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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) [Draft]

Meeting date: Thursday, December 22, 2022

Agenda: Presiding Officer’s Rulings, General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Point of Order, Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, Business Motion, Portfolio Question Time, Point of Order, Climate Change Committee Reports, Decision Time, Maternity Services in Moray


Point of Order

Rachael Hamilton (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I seek your guidance in relation to rule 9.12 of standing orders, which sets out provisions on financial resolutions for bills at all stages. Before any amendments to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill were lodged, the Scottish Government’s own cost estimate for the legislation was £0.5 million. As members will know, that is the threshold for triggering the need for a financial resolution. Given the nature of several amendments that were agreed to at stage 3, I am concerned that those costs will have increased, thereby requiring a financial resolution for the bill.

For example, an amendment from Gillian Martin imposes additional requirements on Police Scotland when applying for sexual offence prevention orders. However, none of the costs incurred by Police Scotland are mentioned in the financial memorandum, even though the amendment will clearly add such a cost. Moreover, amendments that add new fraud offences will require our judicial authorities, as a result of the bill’s passage, to receive more resources in order to deal with those additional offences. Again, the financial memorandum does not mention any costs associated with new offences created under the bill, and that issue needs to be factored in.

Under a new section added at stage 2, sheriffs will be allowed to make an order to revoke a gender recognition certificate application upon request to the registrar general. That provision will impose an additional case load on sheriffs, but that is not mentioned in the financial memorandum.

Furthermore, the Scottish Government is required, as a result of amendments passed during the proceedings of the bill, to produce further guidance, and the registrar general must publish information on the website. Neither of those is mentioned in the financial memorandum, and they will add further costs to the Scottish Administration.

I therefore seek your guidance, Presiding Officer. I believe that if we commence the following debate we will be in breach of rules 9.12.3 and 9.12.3A of standing orders, which state:

“no proceedings may be taken on the Bill at any Stage after Stage 1 unless the Parliament has by resolution agreed to the ... expenditure”.

We would not deign to pre-empt your ruling on this matter, but do you agree that proceedings should at least be suspended in order to examine the cost implications of the amendments and to provide a ruling on any new requirement for a financial resolution?

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

I thank Ms Hamilton for her point of order. A financial resolution is indeed required if the likely expenditure arising from the bill would be above £500,000 in any one financial year. I determined at the bill’s introduction that the likely expenditure arising from it would not exceed that figure.

A series of amendments lodged at stages 2 and 3 potentially had cost effects for future financial years, but I can confirm that none of those amendments, either on their own or cumulatively, were considered to take the costs above the threshold in any one financial year.