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Chamber and committees

Witness diversity: a guide for organisations

Why parliament values diversity

Diversity and inclusion are key principles for the Scottish Parliament’s success as set out in the 2017 Commission on Parliamentary Reform which recommended the Parliament proactively promote diversity and better reflect the range of voices and experiences found across Scotland.

This session Parliament set up a new committee – the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee – to look at how we embed the voices of people and communities at the heart of our work.

Committees engage with the people of Scotland in many ways but one of the most crucial and most visible ways is public questioning of witnesses in meetings that anyone in Scotland can watch.  Getting a range of views helps MSPs to become better informed about policy issues, to scrutinise and question government policy, to make recommendations and to build stronger links with the people the Parliament represents.

It’s crucial that Parliament’s scrutiny of policy and the legislation Members pass is informed by a wide range of experiences, needs and views – especially from those most directly affected by the policy in question.  What’s more, having people at the table with different backgrounds and perspectives makes for a more dynamic conversation and greater challenge and testing of policy proposals. 

We are all too aware that neither Parliament itself nor the witnesses we hear from week after week reflect the diversity of Scottish society.  Those watching from outside may see this and feel that participation in democracy is not for “people like me”.  Parliament is not alone in facing these challenges, but we have a crucial role in leading the way, demonstrating that people from all backgrounds and experiences can contribute their views and expertise to public life. 

Increasing the diversity of committee witnesses is one part of a much wider strategy to create a Parliament which is welcoming to people from all walks of life as a place to work, visit and engage with.  We look forward to working in partnership with you and hope that this guidance is a starting point to encourage and support you to make progress towards a stronger Parliament for all of us.

Callum Thomson
Group Head of Scrutiny