IT seems that the Conservatives treat being a legislator as a part-time job that needs to fit around the important business of making money by other means. It doesn't appear to bother any of them that this could potentially create a conflict of interests.

Some Labour and SNP politicians also have financial interests and earnings outwith their salaries as legislators, but by a very large margin it's the Conservatives who are most likely to have other jobs and who earn the most from them.

It is not at all uncommon for a Conservative MP or MSP to earn more than the UK average wage doing their second jobs. This is income on top of their salary and generous expenses allowance as an MP or MSP, which alone generate an income that most people would consider more than sufficient to fund a very comfortable lifestyle.

An audit of the register of interests for MSPs which was published today has found that at the start of this month, seven Scottish Conservative MSPs had second jobs, which in total brought in an extra £325,000.

Alexander Burnett, the Tory MSP for Aberdeenshire West, earns around £200,000 annually as the director of a property company and as the owner of a forestry estate near Banchory. Donald Cameron, a Conservative list MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has a second and third job as the non-executive director of two investment companies in Edinburgh. According to the MSPs' register of interests, he received around £50,000 from his outside interests.

Although it's clear that some Scottish Conservatives appear to view serving the public as a side gig which boosts their status and profile, they are merely taking their lead from Conservative MPs at Westminster, some of whom, including the Prime Minister and certain cabinet ministers, earn sums from their outside interests that make them very wealthy indeed.

The culture of MPs having outside jobs goes right to the very top. Some of them make no secret of the fact that they consider their salaries as politicians, which alone put them in higher tax brackets, to be a paltry pittance. In September 2020 it was reported that Boris Johnson was "miserable and upset" because he was "struggling to make ends meet" on the Prime Minister's salary of £150,000 a year. Puir wee lambie. Johnson previously referred to his £250,000 annual earnings from The Telegraph as "chickenfeed".

Given that the Conservatives earn so much from their outside interests and have such a low opinion of their official salaries, the system of second and third jobs for MPs, even though it is a recipe for corruption and conflicts of interest, it is not about to change any time soon. Too many influential and powerful Conservatives have a strong and lucrative vested interest in keeping thing exactly the way that they are. Westminster is irredeemably corrupt and incapable of reform.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross sets a poor example. With four jobs of his own, he somehow managed to "forget" about earnings of £28,000-a-year which he did not report to the MPs' register of financial interests. The next time he angrily demands that the First Minister "focus on the day job", she should ask him which of their day jobs he and his Conservative colleagues are focusing on.

This piece is an extract from today's REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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