Contract Research Staff

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 1:06 pm on 22nd November 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 1:06 pm, 22nd November 2001

Many cogent points have been made in support of Alex Neil's excellent motion. I would like to broaden the debate out. The treatment of contract research staff is mirrored in almost every aspect of our lives. There are people on short-term contracts in health, local government, quangos and the voluntary sector. It was said in response to a question a few minutes ago that we are putting much more money into many more voluntary activities. That is good, but we are funding projects that build up a team for three years.

It is exactly the same with contract researchers. People are just beginning to get a good grip on the job and build up a lot of knowledge when the whole thing ends. They spend the second half of their contract seeking their next job. The whole thing is amazingly unproductive and inefficient. Short-termism is short-sighted, but it is endemic in almost every aspect of our public life. I do not know how we can shift it.

The people right at the top will have to use their power and persuasion and the funding mechanisms to ensure continuity and to ensure that people have security in what they are doing. It involves a bit of trust, which at the moment does not exist. Short-term contracting is based on mistrust. We have to trust people to do a good job, build up good teams of people and not sit about smoking but do even better work. In that way, we will get better value for money.

I appeal to the minister to get the message to the Executive that we somehow have to change that short-term attitude. That message is at the heart of this excellent motion. Short-termism is a cancer in our public life and we have to deal with it.