The Scotsman reports (here) on how a second SNP Minister has been smelt out for having a large shareholding that, to most people with any sense of propriety, is a clear potential conflict of interest with his position as minister.

Thus Mr. Jim Mather, the Enterprise Minister, responsible for business development (which might to even the casual onlooker seem to cover almost any aspect of business you would care to name) in the soi-disant ‘government’ of Scotland, is discovered to be the owner of £350,000 worth of shares in two firms: £100,000 in the Glasgow-based IT company Integrated Environmental Solutions and £250,000 in Optos, a Dunfermline eye-care company.

Again, unwilling or unable to recognize the blindingly obvious perception (at the very least) of conflict that ownership of these shares gives, the Minister is apparently fighting tooth and claw to hang on to them, indicating that he would consult the Permanent Secretary at the Scottish Executive to find a way of removing any hint of a conflict of interest.

As a Minister Mr. Mather is not only individually involved in the policy but collectively as a member of the executive for the whole range of powers and decisions made by the Executive. For example a decision by the Executive concerning health funding that impacts in any way on eye care would create not just a perception of conflict of interest but an actual one.

Quite how he has managed to rise to power without acquiring the right antennae to spot this obvious impropriety is a matter for surmise but in the modern climate in which politicians find themselves, a general slackening of standards comes as no surprise. I suppose we shall now have to undergo the embarassing spectacle of First Minister Salmond ‘negotiating’ with this individual about his shareholding instead of simply telling him to offload them.

Nothing like the firm smack of government, eh?