Glasgow, Councillors and Conflicts of Interest


I wrote to the party group leaders in Glasgow City Council recently regarding the conflict of interest which arises if MSPs and Scottish Ministers employ local councillors as part of their office support staff.

So far the silence has been deafening.

Not one of the party leaders has had anything to say from which I surmise that the SNP, Labour and Tories are all playing the same game to a greater or lesser extent.

Logically, the SNP must be by far the worst offenders because they have more MSPs than anyone else and until two special 'Green government jobs' were created, only SNP MSPs held ministerial posts.

To my mind this is very unhealthy for local democracy as it's impossible to imagine a local councillor who enjoys a 2nd or 3rd job with an MSP/Scottish minister speaking up on sensitive or controversial issues - council cuts or self-ID, for example.

In practical terms this would require a councillor to bite the hand that feeds them, so to speak, which is why this kind of conflict should never arise in the first place.

So if anyone has information to share please drop me a note, in confidence of course, as I plan to keep highlighting this issue all the way to the local council elections in May.

My email address again is - 

Councillors and Conflicts of Interest (January 10, 2022)

I have written to the main party group leaders on Glasgow City Council regarding the obvious conflict of interest facing elected councillors who are also employed by Holyrood MSPs and Scottish Government ministers.

I am not a supporter of any political party and I am raising a serious issue about the operation of our local democracy.

So I am expecting a serious response to my letter from Glasgow's political leaders.

Let's see what happens.

Dear Cllr Aitken, Cllr Cunning, Cllr Kerr 

Glasgow, Councillors and Conflicts of Interest

I am writing to all party group leaders in Glasgow City Council over what I believe to be a serious conflict of interest involving elected councillors and second paid jobs.

In my view, there is an obvious problem with councillors standing up for the interests of Glasgow, if they are also employed by members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), even more so if the MSP in question happens to be a Scottish Government Minister.

For example, I fail to see how an elected councillor, especially one in a senior leadership position, can stand up for Glasgow effectively if they are simultaneously employed by a minister in a Scottish Government which is proposing to cut hundreds of millions of pounds from Scottish council budgets including the budget of Glasgow City Council.

To my mind, this is an invidious 'have your cake and eat it' situation which elected councillors of all parties should avoid like the plague because it raises the question of where a councillor's true allegiance lies - can a councillor who is also employed by another, powerful member of their own party really serve 'two masters'? 

As a former member of SLARC (Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee) I say these arrangements are not just far too cosy, but that they are also a flagrant breach of the national scheme which regulates councillors' pay and expenses in Scotland.

SLARC designated senior councillor jobs in Scotland as full-time roles (with the support of COSLA) and recommended they be paid full-time salaries because of their additional responsibilities. SLARC's advice and recommendations were accepted by Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament at the time - and were warmly accepted across Scottish local government, as you may recall.

So it is very disappointing to see councillors in Glasgow blatantly 'gaming the system' by working in other publicly paid jobs which make significant demands on their time.

I hope you will reflect on my comments and take action on a cross party basis to prevent this kind of abuse, going forward into 2022. I would be happy to discuss the matter with you in more detail and the good news is that my advice and expertise come entirely free of charge.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

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