Andy writes to FM over seconded representatives of private vested interests

Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman has today (24 March) written to the First Minister asking to see the assessments that were made before the Scottish Government seconded representatives of private vested interests to help write policy.

Ministerial answers to Mr Wightman show that in the last year there have been 82 secondments to the Scottish Government. In 2015 there were 125. Among the secondments are representatives from the National Farmers Union and Association of Salmon Fishery Boards.

Mr Wightman raised the issue at First Minister's Questions last week but Nicola Sturgeon disagreed that there is an obvious conflict of interest.

The text of the letter from Andy to the First Minister is as follows:

Dear First Minister, In response to my question to you at First Minister’s Questions on 16 March 2017, I am grateful for your interest in exploring the matter of secondments at the Scottish Government.

Recently, I submitted three PQs (S5W-07177, S5W-07178, S5W-07913) and I was surprised to learn that there are and have been individuals seconded to the Scottish Government who, in their normal role are employed as promoters of specific private vested interests – notably representatives from NFU Scotland and the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards.

These secondments stand out from all others specifically because of these vested interests. In particular, I understand that the current secondee from NFU Scotland is working two days per week in the Scottish Government on matters relating to Government policy and the remainder of the week on behalf of private vested interests to lobby the Government on Government policy. You quite rightly stated in your reply at FMQs, that “a broad spectrum of expertise” is utilised to inform Government policy and I have no argument with that.

What does alarm me is the potential conflict of interest these placements could create. Although I was informed in the answer to PQ S5W-07178 that the Scottish Government carries out assessments prior to seconding individuals, I am concerned that current practices set a worrying precedent at a time when there are concerns about lobbying, transparency and public confidence in the political process. Can you therefore provide me with more information on the basis of these two appointments in particular together with details of the conflict of interest assessments that were undertaken?

Can you please also provide me with the policy that is in place in relation to secondments into Government and what provisions are made for those seconded that are employed by organisations representing private vested interests?

Yours sincerely, Andy Wightman MSP