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Sunday, 16 April, 2000, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
MSPs feel the strain

A study by an English university professor says members of the nine-month-old Scottish Parliament are overworked and under stress.

Carey Cooper, of Manchester University, was part of a team which undertook the first psychological survey of the 1997 intake of Westminster MPs and the newly elected members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

Despite a promise of devolved government being less arcane, being more family friendly with more sociable working hours, Prof Cooper found politicians had plenty to gripe about.

Long hours
Lack of resources
Too much work
Work spilling over into private lives
Constant travelling
The study concentrated on the opinions of MSPs - with almost 60% being interviewed.

They were initially spoken to after they took up their seats in Edinburgh in July.

New boys and girls

Along with the new members of the Welsh Assembly and the new Westminster MPs, the MSPs were revisited six months later.

It was discovered that the Scottish politicians were the most stressed out of those interviewed.

"What we have found is that being a new member of a parliament is a fairly stressful job.

But the one thing we found in Scotland was that, unlike Westminster, there was a positive feel

Professor Carey Cooper
"We discovered that in the Scottish Parliament stress levels were higher than anywhere else.

"When we followed things through to see what problems were encountered, we found stress levels had gone up quite dramatically in just a six month period," said Prof Cooper.

The findings might be some comfort to MSPs who were criticised after agreeing to be in the chamber for less than half the year and taking long breaks - including a three-week Easter holiday.

Prof Cooper said he was not surprised by the results.

New Labour feeling pressures

"It is a new job, the resources aren't really there for the constituency work and what the politicians were complaining about was work overload, the long hours, the spillover of work into their private lives, a lack of resources and the constant travelling," he said.

Prof Cooper added: "In Westminster we found the new Labour MPs showed higher stress levels than opposition MPs, but there were no party differences in Wales or Scotland.

"But the one thing we found in Scotland was that, unlike Westminster, there was a positive feel.

"There was a kind of camaraderie, new experience, all parties, outside the chamber, seemed to enjoy things and work together much more than at Westminster.

"They felt that once they got into the chamber the typical Westminster confrontational style, having to play certain roles in public, were childish. It wasn't what adults did."

The survey concludes with a number of recommendation including providing more support for politicians at constituency level - especially in Scotland and Wales.

It also wants to see child care being introduced and an occupational health service similar to that provided at Westminster.

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See also:

13 Apr 00 | Health
Stress slows healing
03 Jan 00 | Business
Civil servants 'stressed out'
27 Oct 99 | The Economy
Taxing workplace stress
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