ANAS Sarwar has published a package of ethics reforms intended to beef up accountability and scrutiny at Holyrood and end a “culture of secrecy and cover-up” under the SNP.

The proposals include a recall law for MSPs, a presumption against second jobs for MSPs, a tougher ministerial code, and an overhaul and extension of freedom of information.

Other ideas include giving MSPs the same parliamentary privilege as MPs so they can speak freely without fear of being sued, elected committee chairs, and the Presiding Officer forcing ministers to give accurate, fact-checked information in the chamber.

“Our Scottish Parliament is being dragged down by SNP sleaze,” he said. “The SNP wants to protect themselves, not the institution of the parliament.”

The Scottish Labour leader said some of the reforms were timely and sensible after 20 years of devolution, while others were driven by the nature of the current Scottish Government.

He accused the SNP of deliberately trying to manipulate the parliamentary and democratic process in order to shut down arguments and conceal its own failings.

He said the public should have the right to recall MSPs who badly misbehave by forcing a byelection if 10 per cent of voters sign a petition, as can happen with MPs convicted of an offence and sentenced or suspended from the Commons for at least 10 sitting days. 

The idea was mooted after SNP finance secretary Derek Mackay resigned and disappeared from Holyrood in 2020 after pestering a 16-year-old boy with text messages.

Mr Sarwar said the recall threshold would have to be lower for regional list MSPs because of the number of electors involved.

Mr Sarwar said that MSPs should not be allowed to take on outside jobs without a “clear justification that it is in the public interest”, citing Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross’s other jobs as an MP and referee, as well as former Labour MSP Gordon Jackson, whose second job as an advocate was a regular source of controversy in the early years of Holyrood.

The Scottish Labour leader said the proposals would be included in his party’s next manifesto, and conceded some would require new legislation to be passed at Westminster.

He said: “For too many years now, a dangerous form of Scottish exceptionalism has dominated our constitutional debate.

“It pretends that only democratic institutions elsewhere in the UK are broken and in need of change, and that there is no change necessary here in Scotland

“Nothing could be further from the truth.

“The Scottish Parliament and its Government were supposed to be examples of transparency to build public trust in politics.

“But in the decades since its foundation, that has unfortunately failed to be the case. 

“While more powers have accrued in the hands of Scottish Ministers, the power of our parliament and the tools available to the public to scrutinise them have fallen behind.

“The events of the last few years have only served to show that sweeping reform of the parliament’s processes, functions and structure is needed.”

The Glasgow list MSP went on: “Nicola Sturgeon cannot escape from the fact that her Government and the SNP operate a culture of secrecy and cover-up. 

“We can’t have a situation where it is one standard for the SNP and another standard for everyone else.

“When Boris Johnson runs roughshod over the ministerial code and scrutiny of his government we all rightly take issue with it.

“But when the SNP avoids scrutiny or bad behaviour, there is a different standard. The same rules should apply.

“The day-to-day role of Holyrood should be focused on improving the lives of Scotland - their primary tool to do this is through the tools of accountability provided for by the Scottish Parliament.

 “However, when you have a government which actively seeks to avoid scrutiny and backbenchers who suspend their responsibilities in the name of party interest - then the system needs to be reformed.

“Committees have been ignored, processes run roughshod over and the responsibility to be truly accountable to both parliament, the press and the public have been ignored by SNP Ministers.

“The Scottish people deserve so much better than this."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland already has the most open and far-reaching FOI legislation in the UK.

“In addition to responding to over 4,000 requests in the last year, the Scottish Government proactively publishes all responses, going beyond what is legally required of us and, in addition, we regularly publish a huge volume of information across all areas of policy and Government activity.

“All public bodies are already covered by freedom of information law and we are currently considering the extension of FOISA (the Freedom of Information Scotland Act) to additional organisations providing public services.

“Furthermore, we have plans already in place to consult later this year to gather views on how access to information rights can be further protected and strengthened in Scotland.”