Public Appointments and Public Bodies etc (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:11 pm on 5th February 2003.

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Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat 4:11 pm, 5th February 2003

That is a fair point.

I am a little concerned that the SNP seems to want to judge the legislation's success by the number of appointees who have political affiliations that will have been made by the end of the next Parliament. The nationalists' claim that they expect the Labour party to have made more such appointments than other political parties in four years' time, so they seem to be admitting that they will not be in Government four years from now. Obviously, they have already given up on winning the election.

The bill is very good and it is important, because it creates the right balance between the commissioner's independence and the final accountability of the appointments process to Parliament. It is significantly better than Alex Neil's Public Appointments (Parliamentary Approval) (Scotland) Bill; I should point out to Tricia Marwick that the reason why his bill did not make it to stage 2 was not that the Executive told us not to support it, but that it was fundamentally flawed. That was why I did not support it in committee.

Alex Neil's bill would have politicised the appointments process even more, because every single appointment to every single quango would have had to face the scrutiny of politicians, not independent assessors or people who would consider applicants' merits. Would politicians have considered whether applicants were the best people for jobs? No; they would have been looking for political reasons to challenge the Executive's appointments to particular posts. In fact, the witch hunters of the SNP showed that quite clearly by the way they treated the appointment of the Scottish information commissioner—and Parliament—with contempt.