It's A Fair Question - Nicola, Keith and Humza!
So I'm now up to no less than three senior SNP ministers who refuse to explain the arrangements for employing local councillors in their constituency offices - councillors who already have (or had) full-time, well paid jobs.
Now I think this is a very reasonable question to ask because public money is involved and if someone already has a full-time job, there must surely be a very good explanation for them taking on another demanding role.
But the First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon), Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Keith Brown) and Cabinet Secretary for Health (Humza Yousaf) all seem to think they have nothing to explain or answer for - so far at least.
To my mind the whole thing stinks to high heaven, makes Scottish local government look pathetic and brings politics more widely into disrepute.
Whatever happened to standards in public life?
It's A Fair Question, Nicola! (February 28, 2022)
I think we should be told how Cllr Mhairi Hunter manages her Glasgow council job which is paid a full-time salary - while also drawing another public salary as Office Assistant for Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP MSP and Scotland's first minister.
Transparent and Accountable - Who's Kidding Who? (February 26, 2022)
SNP politicians are forever boasting about their support for openness and transparency.
But when the chips are down the SNP are every bit as secretive, defensive and reluctant to be held accountable - just as Labour run Glasgow City Council were in 2011 and as the Westminster Tories are now.
Take my perfectly reasonable requests to Nicola Sturgeon and her 'office assistant', Cllr Mhairi Hunter.
I wrote to Nicola Sturgeon asking how she could justify using public money in this way when Cllr Hunter already had a well paid, full-time job as a senior councillor at SNP led Glasgow City Council.
I also wrote to Cllr Hunter directly asking broadly the same question because her role as a Council Convener is a city wide responsibility and is not restricted to her local ward of Southside Central.
Now I think politicians should be held to account for their behaviour and use of public money which is why we are entitled to see what salaries and expenses councillors, MSPs, MPs get paid.
Politicians are also required to declare other interests and connections which must be registered and are subject to further scrutiny, as necessary.
So how can it be fair or reasonable to hide and withhold this particular information from public view and scrutiny?
Other council workers, indeed other public sector workers, would not be allowed to behave in this way - there would be questions asked and rightly so, if they sought work or were required to work excessive/impossible hours.
Ironically, a row broke out recently over the hours a Green Minister, Lorna Slater, was being asked/expected to work at COP26 which lasted just two weeks!
In any event, there's more than one way to skin a cat and there's still plenty of time between now and the Glasgow council elections in May to keep highlighting the SNP's hypocrisy on this issue.
Who's Kidding Who? (December 13, 2021)
A number of my regular blog readers have asked how Cllr Mhairi Hunter can be doing all her publicly funded jobs at the same time.
I don't know, is the honest answer - seems impossible to me and although I have written to Cllr Hunter and her boss (Nicola Sturgeon) so far neither of them seems too willing to explain what is going on.
I did check on what health board members get paid and the answer is that their remuneration of £8,842 is based on a time commitment of 52 days per year or an average of 8 hours per week.
So that's a full-time role as a Convener in Glasgow City Council (@£28,000 plus expenses), another day a week at Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS (@£9,000) - a running total of @£37,000 - and still Cllr Hunter has had time to spend at Nicola Sturgeon's office in Glasgow Southside.
Who's kidding who?
It's A Fair Question, Keith! (February 28, 2022)
Clackmannanshire may be Scotland's smallest mainland council, but it's up there with Glasgow as an example of how to bring local government and local democracy into disrepute.
The role of council leader is designated as a full-time job, but incredibly the SNP leader of Clackmannanshire Council, Cllr Ellen Forson, also acts as the Office Manager to the local SNP MSP - Keith Brown who also happens to be the Scottish Government's justice minister.
So we now have three senior Scottish Ministers (Nicola Sturgeon, Humza Yousaf and Keith Brown) all using public money to employ local SNP councillors in their local constituency offices.
Despite the fact that their employees were also carrying out full-time roles and being paid full-time salaries for their respective councils.
Now if something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I tend to call it a duck and in this case all the evidence says that SNP MSPs have been misusing public money, as part of a well organised racket, to employ friends and political allies.
The SNP has also conveniently abolished the independent watchdog SLARC (Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee) which worked with Scotland's councils and provided Scottish Ministers with independent advice on councillors' pay and expenses.
Here's a letter I've sent to the Leader of Clackmannanshire Council which refers to the Nolan principles on standards in public life.
Dear Cllr Forson
to the post of Office Manager?
It's A Fair Question, Humza! (February 28, 2022)
I think we should be told how Cllr Jennifer Leyden managed her Glasgow full-time, well paid council job (£35,000 in 2021) - while also drawing another public salary as a 'Caseworker' for Humza Yousaf, the SNP MSP and Scotland's health minister.
Cllr Leyden worked previously for the SNP MP, Margaret Ferrier.
Conflict of Interest? (October 28, 2021)
I still haven't had a proper response to my letter to Humza Yousaf, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Pollok, which was sent by email on 30 September 2021 - see below:Dear Mr Yousaf
Public Money and SNP Politicians
I understand that a Glasgow councillor with a full-time role in Glasgow City Council is also employed in your Glasgow Pollok local constituency office.
I would be grateful if you can explain the nature of the councillor's employment in your office - including the time commitment involved and cost to the public purse?
Because it seems extraordinary that a public official is able to draw two public salaries at the same time, especially if one of the roles (eg council role) has already been classified as a full-time commitment and paid accordingly.
I realise, of course, that I am not one of your constituents, but nonetheless I hope you will respond to my enquiry because the issues involved are obviously of much wider public concern.
I look forward to your reply.
I think the issues raised in my letter were very reasonable because it doesn't sound fair or like good practice to be employing someone in your office (using public funds) who is already receiving a generous full-time salary courtesy of Glasgow City Council - via the taxpayer of course.
So maybe Humza can't provide a good answer, maybe the letter hasn't been passed on to him by his office staff - who knows?
But it's probably time to start raising the issue elsewhere to get to the bottom of what's been going on since the SNP won control of Glasgow City Council in 2017.
SNP - Gaming The System (September 27, 2021)
Mhairi Hunter and Jennifer Layden are both senior councillors in Glasgow whose roles are regarded as a full-time commitment because of their additional responsibilities over a backbench councillor who is paid at two-thirds of the full time rate.
The full-time rate can vary depending on the nature of the role and according to Glasgow's Register of Interests Jennifer is paid a salary of £35,000 while Mhairi receives £26,000 - around £15 and £20 an hour respectively.
Yet both SNP councillors have other paid jobs - Jennifer works in Humza Yousaf's office having previously enjoyed a similar role in Margaret Ferrier; while Mhairi has a role in none other than Nicola Sturgeon's office and a separate paid commitment as a member of Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board.
Now I have no problem with councillors being properly remunerated - I was a member of the independent (SLARC) committee which recommended a new salary structure for elected councillors in Scotland in 2006.
Yet the SLARC regime is now being abused because no one has been scrutinising the system since the former SNP finance minister, Derek Mackay - who resigned in disgrace of course, decided that independent oversight was no longer necessary and that the SLARC committee should be disbanded.
The upshot is that we have large sums of public money being used to pay Glasgow councillors decent salaries to perform a wide range of part-time and full-time jobs - yet these salaries are also being topped up by SNP MSPs and MPs by employing councillors in their offices.
In effect, the system is being 'gamed' when the public interest demands independent scrutiny, openness and transparency.
Glasgow - More Senior Councillor Salaries (May 06, 2021)
Cllr Mhairi Hunter is another senior councillor in Glasgow with a full-time role as Convener for Health and Social Care Integration for which she's entitled to a salary of @ £26,000 plus expenses.
The salary details are not explained in the Council's Register of Interests, but there are three additional entries declared under Remuneration as follows:
1) Part-time constituency assistant to Nicola Sturgeon MSP
2) Co-Chair Glasgow City Integration Joint Board
3) Board Member Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board
Now I don't know what Nicola Sturgeon's assistants are paid, nor do I know the salary details of the Co-Chair of Glasgow's Integration Joint Board, but the last time I looked Members of GGCHB received a salary of @ £10,000 a year.
I suspect these additional jobs, in this case, are likely to amount to an overall package worth around £50,000 a year, perhaps more.
On this evidence senior councillors in Glasgow are are pretty high earners and hold down more than one job even though their council salary is calculated on the basis of being a full-time commitment.
I'll be interested to see how other backbench and senior councillor salaries in Glasgow pan out, but since the SNP got rid of SLARC (the independent oversight committee on councillor salaries) no one is keeping a watchful eye on what is going on.
SNP, 'Double Dipping' and Public Money (14/04/21)
Anyway, the link between the justice secretary and Glasgow councillor Jennifer Layden is that she works as a part-time caseworker in Humza's constituency office, having done so previously for the SNP's Margaret Ferrier.
Here's what Jennifer Layden's entry in the Council's register of Interest says:
"Part time caseworker for Margaret Ferrier MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, January until October 2020"
Part-time caseworker at the office of Humza Yousaf MSP, December 2020