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Reforming Holyrood: 75 Proposals

Kirsty Peebles

The final report of the Commission for Parliamentary Reform has been published this morning, comprising 75 recommendations to ensure the Scottish Parliament is “equipped to meet the challenges ahead”.

On the issue of a second chamber, the 11-member Commission has determined this is not currently justified but hasn’t ruled out the option in the years ahead, subject to further review. Instead, the Commission’s recommendations are intended to get existing resources of the Parliament working at “peak efficiency” before more radical proposals are considered.

Changes are proposed to the legislative stages, to the outreach undertaken by committees and to the role of the Presiding Officer in managing debates and question times. In his foreword, the Commission chair John McCormick, calls for the reforms to be implemented speedily and for an implementation group, led by the Presiding Officer, to be established to “provide the necessary institutional impetus”.

The recommendations (listed at Appendix A, p. 70) include:

  • A new five-stage legislative process to include pre- and post-legislative scrutiny, including a pre-consultation statement (from the bill proposer) and more input from committees on the timescale required for scrutiny
  • Establishment of a Legislative Standards Body and new rules on late-stage amendments, options to refer back and pausing mechanisms
  • More transparency regarding Bureau meetings, the proposition of future business and the provision of more detail on agreed business further ahead
  • The ending of ‘scripted’ FMQs from party leaders and the publication of names only for the entire FMQs session
  • A reduction of the number of portfolio questions and the automatic selection of opposition spokespeople if they request to speak
  • Election of conveners from the start of the next session and a working group established on potential additional resources for certain roles (including conveners)
  • Committees to choose for themselves whether to meet at the same time as the plenary session.
  • Committee memberships based on gender balance of parliament, mostly capped at seven members with greater transparency regarding the setting of remits and committee names.
  • More consideration of regionally-focused scrutiny and alternative methods of taking evidence
  • PO to be able to depart from party balance in the selecting of speakers in debates to give voice to differing viewpoints, specific skills or experience
  • Further points on ensuring diversity, scrutiny work and partnership working (with local government, Scottish Youth Parliament etc)
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