Jo today contributed to an article in The Herald on public trust in politicians. The article titled “Is the public justified to lose confidence in our politicians?” shows two alternative viewpoints, one from Jo, the other from Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, a Labour MSP.
Public confidence in our democratic institutions has been shattered.There is shock and anger at how MPs have manipulated the system for personal gain, by “flipping” second-home designations and maxing out on mortgages.
Yet, while watching parliament’s reputation being dragged through the mud has been painful for all who passionately believe politics can be a force for good, it is still better than the alternative: shrouding MPs’ claims in secrecy and allowing the unjustifiable and possibly fraudulent behaviour to continue unchecked. All politicians come out of this badly.It is right that there have been apologies, but it is not enough. We need to act now to start putting things right.
The money we are claiming belongs to the taxpayer, so we should abide by two key principles: openness and no personal profit.
For over a year I have published details of my expenses each quarter. The Scottish Parliament has a system where every claim is logged and listed online.The House of Commons must do the same.
No-one wants to go back to the days when only the rich and landed gentry could be MPs. Most people I speak to accept that MPs who represent areas far from Westminster need to have somewhere to stay in London.
I would like to see parliament acquire properties for the use of MPs staying away from home.All capital gains made would go to the taxpayer, and over time the whole system would cost less.
However, it is clear that MPs can no longer be left to make the rules themselves.Whatever new system Sir Christopher Kelly recommends, MPs should accept his judgment entirely and without amendment.
Where minor mistakes have been made, MPs should apologise and pay back. However, some allegations suggest not only misjudgement, but deliberate deception and possibly fraud.
These cases must be fully investigated, and MPs found guilty should face deselection and even criminal prosecution.
The House of Commons had to be dragged kicking and screaming towards transparency and accountability, anditfought Freedom of Information requests at every turn.
When parliament needed leadership to steer it away from public disgrace, there was none. The Speaker should have been at the forefront of finding a solution, but has sadly become part of the problem. It is time for him to go.
It is vital that we do start to rebuild public confidence.Democracy thrives when the public get involved, and will wither if people turn away from it.
Talented people who would be excellent representatives may be put off entering politics.Simply put, we will all lose out: not just in politics but in our communities.
We need a new, reforming Speaker;action against those who have abused expenses; an independent, transparent system for the future; an end to personal profit.
Then, maybe, we can have confidence in our politics once again.