MSP guilty of failing to declare business interests after ‘genuine staff error’
ABERDEENSHIRE West MSP Alexander Burnett has been found guilty by ethics watchdogs of failing to declare his own business interests while challenging the Scottish Government on business rates hikes.
A complaint was lodged after Mr Burnett, who is worth £40 million, did not declare he was a director and chairman of the North Banchory Company (NBC) when questioning the recent revaluation of commercial rates. Holyrood’s standards committee unanimously decided to admonish the Conservative MSP for breaking the code of conduct after a report from the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life Scotland. The commissioner’s report stated: “It appears to me that the respondent, having registered his property interest in NBC and having acknowledged that the company is affected by specific commercial rates increases in commercial property resulting from the revaluation, had an interest to declare.” Mr Burnett had told the commissioner the mistake was an error made by a junior member of staff, who had not yet had parliamentary training and nothing to do with his business interests.
He stated: “A genuine staff error meant the tick box ‘I have registered an interest’ was not selected. I, of course, take full responsibility for my new member of staff and she has now had training from the Chamber desk.”