Nicola Sturgeon’s critics would be handed free rein to take her to task at Holyrood over SNP “failures”, under plans unveiled on Tuesday by Liz Truss.
The frontrunner to become Britain’s next prime minister vowed to give members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) the same legal protections as MPs when conducting scrutiny of ministers, meaning they would not have to fear legal repercussions for what they say.
The fact that MSPs cannot invoke parliamentary privilege meant some of the evidence they obtained during the Alex Salmond affair was never released to the public, while the former First Minister’s own written evidence to Holyrood was deleted following an intervention from prosecutors.
Ms Sturgeon has also cited legal restrictions when justifying her refusal to release the outcome of a bullying complaint into one of her former ministers.
Ms Truss said the move, also backed by Sir Keir Starmer, would allow MSPs to “more stringently” hold the SNP to account for its shortcomings in areas such as health and education.
Sunak's plan for Scottish government accountability
Rishi Sunak, who is battling Ms Truss to replace Boris Johnson, on Monday night set out his own plan to improve accountability of the Scottish government and ensure blunders by the devolved administration are exposed, ahead of a hustings in Perth on Tuesday evening.
Under the former chancellor’s plan, senior Scottish civil servants would be forced to face interrogation from Westminster committees, amid claims that supposedly non-partisan Scottish government workers have become politicised under nationalist rule.
“For too long, people in Scotland have been let down by the SNP focusing on constitutional division instead of their priorities,” Ms Truss said. “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.”
Ms Truss and Mr Sunak are set to debate in front of around 1,000 Conservative members, in the only Scottish hustings of the Tory leadership race.
Mr Sunak said if he wins power, he would ensure data on performance of Scottish public services was consistent with numbers published for England and Wales.
He accused the SNP of “obscuring its failures” by “picking and choosing” how it presented statistics.
The SNP pointed to evidence from a poll which found both candidates would boost support for independence.
“As for Sunak and Truss’s bids to outdo each other on trying to mount further attacks on devolution, it just shows how out of touch they are,” Ian Blackford, the party’s Westminster leader, said.