Public Appointments and Public Bodies etc (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:33 pm on 5th February 2003.

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Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour 4:33 pm, 5th February 2003

As I said, we consulted on the prospects for a commissioner a full 20 months ahead of the introduction of Alex Neil's bill. Alex Neil was smarter on his feet just now than he was in responding to our initiatives on the matter.

The bill is contrary to what the Tories have said—one of its principal aims is to clear up the mess that the Tories left after years of misuse of patronage during the dark old days of the Thatcher years and beyond.

The bill makes sensible provision for the future and will take political considerations out of the appointments process. That approach is the opposite of the SNP's proposed approach. The SNP has attempted to politicise the appointments process and to create a climate of suspicion around it. As Alex Neil knows, the vast bulk of people who serve on public bodies have no political connections whatever; we want to encourage more people to apply for such jobs in that spirit. The SNP complains about the number of SNP supporters who are appointed, but I encourage SNP supporters to apply. If they have the required qualities, they will be appointed to the bodies, which will add to diversity in the process.

Sadly, the SNP's approach through its amendments and through Alex Neil's bill has been to seek to provide a vehicle for a variety of witch hunts, which, it was intended, would end up as show trials of individuals in the chamber. However, the bill, through its inventive and positive measures, will comprehensively thwart the SNP's intentions. More important, the bill will give Scotland a modernised, independent, accountable, transparent, open, powerful and constructive public appointments landscape that will serve Scotland well for many years to come. I commend the Public Appointments and Public Bodies etc (Scotland) Bill to Parliament.