The Scotsman

Power to sack msps through recall petition is‘ highly desirable’

- Alexander Brown Westminste­r Correspond­ent

The ability to sack msps through a recall petition is “highly desirable” with Scottish Parliament governance in urgent need of reform, Ian Blackford has claimed.

The former SNP Westminste­r leader made the comments amid an ongoing row over the sanction faced by Michael Matheson over the ipad data scandal.

MSPS voted for Mr Matheson to be suspended for 27 days and stripped of his salary for 54 days, following a Holyrood committee recommendi­ng the punishment after he racked up £11,000 in data fees while on a holiday in Morocco.

With s np figures including the First Minister now questionin­g the integrity of the committee, and the Scottish Tories calling fora recall option, Mr Black ford said the existing system was “unprofessi­onal”.

Speaking exclusivel­y to The Scotsman, Mr Blackford also discussed the end of his leadership in Westminste­r, standing down as a nm pa nd the challenges facing the SNP.

Asked about mr ma the son, he said: “I’m a member of the committee of standards in public life and I've not commented on the michael ma the son case, but I’ ve watched very carefully what happened. Above all else, I’m embarrasse­d at the governance in the Scottish Parliament, and when I say that I mean, the procedures of the Scottish parliament to investigat­e complaints against members.

“It’s not profession­al, it doesn’t have the right checks or balances. It doesn’t protect the complainan­t or those being complained against. Also the recognitio­n is if that process is conducted, it’s not being done with fairness. there is a real question about the hope sand dream sofa Scottish parliament, even down to the horse shoe style so people could work together. But much of it is deeply political and not rooted in fairness and a structure that allows a proper process and accountabi­lity.

“I think the Scottish Parliament as a matter of urgency has to review its governance, and its rules and regulation­s for conduct. As part of that, I think a recall mechanism is highly desirable. It has to be on the basis of having the right recall in place”.

In Westminste­r, recall petitions allow voters to remove elected officials in certain circumstan­ces. Former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier ultimately lost her Rut her glen and Hamilton sea tina by-election in october last year after a recall petition was triggered, linked to her 30- day suspension for making a trip to westminste­r in breach of Covid regulation­s.

Mr Blackford, who now has a business role within the party, also discussed the SNP’S lacklustre polling ahead of the general election and how to turn it around.

He said: “There is a big prize at stake. We’ve got a few weeks to have those conversati­ons and win the public’s trust again. I know we face a big challenge.

“Have we governed well in the past years in the main, and can we show people what’ s at stake? When you think about not having tuition fees, when you think about the free bus pass for young people, the free personal care, there’s a sense that maybe we’ve let the narrative move away from us. my message to the scottish people is‘ yes we are listeninga­nd yes, we will protect their interests’.”

Mr Blackford said part of this was bringing back those who supported independen­ce, but had lost faith in the SNP.

He said: “For those that are expressing support for independen­ce, what we’ve got to do is show a vision of what an independen­t Scotland would really look like. We’ve got to show why it’ s an absolute necessity to get to that destinatio­n and about making the lives of others better.

“Contrast and compare where Ireland is with a budget surplus, without any of the natural resources we have. We have to spell out how we will drive the Scottish economy, make Scotland a destinatio­n and show off our academic excellence. Independen­ceneeds to be the settled goal, to deliver a bright er future .”

Turning to his own legacy, Mr Blackford expressed regret that some sn pmps felt they needed a change of leader and that he saw working with others as a crucial part of the role.

He said: “It was an enormous privilege to beth es np westminste­r leader for five-and-a-half years, and I was all very clear about how I saw the role, working hand in glove with the first minister, and we were the support act.

“I can reflect that for some MPS, they wanted a slightly different style.”

There was also praise for former prime minister Theresa May, who had embraced the former SNP Westminste­r leader in the Commons after they both gave their final speeches asmps.

Calling for more civility in politics, Mr Blackford said: “I worry about where we are in politics. You can see the disdain [Sir Keir] star me rand[r is hi] sun ak have for each other. Yes, people can celebrate their political difference­s, but if we can’t still get along, we are poorer for that.

“I have very clear difference­s with Theresa May, but I’d never disrespect her as a person. Her chief-of-staff Gavin Barwell said ‘you actually get on, but when you get in the chamber, you knock nine bells out of each other’, but that’s the job.”

Speaking in the week of the first UK TV leaders’ debate, Mr Blackford said he wasn’t impressed by either candidate and criticised the standard of debate in Britain.

He said: “I’m not sure it added anythingto­thegeneral­ was veryshou ty, but i’ m not sure in terms of the issues voters are confrontin­g it will have added any great knowledge to anyone. There wasn’ t a single mention of Scotland at all.

“What really depresses me from the election campaign is that there isn’t honesty about the challenges we face. We all want to see investment in public services, but that’ s only going to happen if we grow theas been in the slow lane since the financial crisis. Until we understand the challenges of getting to things like net zero, and the extraordin­ary opportunit­y to tap into our natural resources and get the funding and support for the supply chain, we’re going to be stuck here.”

I worry about where we are in politics Ian Blackford

 ?? ?? Ian Blackford discussed the end of his leadership in Westminste­r, standing down as an MP and the challenges facing the SNP
Ian Blackford discussed the end of his leadership in Westminste­r, standing down as an MP and the challenges facing the SNP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom