Ruth Davidson under fire over 'unprecedented' payment as a general election pundit
Ruth Davidson has been caught up in fresh controversy over "cashing in" on her MSP status, with reports she will be paid an "unprecedented" sum for appearing on ITV's general election night coverage.
The former Scottish Conservative leader, has been signed up as a "pundit" by the commercial broadcaster for its through-the-night programming as polls close and election counts get underway.
According to today's Herald on Sunday, Ms Davidson was approached by the BBC - her employer before she became a politician - to join their election night programming. However, they discovered she had already agreed to appear on the independent network’s main UK-wide coverage for an “unprecedented” payment.
The news comes just a fortnight after Ms Davidson, who is expected to step down as an MSP at the 2021 Holyrood elections, decided not to take up a £50,000 second job in PR after facing criticism from politicians and the public.
She had been offered the 24-days-a-year job with Tulchan Communications, run by former Tory Party chairman Andrew Feldman, and had planned to do it alongside her £63,579-a-year job as an MSP.
The Herald on Sunday reports that Ms Davidson has refused to confirm how much she has been offered to appear on ITV, but "a source said the amount was such that the BBC was unable to compete with the offer."
She said she would make any declaration “in line with parliamentary rules” after the programme.
A Scottish Conservatives spokesman said Ms Davidson had agreed to make a range of media appearances over the election period, including on ITV.
However, Neil Findlay, the Scottish Labour MSP who has launched a Bill to prevent MSPs from having second jobs, said the revelations made him "sick". He said Ms Davidson was reinforcing "the perception that all politicians are on the make".
He added: “This is absolutely extraordinary, that we now have a backbench MSP so hungry for cash she cannot even provide comments on national TV about the election without demanding payment for it. This demeans politics and reinforces the perception that all politicians are on the make.
“It makes me sick. I have never heard of a politician being paid to talk about politics, while they are still a serving politician.”
Alex Neil, a longstanding SNP MSP who has taken part in several general election programmes said he had never been paid for his attendance. He said: “It is highly unusual for serving politicians to be paid, and I certainly have never been paid.”
Last month Ms Davidson said she was taking up an unpaid role with ITV on a newly-formed mental health advisory group. The group was created following the deaths of participants on the Jeremy Kyle Show and Love Island. Ms Davidson has been very open about her own battles with mental health.After the announcement, Davidson faced calls to resign over the move with critics claiming the job was unethical.
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “Ruth will be doing a range of media in and around the General Election – any payment received will be properly declared in accordance with Scottish Parliament rules.”