Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay's question 'do I have to?' showed alarming deference to a press officer – Scotsman comment

The question “do I have to?” is one that brings to mind a stroppy teenager who has just been asked to do their chores.

So it was somewhat surprising to hear it from one of the select few who stride the corridors of power in the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay – literally, one of the people who runs the country and, metaphorically, one of our nation’s ‘parents’ – somehow felt the need to ask a press officer whether she had to answer a question about cuts to ScotRail services.

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There are at least two things wrong with this.

First, it suggests a democratically elected politician thinks legitimate questions on serious issues of the day can just be dismissed.

Mackay, who after a nod from the press officer gave a rather bland answer, should realise it is important for the public to know what she thinks and also recognise her own authority as an MSP. Her opinions, right or wrong, matter.

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ScotRail cuts: Green MSP Gillian Mackay responds 'do I have to?' when quizzed ov...

Second, it suggests she thinks the press officer is in charge, both of her and of the questions that can be asked.

Gillian Mackay MSP paused and asked her party's press officer, 'do I have to?' when asked about cuts to ScotRail's train services

Once upon a time, politicians could be counted upon to speak freely and, sometimes, knowledgeably about a range of issues. The rise of political spin doctors and special advisers has seen politics become increasingly scripted and controlled.

But the public sees through this. It makes politics look fake. It’s one reason why some people give gaffe-prone populists like Donald Trump credit for being ‘straight-talkers’. Democracy needs politicians who are eager, not just willing, to answer questions and who don’t see this as any kind of chore.

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