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Chamber and committees

Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee

Debate on shaping parliamentary procedures and practices for the future

Letter from Convener of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee to all MSPs, 16 December 2021

Dear Colleague

I am writing to you to encourage you to participate in the SPPA Committee debate on shaping parliamentary procedures and practices for the future that will be held on 16 December. To inform the debate, SPICe has prepared a background briefing on How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way that the Parliament works?

The SPPA Committee intends to initiate an inquiry in early 2022 on future parliamentary procedures and practices. In order to inform the remit of the inquiry, the Committee would like to hear as many views as possible from MSPs. In particular, we would welcome your views on the following:

  • How the Parliament has adapted its procedures and practices in the context of the public health constraints, including the functionality of Blue Jeans and Teams for virtual and hybrid meetings in the Chamber and committees.
  • The impact of virtual and hybrid meetings for the practices of the Scottish Parliament in Chamber proceedings, notably in the way that debates and votes are conducted when some members are present in the Chamber and others participate virtually.
  • The advantages and disadvantages of virtual and hybrid committee meetings. For example, ensuring witness participation and more diverse witnesses, reducing carbon footprint by reducing travel, greater challenges in questioning and engaging with witnesses via a virtual platform.
  • The implications of virtual and hybrid meetings on you as parliamentarians, including your working patterns, workloads, travel patterns, your ability to manage both parliamentary and constituency work, and the balance between your working and private life.
  • Any criteria that should be developed in relation to the circumstances under which Ministers and Members can participate virtually in parliamentary proceedings, whether Chamber or committee proceedings.
  • Whether there are any other changes to procedures and practices that should be made to support Members in carrying out their parliamentary duties in certain circumstances, for example the introduction of proxy voting for Members who are ill or on parental leave.

I very much look forward to hearing your contributions and I would encourage as many Members as possible to make contributions in the open debate. The debate will be managed to provide for shorter contributions should you wish to concentrate on only one or two key points.

More widely, I hope that this debate can be the start of a wide engagement on how we should best respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic to the Parliament’s established practices and procedures.

If you are unable to participate in the debate, but would like to contribute your views, please send them to [email protected].

I very much look forward to hearing your contributions on this important issue.

Yours sincerely

Martin Whitfield MSP
Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee