Vote to be held on closing the "one rule for politicians" safeguarding loophole

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today said "it can't be one rule for politicians and another rule for everyone else" as he put forward fresh proposals for experts to examine how basic safeguarding procedures could be applied to positions of power, preventing people who haven't been vetted having unsupervised contact with children and vulnerable adults.

MSPs will vote on Wednesday on an amendment to the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill that would establish an expert working group to investigate and recommend the best way forward.

The legislation, like the previous Act over a decade ago, currently specifically excludes elected representatives from any safeguarding checks.

SNP, Conservative, Labour and Green politicians voted against amendments submitted by Mr Cole-Hamilton at Stage 2, which would have seen elected representatives join one million other professionals and volunteers as members of the Protection for Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme. The new amendment is a response to these parties saying the issue needs further exploration before they can be brought under safeguarding legislation.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

“Nobody else is allowed to be alone with children or vulnerable adults without a basic check first. But there is nothing legally to stop MSPs doing it. In fact, they are explicitly excluded, and the same goes for other powerful figures within politics.

"That is wrong. It can’t be one rule for politicians and another for everyone else.

"People are shocked these basic safeguards don’t exist already. They have seen history and inquiries expose the dangers of self-policing. They know some working in politics use their status to manipulate, target and exploit vulnerable people.

"I want experts to tell us how best to safeguard against that threat, and that is precisely what my amendment will commission.

"Other workplaces and sectors have made huge leaps forward in creating a safeguarding culture. It is time politics starting taking this as seriously.

"Parents should know that young people on work experience are with someone who can be trusted. Carers should know that vulnerable adults attending a surgery aren’t going to be left alone with someone who hasn’t undergone any independent vetting whatsoever.

"I was disappointed at the reluctance I encountered at Stage 2 from the other parties. I hope they can now be persuaded to take the first baby step towards closing this loophole."

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