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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Health and Wellbeing of Children and Young People, Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Point of Order, Protection of War Memorials


Point of Order

Brian Whittle (South Scotland) (Con)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. As you are well aware, I am no stranger to robust and, sometimes, even heated debate in this chamber—after all, we are all here because we are passionate about our country and our desire to improve the life chances of those whom we represent. I would hope that we all agree on that point, albeit that we might have different routes to deliver on that. I have said before that, when debating, it is important that we at least treat each other with a bit of respect.

I believe that Angus Robertson, the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, when responding to legitimate questioning from Opposition members in the chamber yesterday, crossed a line by devaluing the role that list MSPs have in this place. He seemed to suggest that, because we are not constituency MSPs, we have no right to question or scrutinise Scottish Government opinion and to represent the significant number of Scots who also disagree with him. He did so again on the radio this morning.

I would consider that branding MSPs losers for being list MSPs is hardly respectful. I gently suggest to Angus Robertson that he is the last person in here who should bandy about the term “losers”. Presiding Officer, that not only—[Interruption.]

Members, can we please hear Mr Whittle? Thank you.

Brian Whittle

Not only is that disrespectful to my esteemed Conservative colleagues Stephen Kerr and Craig Hoy; the cabinet secretary is being disrespectful to every list MSP in this chamber, past and present. In their ranks, we can include Nicola Sturgeon, 66 Scottish National Party MSPs and even your good self, Presiding Officer.

To be honest, I am surprised that someone of Angus Robertson’s stature need resort to such base language and tactics. Surely, such discourse cannot be the way in which we should treat colleagues in the chamber. Those of us who were involved in the 2014 independent referendum know the vitriol and hatred that was stoked up, which was due in no small part to the conduct and language of those in this building. We certainly do not want to pour petrol on that fire.

Presiding Officer, what can you do to ensure that parliamentarians conduct themselves with a bit of decorum and treat colleagues—even those with whom we disagree—with a bit of the respect that they would want afforded to themselves?

The Presiding Officer

Thank you, Mr Whittle. I responded to a related point yesterday. If any member in this chamber were to suggest that the status of regional and constituency members differed, I would intervene.

Constituency and regional members have equal status as members of the Scottish Parliament. The Scotland Act 1998 and standing orders make no distinction in terms of their powers in representing constituents and in scrutinising and holding the Government to account. The Presiding Officers act impartially, taking account of the interests of all members equally.

Mr Whittle is right of course—debate in the chamber can be robust and passionate. I take the opportunity to remind all members of the requirement, under standing orders and the code of conduct, to treat each other with courtesy and respect at all times. Thank you.