Truss and Sunak set out plans for more transparent Scotland ahead of hustings

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Truss and Sunak set out plans fo rmore transparent Scotland ahead of hustings
Truss and Sunak set out plans fo rmore transparent Scotland ahead of hustings

LIZ Truss has said she would give MSPs more legal protection to speak out at Holyrood if she becomes Prime Minister.

Ahead of the sole Scottish hustings in the Tory leadership race, the Foreign Secretary said MSPs would get the same parliamentary privilege enjoyed by MPs and Lords.

The idea has also been floated by UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Ms Truss’s team said she would change the Scotland Act at PM to give parliamentary privilege to MSPs in order to create more “robust questioning” of ministers and increase the powers of the Scottish Parliament to hold the Scottish Government to account.

MSPs are protected from being sued for defamation over what is said in proceedings at Holyrood, but some elements of the parliament, including the cross-party management body, are unprotected.

With parliamentary privilege, MSPs would have a legal immunity from all civil and criminal liability when speaking in any proceedings.

At Westminster, this also applies to all reports, papers, votes and proceedings published by or under the authority of either House.

However MPs remain subject to the criminal law for other actions in parliament, such as fiddling expenses or assault.

Ms Truss, the frontrunner in the race to No10, is making visits around Scotland today ahead of an evening hustings in Perth.

She will also set out plans to drive investment, growth and trade across Scotland, pushing for an end to the longstanding 150% tariff on Scotch Whisky in India to boost exports.

She said: “I will never let anyone talk down Scotland’s potential. As a nation we are stronger together and the UK needs Scotland as much as Scotland needs the UK.

"For too long, people in Scotland have been let down by the SNP focusing on constitutional division instead of their priorities. That won’t happen under my watch.

“I’ll make sure that my government does everything to ensure elected representatives hold the devolved administration to account for its failure to deliver the quality public services, particularly health and education, that Scottish people deserve.

“As Prime Minister and Minister for the Union, I will deliver on my ambitious plan to capitalise on the opportunity we have to turbocharge the growth and business investment required to get Scotland’s economy moving.”

However new polling suggests she and rival Rishi Sunak would both strengthen support for independence, and the former Chancellor is more trusted on economic matters than she is.

A survey by Diffley Partnership for Charlotte Street Partners found 25 per cent of voters were “much” or “a little” more likely” to support independence if Ms Truss was PM, while for Mr Sunak the figure was 26%, although the figures include some of those already backing Yes.

On the ability to lead the country, Mr Sunak came out on top, with 27% saying he would be better than Ms Truss, who was backed as the better leader by 25%, with 47% undecided.

The poll also suggested neither candidate would boost Tory electoral fortunes in Scotland.

Just 11% of people said they would be more likely to support the Tories at a general election under Ms Truss, while 9% said they would switch to the Tories under the former chancellor.

But 19% of respondents said they would be more likely to oppose the Tories at an election if Mr Sunak was in charge, compared to 18% for the Foreign Secretary.

On the question of trust, 25% of people said Ms Truss was more honest and truthful, compared to 19% for Mr Sunak.

Iain Gibson, a partner at Charlotte Street Partners, said: “Whilst perceptions can change over time, it is clear that whoever wins this leadership election will need to ensure Scotland is prioritised amongst such a perilous political backdrop.

“Both candidates will be concerned that a quarter of Scots are more likely to vote for independence regardless of who wins, and will therefore need to devote time and energy to mitigating that trend.

“It also appears that the problems Sunak faced earlier in the year around his personal wealth and his wife’s tax status have cut through in Scotland, where he is seen as less truthful and a lot less in touch with the public than Liz Truss.”

Mr Sunak will today promise that UK ministers will be required to be more visible north of the border, while Scotland’s most senior civil servant, the permanent secretary to the Scottish Government, would have to attend Westminster’s Public Affairs and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC) Select Committee each year, just like the UK Government’s cabinet secretary.

The former chancellor has also promised to enforce “consistent reporting of public service performance data across the country” so that the UK Government could hold the Scottish Government accountable for essential public service delivery.

Mr Sunak said: “The future of the United Kingdom is bright but our Union must work together, each nation shoulder to shoulder, to get there. We must defeat the collective challenges threatening the health of our public services. Under my plans the UK Government will play its part, but the same must be reciprocated by Holyrood.

“For too long the SNP has been able to obscure its failures by picking and choosing the data it publishes - I would change that, ensuring the Scottish Government’s record could be held to account, while ensuring our public services are better joined up.”

SNP Westminster leader  Ian Blackford said both hopefuls should apologise for their part in the cost of living crisis.

He said: “The fact that new polling evidence shows that both of them would boost support for independence, regardless of who becomes PM, should tell them all they need to know about how they are seen by the vast majority of people across Scotland.

"As the Tory leadership circus rolls into Scotland, if the candidates want to have any credibility, they must apologise for the Tory failings that have pushed so many families to the brink.

“As for Sunak and Truss’s bids to outdo each other in trying to mount further attacks on devolution, it just shows how out of touch they are.

“Their plans to demand Scottish civil servants are forced to be grilled by Westminster committees amount to little more than sinister show trials, but also speaks volumes about their lack of confidence in Tory MSPs to do the job of scrutinising government.

"Whoever wins this leadership contest, Scotland loses.”