IN an ideal world everyone would speak to the press openly and be able to voice their concerns feeling happy and confident in putting their name to whatever point they wish to make.

Covering politics, it seems to me, that the main reasons politicians want to talk to reporters is that they have an issue they want to highlight and believe by bringing it to the attention of a wide audience they may influence a situation for the better.

The best outcome for all concerned - the public, politician, the political party and journalist - is that as a result of the newspaper's coverage a major error is averted.

Those involved in politics regularly want to speak 'on the record' and be named in any article but there are times when they prefer to speak 'off the record'.

There is 'off the record', and not for quoting at all, or 'off the record' with the unnamed source comfortable with the material supplied used anonymously in an article.

It is best practice that if anonymous sources are used in a news story at least two are quoted as a way of verifying the information given.

Under a protocol established by the news agency the Associated Press in rare cases, one source will be sufficient – when material comes from an authoritative figure who provides information so detailed that there is no question of its accuracy.

If a response is needed from a third party the journalist does not reveal who he or she has spoken to 'off the record'.

So why do politicians wish to go off the record? Sometimes it can simply be to help a reporter gain more understanding of an issue or it can be about work they are doing but are not ready to speak 'on the record' about it. Often though it is for fear of being punished.

In politics, hard-working constituency MSPs and MPs can easily find themselves on the wrong side of party bosses by speaking out when they believe things are not as they should be.

Talented and ambitious politicians may find themselves overlooked for ministerial roles, perhaps losing out to less able colleagues.

Worse, they can find themselves deselected for their seat ahead of an election - a move usually meaning an abrupt end to their political career and salary.

Currently the spotlight is on the SNP and how people in leadership roles were not at all keen about members, activists and parliamentarians raising concerns publicly over how the party operated.

Few will be able to forget the video, leaked last month, showing former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warning a meeting of the SNP's ruling body in March 2021 about talking to the press about the party's finances.

Often such a culture of secrecy simply leads to problems building.

Two years on from the March 2021 meeting, the crisis inside the SNP may turn out to be a salutary lesson to all political parties of what can happen when parliamentarians, councillors, activists and members, are not encouraged, or even allowed to speak out, either on or off the record to journalists.