MSPs to vote on background checks for elected officials

MSPs will vote on introducing mandatory background checks for elected officials.

MSPs will vote on plans to introduce mandatory background checks for elected officials next week.

Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton has proposed amendments to the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill – which he described as a “common sense safety move”.

The Education Committee will debate the changes at its meeting on Wednesday, during the stage two proceedings of the Bill.

Cole-Hamilton’s amendments would make it an offence for any MP, MSP or councillor to meet with a child or vulnerable person without undergoing the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) check.

Regulations will also be drafted in case a newly-elected member fails the check, which could require a senior member of their staff to undergo a PVG and be present at any applicable meetings.

Disclosure Scotland is the Government agency charged with carrying out the background checks, which assess criminal records and other relevant information.

Cole-Hamilton said: “My proposal to extend PVG checks to politicians is a common sense safety move designed to ensure there are proper protections in place for children and vulnerable adults who come into contact with them.

“These checks are commonplace in sports clubs, community groups and health and social care settings. There is no good reason to exempt elected politicians and other powerful figures working within political parties.

“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. No such guarantees exist at the moment and that is wrong.

“There is often a significant power imbalance between those in elected office and those who encounter them. We know that some people can use their status to manipulate, target and exploit. People need protecting from that and it’s something we can put into law this Wednesday.

“I hope that when this comes to a vote, every party in the Parliament will acknowledge the importance of strengthening the protections in place and back my amendments.”

The Lib Dem announced his plans in the same week Derek Mackay resigned as finance secretary after sending 270 unsolicited messages to a 16-year-old boy.

But Cole-Hamilton had asked parliamentary staff to draft the amendments in mid-January – three weeks earlier

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