Anas Sarwar has accused the SNP of operating a “culture of secrecy and cover-up”, as he set out plans to strengthen public scrutiny.
The Scottish Labour leader on Wednesday unveiled his party’s ‘Stronger Holyrood’ paper which seeks to bring about institutional change.
It is the second in a series of papers being published by Scottish Labour which suggest steps that can be taken to reform the current system.
The SNP hit back at the party, describing them as “nothing more than a powerless and pointless branch office” of the Labour Party at Westminster.
In the paper, Scottish Labour that the Scottish Parliament and its government were “supposed to be examples of transparency to build public trust in politics”.
They continued: “In the decades since its foundation, that has unfortunately failed to be the case.
“While more powers have accrued in the hands of Scottish ministers, the power of our parliament and the tools available to the public to scrutinise them have fallen behind.”
The party criticised the record of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in government as they called for changes.
“The events of the last few years have only served to show that sweeping reform of the parliament’s processes, functions and structure is needed,” the party stated in the paper.
“Nicola Sturgeon cannot escape from the fact that her government and the SNP operate a culture of secrecy and cover-up.
“Cover-ups when it comes to allegations against ministers. Cover-ups when it comes to the awarding of government ferry contracts.
“Shamefully, cover-ups when it comes to the deaths of children in hospital. And a culture that has contempt for journalists and anyone who dares ask a difficult question.”
Among its recommendations, Scottish Labour has called for the introduction of a right of recall for MSPs, allowing by-elections to be triggered in the event of MSPs having fallen short of high standards expected by the public.
It also seeks to prohibit second jobs and strengthen protections on lobbying, as well as establishing consequences for breaking the ministerial code.
Scottish Labour is also proposing the bolstering the ability of Holyrood committees to compel witnesses to appear, along with the election of committee conveners.
Among its other recommendations, the party is also calling for improvements to freedom of information legislation.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar argued that the SNP “avoids scrutiny of bad behaviour”.
“For too many years now, a dangerous form of Scottish exceptionalism has dominated our constitutional debate,” he said.
“It pretends that only democratic institutions elsewhere in the UK are broken and in need of change, and that there is no change necessary here in Scotland. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“Our Scottish Parliament is being dragged down by SNP sleaze”Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader
Sarwar claimed that the Scottish Parliament is being “dragged down by SNP sleaze”.
He said: “Nicola Sturgeon cannot escape from the fact that her government and the SNP operate a culture of secrecy and cover-up.
“We can’t have a situation where it is one standard for the SNP and another standard for everyone else.
“When Boris Johnson runs roughshod over the ministerial code and scrutiny of his government and we all rightly take issue with it.
“But when the SNP avoids scrutiny of bad behaviour, there is a different standard. The same rules should apply.”
Sarwar added: “Our Scottish Parliament is being dragged down by SNP sleaze. The SNP wants to protect themselves, not the institution of the parliament.”
SNP MSP Paul McLennan took aim at the Scottish Labour leader as he insisted that people in Scotland “deserve far better”.
“Anas Sarwar has shown he’d rather side with the Tories in their Trump-like denial of Holyrood’s cast iron mandate for delivering a referendum than stand up for the people of Scotland,” he said.
“Scottish Labour continues to be nothing more than a powerless and pointless branch office of Westminster Labour, taking their lead from Starmer’s obsession to mimmick Tory policies – from backing Brexit, defending Westminster’s erosion of devolution to endorsing toxic Westminster cuts.
“Even Sarwar’s silence since the likely new prime minister’s comments of contempt for the democratic choices of the people in Scotland and the elected Scottish Government speaks volumes.
“People of Scotland deserve far better a future controlled by barely distinguishable Westminster parties intent on ignoring Scotland’s government and the wishes of the Scottish people – and they will have a chance of securing that better, wealthier and fairer future as an independent country in a referendum.”
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