The Scottish Labour Party will push for the establishment of a “clean-up Holyrood” commission as part of a suite of measures to improve trust in Scottish politics, leader Anas Sarwar has said.
He described the inquiry into the handling of harassment complaints against former first minister Alex Salmond, which spanned the latter years of the last parliamentary term, as a “procedural farce”.
The inquiry was dogged by accusations of partisan bias and the Scottish Government was repeatedly attacked for what opposition members described as a lack of transparency, leading to a vote of no confidence in Deputy First Minister John Swinney after he failed to publish legal advice given to ministers – although it was eventually made public.
As well as setting up a new independent ethics commission, Mr Sarwar said his party will seek to reform the Holyrood committee process, giving them the power to compel witnesses to appear and ensuring conveners are elected by all MSPs.
Speaking on the day new members are sworn in at the Scottish Parliament, Mr Sarwar said: “Today MSPs old and new will give their oaths and begin the sixth term of our Parliament.
“We have so much to be proud of in this place, we are more diverse than ever before and are beginning the process of looking more like Scotland.
“But we have also seen institutional failures that have reduced our politics to a circus.
“We cannot allow the procedural farce that defined the Salmond inquiry to continue for five more years.
“So I would urge all MSPs – and especially my colleagues in the SNP – to look at strengthening the scrutiny powers of Holyrood.
“We can take the first steps to reuniting the country and restoring faith in our politics, but only if we commit together to make serious changes.”
The Labour leader also said he would like to see the dual role of the Lord Advocate – who serves both as the top legal adviser to the Scottish Government and as the head of public prosecutions – split up.
Parliamentary privilege would be instituted for MSPs under Labour’s plans, while a right of recall for MSPs – meaning members would effectively be fired for unacceptable conduct – is also part of the party’s proposals.
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