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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 15:37 GMT
Tory MSP calls for 'honest politics'
Mound debating chamber
MSPs have been criticised for a lack of political honesty
A Tory MSP has pleaded for more honesty in politics, saying his experience in Holyrood had made him more cynical.

Nick Johnston, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said the Scottish Parliament has descended into a quagmire of political catfighting, with MSPs from all parties too intent on scoring political points.

In a letter to The Times newspaper he said he had become disillusioned with the idea that Holyrood could help ordinary people.

And he compared his experience of entering the Scottish Parliament after a career in business to that of Alice in Wonderland.

Nick Johnston
Nick Johnston is "disillusioned" by Holyrood politics
"What is true has no value, what is honest is dangerous, and the quality seemingly most admired by party managers is the ability in the media - to take any opposite view regardless of principle - evidence, or what would appear sensible to the least discriminating voter," he said.

Mr Johnston launched his broadside in the letter, in which he complained: "My cynicism has been honed by whipped adherence to outmoded attitudes and policies demonstrably rejected by the electorate."

Claiming that Holyrood's proportional representation system promoted sycophancy, he said those who wanted to take part in true debate were willing to back conviction politics rather than "populist posturing".

And he said that only this could "entice the public back to the ballot box, and avoid the shameful turnouts of 30% or less at recent elections".

'Pure political whimsy'

Mr Johnston said: "I'm not disillusioned with the parliament but at the attitude of politicians of all parties who, instead of debating important issues, think that politics is about knocking lumps out of each other, and who think they are there merely to issue soundbites.

"I do qualify that by saying it is not all politicians.

"Nor is it specifically about the Scottish Parliament, but my experience is of the cynicism people have towards Holyrood."

Citing the exams fiasco as an example, he said the SNP had been guilty of a knee-jerk reaction and "pure political whimsy" by calling for the resignation of the then education minister Sam Galbraith when the crisis first emerged.

Sam Galbraith
Calls for the resignation of Sam Galbraith were "premature"
It was only when it became clear that Mr Galbraith was not handling the problem well that Tories joined in the call, he said.

And Mr Johnston said he was not calling for Liberal Democrat-style coalition politics.

"What would be more honest for the Liberal Democrats would be to consider each policy issue on its merits, they are now just lapdogs of the Labour Party executive," he said.

A spokesman for the Scottish Tories said: "It's fair to say that Nick, like many parliamentarians, will be frustrated that this Lib-Lab coalition is not enacting enough Conservative policies.

"It takes time to get policies into practice and, in two years time, the whole group gets the chance to convince voters that the best way of achieving Conservative policies is by voting them in to the Scottish Parliament.

"And we will also get the chance, whenever Tony Blair decides to call an election, to do that on a UK basis."

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See also:

05 Dec 00 | Scotland
Adviser under fire over Holyrood
14 Aug 00 | Scotland
Resignation calls fall on deaf ears
26 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Ministers agree to limit spin doctors
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