SNP accused of power grab after junior MSPs awarded top jobs

James Nickerson
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The Scottish Parliament building is pict
The opposition says that there will be a conflict of interest (Source: Getty)

The Scottish National Party has been accused of a power grab after a number of top jobs were given to MSPs.

The MSPs have been awarded jobs as aids to ministers that they are meant to be holding to account.

Education secretary John Swinney's assistant, Jenny Gilruth, was given her role after she was put forward to sit on the education committee. And Kate Forbes was given the post of aide to finance secretary Derek Mackay after she secured a place on the finance committee.

Read more: Scottish National Party membership jumps by more than 25,000 since 2014

The pattern is repeated across every cabinet brief, according to Herald Scotland.

Opposition said the backbenchers will face a conflict of interest when performing functions on committees, which grill ministers and hold the government to account, as well as when producing critical reports.

The aides are also allowed access to confidential government information while fellow MSPs serving on committees are not.

Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: “The SNP has form in trying to stitch up the Scottish Parliament and block proper scrutiny - with the result that hopelessly flawed laws like named persons have made it onto the statute book. We need a parliament with teeth, not one hobbled by SNP cronyism.

“The SNP should do the decent thing and ensure that MSPs employed to assist a Minister do not then sit on the committee which is supposed to be holding those same Ministers to account. Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants a stronger Scottish Parliament - she now needs to act without delay.”

Meanwhile, Ross Greer, a Green MSP, said: "Many of these new PLOs (Parliamentary Liaison Officer) are capable MSPs who could make a really significant contribution to their committees but it is hard to see how that is possible when they are on the committee scrutinising their own bosses.

"The conflict of interests is clear and the public will be disappointed to see parliamentary scrutiny of the government eroded in this way. Holyrood needs progress on the wider agenda of reform to improve scrutiny but the government could at least show parliament more respect by allowing it to do its job as effectively as possible."

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