23 March 2006

(S2F-2202) Honours (Recommendations)

5. Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): To ask the First Minister how many recommendations for honours have been made by the Scottish Executive since 2003. (S2F-2202)

The First Minister (Mr Jack McConnell): One thousand seven hundred and forty-six names have been recommended to be considered for the biannual honours lists since 2003.

Stewart Stevenson: Is the First Minister aware of a written answer that was given to me by Mr Tom McCabe in answer to a question about the honours recommendations process? It states:

"Details of this process are confidential."—[Official Report, Written Answers, 29 July 2005; S2W-17373.]

The First Minister talked about the job of politicians. Is it not the case that a key part of politicians' jobs in this Parliament is to be open and accountable to the people of Scotland? Is it time for the First Minister to retract the statement by Tom McCabe and to change the Executive's approach to the honours system?

The First Minister: Not at all. I can think of few things that would be more foolish in relation to the honours system. The vast majority of the 1,746 people who were put forward for honours were nominated by others in their local community. They were not all successful, because of the balance that is struck in the list between different backgrounds, geographical areas, interests and types of voluntary organisation. It would be entirely wrong for us to remove confidentiality from the process, because of the embarrassment that might be caused to those who were not successful.

Stewart Stevenson: Ah—the embarrassment.

The First Minister: Mr Stevenson shouts about the issue, but a school cleaner who is nominated without their knowledge for a national honour but does not make it on to the list on that occasion does not want to be the subject of a national media story. It was not their choice to be nominated and it would be foolish to put them in that position.

The 1,746 names to which I referred included names of people whom I approved for nomination, who were successful in the national system for determining honours but who chose for a reason not to accept the honour. We should not embarrass those who want to do that confidentially. There is a very good reason for the names being confidential. People do not want to be embarrassed in the way that I have described. Mr Stevenson should rethink his attitude to the issue, which is very wrong.

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