AROUND one in five of Scotland’s new MPs has little or no work experience outside politics.

A Herald analysis of the 59 men and women elected to Westminster last month has found 11 of them are essentially lifelong “political professionals”.

Along with Mhairi Black, the now 23-year-old who entered Parliament straight from university in 2015, they make up a substantial 20 per cent block on the Scottish benches.

In fact, there are more lifelong politicians than there are Scottish Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs put together.

However, the 2015 and 2017 general elections in Scotland seem to have dented the rise of the professional political “apparatchiks”, as their critics sometimes dub them.

The Herald:

Our analysis shows two or three years of electoral instability – swings from first Labour to the SNP and then from the SNP to the Tories – has brought a resurgence in representatives of the old liberal professions into politics.

Six lawyers, including prominent SNP QC Joanna Cherry; six journalists, broadcasters or other media workers; three teachers; two accountants; two healthcare professionals and a lecturer were elected in Scotland last month.

Joanna Cherry MP

The Herald: SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC

Seven MPs have a background in business, large or small. Big swings, it seems, may have halted the march of the political professional but not stopped it altogether.

For years, Labour’s dominance of Scottish politics meant that ambitious young men and women with an interest in politics could aim for a lifelong career.

Then the Holyrood list system delivered similar benefits for Scottish Nationalists and Conservatives. It was possible to enter politics after a stint at student activism by working in the office of another politician or a think-tank, perhaps serving as a councillor, before winning a safe seat in Edinburgh or London.

This has helped some of the most able politicians in the country to pursue their chosen career for life. Prominent success stories from this group include Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and SNP transport minister Humza Yousaf, both at Holyrood.
Kezia Dugdale MSPThe Herald: Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said she can work with any of the four candidates for the UK Labour Party leadership

Analysts are careful to stress that there can be advantages in treating politics and policy-making as a career in itself. Others will underline that there is value in having real-world experience representing people too.

It should be stressed that all of Scotland’s 59 MPs have lives and careers that are not always easy to pigeon-hole. Some politicians object to being referred to as political professionals and will stress that they have had other jobs.

READ MORE: Just two Tory MPS have private educations

Take one of Scotland’s new MPs, the SNP’s David Linden of Glasgow East. Mr Linden left school – the city’s Bannerman High – to be a council trainee. So he has had a “real” job, just not for very long. He then worked for politicians as an assistant, often dealing with the real world problems of constituents. Mr Linden sees himself a political professional.

Another new young MP is Andrew Bowie, of the Conservatives, who represents Aberdeenshire South and Kincardineshire. He is also hard to pigeon-hole.

He is a former junior navy officer but has spent the last few years as an assistant to an MSP and an MEP. He appears on our table today as a military officer and is the only MP to do so. But Mr Bowie, like many MPs and MSPs we have previously featured, could easily have been described as a political professional too.

David Linden MP

The Herald: David Linden is one of the volunteers taking part in the sleepout in aid of the Bethany Trust

The general headings we have used, of course, can cover a huge variety of diverse careers.

We have listed two of our MPs as former civil servants. One of those is Chris Stephens, the SNP’s representative in Glasgow South West. But Mr Stephens is hardly a Sir Humphrey Appleby from Yes Minister. He is a former trade union organiser for council workers, a job academics studying the backgrounds of MPs usually describe as “politics-facilitating”.

The seven MPs we have listed as business people also represent a huge gamut of experiences. Compare privately educated millionaire Alister Jack of the Conservatives and Ged Killen, the locally-schooled Labour MP and councillor for Rutherglen who runs a family roofing firm, a job he is giving up. Both are businessmen on our list.

Few of our MPs have classic working-class professions, though the SNP’s John McNally is a barber and Labour’s Hugh Gaffney is a postman. They, along with Mr Linden, Mr Stephens and a handful of others, make up the tiny minority of MPs who did not go to university.

Analysis: Most Politicians have had a proper job....and politics is a hard one.

By Professor Paul Cairney, Stirling University

For some time, political commentators have worried that elected politicians are forming a ‘political class’ divorced from reality and the wider population. Things get complicated when we try to define ‘political class’, but the most hyperbolic accounts describe MPs as posh boys educated privately and at Oxbridge before getting a job that catapults them into a safe seat and front bench politics. So, parties trying to address this image have to juggle a lot of concerns, including too many men, too few local candidates, and too few people who have held down ‘proper jobs’ before election.

When politics was fairly stable, you could see some patterns emerging across Westminster as a whole. For example, the Conservatives would focus primarily on (preferably local) candidates with experience in areas like business and law (and, in Scotland in particular, farming), while Labour would focus more on gender parity. The ‘politics facilitating’ professions were also growing (particularly among Labour), and shifting in nature, from the jobs providing skills and flexibility (such as law and teaching), to the jobs linked directly to politics (such as party workers).

Yet, it seems like politics in not so stable! So, the SNP recruited a wacky number of MPs in 2015, and the Conservatives made gains in 2017. In both cases, it was relatively difficult to predict their likely backgrounds (even by using MSPs as a guide) unless all MP candidates were truly recruited from a narrow political class.

Still, these results on occupation do not seem too out of kilter with our broad expectations. The Conservatives come from law, farming, media, and politics. The SNP profile remains a mish-mash of the profile we’d associate with Westminster (although Labour MPs would more likely come from the public sector).

Most importantly, I don’t see from these figures a mass rise in recruitment from the ‘political class’. Instead, I’m used to finding about 30% of MPs and MSPs from the directly ‘politics facilitating’ jobs (including ‘politics’, media, and working for think tanks) and these figures seem to be roughly business as usual. Maybe a lot of MPs have not had a ‘proper job’ before election, but most have, and politics is often a harder job than most.