Tuesday 2 October 2007

More money, but for what?

It's taken me a while to get round to blogging on this - but I feel I must. I was in the pub on Friday night, and shouted out loud when I saw this article in the Evening Times. It's one of these stories that just makes you think "those politicians don't know they're born".

Kelvin MSP Pauline McNeill, who is paid £53,000 a year, told him: "Up until now I have written all my own speeches for Parliament, I have organised all my committee papers (filing and preparation) I attend meetings at night on my own as I cannot pay very much overtime to staff to attend with me."

As a former researcher to an MSP, I'm amazed on a number of fronts.

1) An elected MSP wants her staff to go along and hold her hand? Why? I believe I saw a member of Ms McNeill's staff with her at the Council's Botanic Gardens call in, where she and said staff member sat at the back of the room and did nothing for two hours (they were not permitted by the chair to participate in the proceedings). If she needed staff to come with her in the evening, why not arrange flexitime of some sort? Not exactly hard to arrange, and without the need for overtime at the public's expense.

2) What it is Ms McNeill's staff members are paid to do, if not carry out research, assist in speech preparation and do the filing? Recalling the nauseatingly sycophantic "reelect my boss" facebook page set up by Ms McNeill's staff prior to the election (which sadly has disappeared since May 3rd), perhaps they have too much free time on their hands... All MSPs employ staff, and the roles they carry out vary widely. Should particular tasks need done, that's up to the MSP to sort out.

3) Having been an MSP since the opening of the Parliament, Ms McNeill should surely be well able now to deal with the set up of her office, and her responsibilities as an MSP. Why start girning about it all now?

I personally believe there's a lot of room for refinement of the MSPs allowance system - for example in the staff wage structure and the accommodation allowances. Ms McNeill should perhaps focus on these more significant areas, rather than asking for more cash for a job she's already doing.

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