17 December 2015

S4M-15201 Interests of Members of the Scottish Parliament (Amendment) Bill - Closing Speech

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The next item of business is a debate on S4M-15201, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on the Interests of Members of the Scottish Parliament (Amendment) Bill.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

Let me start with the point that Mary Scanlon has made, which is a fair and proper one, by addressing the example that she gives of any of us being out to dinner with someone who wishes to put a point to us. That is not caught by the Interests of Members of the Scottish Parliament (Amendment) Bill unless the dinner is provided on condition that we take an action. It is that conditionality that is important.

Parliament will be likely to be returning to the broader issue that Mary Scanlon has captured when we discuss the Lobbying (Scotland) Bill, because that may well be a matter of lobbying that is caught, and the people who are lobbying would be likely to have to register under the Lobbying (Scotland) Bill. That is for another day but, in response to Mary Scanlon’s point, I say that it is the conditionality that is important. We can still go out to dinner. I am going out tonight, although I think that I am paying, so that certainly will not be caught.

Mark McDonald (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP): Are we all invited?

Stewart Stevenson: Invitations are now closed.

Mary Fee dealt more than adequately with the subject of the sanctions that are being introduced and with the broad sanction regime. In particular, she addressed the issue of a motion of censure, so I do not propose to say anything more that is material about that.

I do, however, want to talk about the removal of dual reporting. Although we will be passing a bill today, it cannot proceed as a new part of our law and our procedures until the Electoral Commission is satisfied that the information in the register of interests will be sufficient to meet its needs. The clerks to the committee have been working with the Electoral Commission to ensure that the provisions in the bill are satisfactory, and I, like other members, thank officials in the Parliament and at the Electoral Commission for their assistance in that matter.

The current framework for ending dual reporting in the Electoral Administration Act 2006 does not extend to independent MSPs, and I want to say a word or two about that. As that act stands, dual reporting can be ended only for members of registered political parties, and not for independent members. Our bill contains an amendment to that act that will allow dual reporting to be ended for all MSPs, and I am pleased to have been able to work with each of the independent members in this Parliament to ensure that the provisions in that regard are understood and agreed. Indeed, I saw Margo MacDonald towards the end of her life; I had a three-minute discussion on this subject and an hour of updates on what was going on in Parliament. I will not reveal what I told her about what everyone was up to, as that would be a breach of confidence beyond what would be proper.

In closing, I am pleased that the committee has been able to bring forward this committee bill, which I believe will streamline processes for dealing with financial interests, increase transparency and ensure that we have robust sanctions. I encourage all colleague to support this change in the next few minutes.

Stewart Stevenson
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