Rennie writes to party leaders over recall proposals


Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie has today written to party leaders to invite them to a discussion on how to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to protect its reputation and integrity in light of recent events.

In the letter he called for party leaders to "collectively look at the range of sanctions and mechanisms available in future in the event that elected members are found to have done wrong", noting that one of the powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament last year was the ability to make provisions for the recall of MSPs.

Mr Rennie said:

"Last week, the depressing results of the Parliament's own sexual harassment survey implicated MSPs and saw respondents warn that they had little confidence in the process.

"These findings must shake us from our complacency. Parliament has a responsibilty to collectively look again at the range of sanctions and mechanisms available in future, especially now that the Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate in this area.

"I believe there is public concern that, short of an MSP being disqualified as a result of being handed prison sentence of 12 months or more, the means to impose appropriate sanctions are limited to non-existent.

"We need to build a system that is not a politically motivated route to denounce an MSP you disagree with politically but one that recognises that the public are ultimately our boss.

"I hope that the other party leaders will agree to meet together to discuss this at the earliest opportunity."

 

Mr Rennie's letter said:

Dear [Nicola/Ruth/Richard/Patrick]

I write to invite you to a discussion on how we can use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to protect its reputation and integrity in light of recent events.

I am sure that you were similarly depressed and concerned by the results of the Parliament's sexual harassment survey, including the fact that it implicated MSPs and found respondents had little confidence in procedures and processes.

In other lines of work, people would expect to lose their job if they were to be found to have engaged in some of the activities of which MSPs have been accused. I believe there is public concern that, short of an MSP being disqualified as a result of being handed prison sentence of 12 months or more, the means to impose appropriate sanctions are limited to non-existent.

These and other events have highlighted systematic weaknesses. I believe that we, as party leaders and MSPs, have a responsibility to work together to get our house in order. Those that we have a duty to, not least our constituents and staff, are rightly demanding change. We need to see greater accountability and transparency, while of course recognising the need for privacy for those reporting improper behaviour.

For example, one of the powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament last year was the ability to make provisions for the recall of MSPs. There is now a precedent for this after the UK Parliament passed legislation applying to MPs in 2015. I believe that it is now incumbent on us to consider the merits of introducing such a system here.

I believe that we as party leaders have a responsibility to collectively look at the range of sanctions and mechanisms available in future in the event that elected members are found to have done wrong.

I have written in the same terms to the other party leaders and I hope that we can discuss this at an early opportunity.

My office will be in touch to make arrangements for an initial meeting with your agreement.

I look forward to your reply.

Regards,

Willie Rennie


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