By Bob Duncan
Several senior opposition MSPs, including the Scottish Labour and Tory leaders, have been invited to correct the public record of mistakes they have made in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament.
The advice follows a number of occasions where apologies have been made to parliament by various SNP ministers over the past weeks.
First Minister Alex Salmond was forced to make an embarrassing apology when he read out the wrong figure for the total 2010/11 spending on the college sector during FMQs. This also led to education Secretary Mike Russell apologising for the same error a few days later.
The First Minister has faced accusations by Labour MSPs in particular that he deliberately lied when reading out the wrong figure. However it has emerged that similar errors have been made by these same opposition MSPs that have yet to be corrected.
The SNP’s Bob Doris MSP has written to Johann Lamont, Ruth Davidson and James Kelly pointing out instances in which they each made demonstrably incorrect statements but have failed to correct themselves.
On Thursday last week, Labour’s James Kelly claimed that the Scottish Government has over 250 ‘spin doctors’ working for it.
In reality, a Freedom of Information response published on the Scottish Government’s website confirms that there is in fact less than forty full time equivalent communications staff in the Scottish Government.
And at a recent First Minister’s Questions, Ruth Davidson claimed that a host of college courses were no longer available.
Davidson said: “I will give a few examples of courses that are now no longer available under the education secretary’s stewardship: Higher National Certificate in diagnostic imaging – gone; Higher National Diploma in human resource management – gone; HND in technical support – gone; HND in network computing – gone; qualifications in healthcare and nursing – gone.
As was pointed out by the First Minister during First Minister’s Questions last week, those courses are in actual fact still being studied by students in Scotland.
In another example from earlier this year, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont claimed that £800 million was being used to purchase steel for the Forth Replacement Crossing from China.
On 9 February 2012, Ms Lamont said: “Alex Salmond went to China and pulled off a master deal – the Chinese got an £800 million steel contract and we got two pandas”.
Later in the same session, she said: “Alex Salmond is spending £800 million on steel, and from that contract not a single job is being created in Scotland, at a time when 200 people are losing their jobs every day.”
In fact, the principle contract is worth a total of £790 million and of that the cost of steel for the project represents between 5-10% of that value.
Additionally, Johann Lamont has also previously claimed in the chamber that there are fewer NHS staff in Scotland now than when the First Minister came to office.
In fact, official ISD Scotland statistics show that there was 127,061.90 full time equivalent NHS staff in September 2006 compared to 130,363.20 in June 2012 – a rise of over 3000.
Bob Doris said:
“Any politician can inadvertently give wrong information to Parliament. When it is drawn to their attention then it is only reasonable to expect that they correct the public record.
“However people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and after the sound and fury there has been from the opposition parties recently I think there can be little doubt that they should own up to their own mistakes.
“When I have made an error in the past I have corrected myself, as all MSPs should be prepared to do. Having made mistakes in the chamber, they should have the grace to hold their hands up and correct the public record.
“The need to clear things up when someone gets it wrong in the chamber applies to all MSPs, not just Government ministers.
“People rightly expect that when politicians get it wrong, they admit to their mistakes. That is what we have done and that is the same principle that other parties should uphold.
“I would hope that these MSPs will reflect on what they have said and accept that they need to set the record straight.”