Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has today expressed dismay after SNP, Conservative, Labour and Green MSPs voted against elected representatives being subject to a PVG check before they can be alone with children and vulnerable people.
The Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee voted by 10 to 1 against amendments to the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill submitted by Mr Cole-Hamilton.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“In any other job with access to children and vulnerable people you would be expected to undergo a vulnerable persons check. The reaction of most people to my proposals is simply shock that elected representatives get an opt-out from these basic safeguards.
“It is not good enough for MSPs to rely on self-policing or say that they have voluntarily adopted the good practice of not spending time unaccompanied with children or vulnerable adults. We need to legislate for people as we occasionally find them not as we would wish them to be. History and inquiries have proven that approach puts people at risk so I can’t help but feel that in rejecting my amendments this parliament is making that same mistake again. Elected office brings with it status, influence and access to vulnerable groups. We can’t just assume that because someone wins an election their conduct will be guaranteed or their intentions beyond reproach.
“People will be stunned that in the wake of high profile incidents of grooming and exploitation, the response of the other parties has been to conclude that this legislation should apply to everyone bar elected representatives.
“To claim it is too complicated or that this shouldn’t be done through this once-in-a-decade child protection legislation is short-sighted and will be rightly questioned by the million people who we already insist must have a PVG. Everyone else can see the protection that a PVG affords, so why can’t MSPs?
“This legislation will fail the test of protecting children so long as it keeps open this gaping loophole.”