite clearly there is. There are three ways of looking at the issue.
The first is dealt with in the scheme. No one is suggesting that everyone should get the Edinburgh accommodation allowance-for obvious reasons-and three classes have been suggested for the way in which that allowance should be paid.
Secondly-this is important for Mr Russell-there is not uniformity in the way in which, should he pop his clogs, he would be replaced and how I would be replaced should the same thing happen to me. Difficult though the task would be of filling Mr Russell's shoes-if one could get close
Thirdly, I agree that every MSP is equal, but every MSP does not and, I suggest, will not have the same work load. Today's debate is really about staffing and costs allowances. The situation in Wales has been mentioned several times. Are we arguing that we should be measuring ourselves against Wales? Do we want the legislative powers of the Welsh Assembly? Do we want the salaries that the Welsh Assembly members are paid? Sorry, Tommy, you probably think we should.
However, the analogy with Wales is not important as there are other countries, such as New Zealand-which was mentioned earlier-Germany and Spain that offer instructive examples at federal and regional level. Regional members tend to spend their weekends where the Parliament is, and go less often to their constituencies. It has been proven over a number of years in the Bundestag and in the Länder Parliaments, and in the Cortes and the Spanish regional governments, that regional members are given less constituency case work. That is a matter of fact and of concern.
We cannot try to change the system after it is in place-which is why it is important that we get things right today. The public furore that has arisen around today's debates is nothing; just watch if we try to open up this issue again in 18 months' time, when the review comes around. It will be extremely difficult. That is why we must grasp the nettle today.
I suggest that it is likely that the roles of list and constituency members will differ. Both have equal value in this chamber. List members were brought here to provide political balance and it is important that they do so, but it is only fair to recognise-as Karen Whitefield's amendment does-that they will not have the same constituency representational role.
I want to do the decent thing and congratulate Karen Whitefield on her maiden speech. I do not necessarily agree with the content of her speech, but we all need to go through the experience. In fact, I got the maiden telling-off.
Yesterday, I was up in Aberdeenshire meeting Conservative councillors. I am delighted to represent the people of Dundee, of Banff and Buchan, of West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, of Angus and of Aberdeen. They all elected me and members of the SNP who are here not as constituency, but as regional, MSPs.
When I came back late last night in a taxi, the taxi driver said, "You're all the same. You don't represent us. I wrote a letter to one party-no answer. I wrote a letter to another party and waited three weeks-no answer." Every time we politicians fail-either on purpose or by neglect-to respond to the need of a constituent, we do not damage our party; we damage democracy. Every time we do that because of our work load or other commitments, we damage the Scottish Parliament. Giving list members parity and the ability to represent people will strengthen democracy.
I understand why the Liberal Democrats and members of other parties might be worried that we have some devious agenda to undermine them. I can give an assurance that I am a professional and I hope that I will concentrate on certain issues-not, for example, to undermine Mike Rumbles whom I stood against, but to provide better representation for the people in the region. Their money and their votes have put me and Mike Rumbles into this chamber. I therefore ask that members back the SNP motion to give list members parity in representation, because representation of the people counts for far more than the interests of MSPs.
I too believe in parity and equality, but I also believe that there is a difference between the jobs of list MSPs and the jobs of constituency MSPs. That is simply a fact of life that we will have to live with.
I was elected as a first-past-the-post representative primarily to look after the interests of the people of East Kilbride, who will come to me with constituency matters. They have already done so through the two surgeries that I have held, through phoning me at home and through writing to me. That is my role and we do not need another MSP simply shadowing that role at the taxpayers' expense.
I will not give way.
It is against the principles and the great spirit of this Parliament for someone to purport to be a shadow MSP for an area and to be reported in the local papers as being the local MSP when they clearly are not.
List MSPs were elected to achieve proportionality. They are equal in the job, but in a different job, which is what Karen Whitefield's amendment is all about. We must support the amendment because list MSPs and constituency MSPs play different roles in the community.
We should reject the partnership of greed between the Conservatives and the SNP, which does not recognise the roles that we play in our constituencies. It is misleading to talk about second-class MSPs when the issue in question is value for money. We have to recognise that list MSPs play a different role from constituency MSPs and I therefore beg members to support Karen Whitefield's amendment.
I have to say that I am disappointed by the debate this afternoon. In my opening remarks, I talked about the need to have a dignified debate. I discussed that in a telephone conversation with Jack McConnell on Sunday night. It is a horrific thought that on Sunday nights Jack McConnell and I have to speak to each other, but we agreed and this morning I made the same point to Mr McCabe.
It is to be regretted that there has been no such restraint and dignity in most of the speeches that we have heard, especially from Labour members, and particularly from Mr McConnell. Like Robert Brown, I do not recognise Mr McConnell's account of the allowances group. I remember that after giving a lecture on the need for public prudence-shortly after his appointment and before his department spent £600,000 on special advisers-Mr McConnell left the building and got into his chauffeur-driven car. Being lectured on prudence by a man who leaves in a chauffeur-driven car sticks in the craw.
I regret the way in which Labour members have treated most of these matters. I am sure that Ms Whitefield has a passion for Airdrie-she expressed it in lengthy terms-but she has no passion for democracy. That came out in the
"Once elected, a regional Member will have the same rights and responsibilities as any other Member."-[Official Report, House of Commons, 28 January 1998; Vol 305, c 444.]
It is impossible to know exactly how things will turn out, but look at that pile of correspondence on Mr Harper's desk. There is no doubt that there will be a heavy weight of constituency responsibility on list members, who have a constituency. I stress that they have a constituency, which is obvious from the debate that we have had and from debates on the Scotland Act 1998. In the circumstances, it would have been better-and wiser-if the Labour party had not indulged in what Tommy Sheridan called an act of political spite. That is what we are seeing today and it is regrettable.
The motion is worthy of support in its own terms. It preaches equality and transparency and those things are in it. I will say one thing to Irene Oldfather. I am flattered that I am at the centre of her attentions and that she follows every movement that I make in Irvine. I promise her that for the next four years I shall be in Irvine regularly and shall hold surgeries in Irvine, as the code allows me to do. I shall work in Irvine and I look forward to the next Scottish Parliament election in Irvine as, on Irene Oldfather's account, I have gained a 10 per cent swing by doing nothing. Who knows what will happen when I get to work?
Before we move to decision time, I ask Mr Russell to move motion S1M-41 formally.
1. Provision of Information Technology and Office Equipment (1) The SPCB shall provide information technology and other office equipment for the Parliament.
(2) Where such information technology and other office equipment is provided for the use of a member for the purpose of carrying out his or her Parliamentary duties -
(a) the member may select the equipment concerned but only from a list of items specified by the SPCB;
(b) the cost of such equipment shall be no more than £5000 in the first year following a general election and no more than £1500 in each of the following years in that session;
(c) the member shall be responsible for the maintenance, protection and security of such equipment and the SPCB may, if it has reasonable grounds to believe that any such equipment is being misused, require the return of the equipment.
2. Provision of Office Supplies (1) The SPCB shall provide office supplies and postage stamps or postage paid envelopes for the Parliament.
(2) Where such office supplies are provided for the use of a member for the purpose of carrying out his or her Parliamentary duties the member may select the supplies concerned but only from a list of items specified by the SPCB.
3. Publication The SPCB shall publish for each financial year in respect of each member details of the total sums expended under paragraphs 1 and 2 of this direction.