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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, November 7, 2019

Equalities and Human Rights Committee 07 November 2019

Agenda: Witness Diversity, Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1


Witness Diversity

The Convener (Ruth Maguire)

Good morning and welcome to the 26th meeting in 2019 of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee. All mobile devices should be switched off and put away, please. We have received apologies from Alex Cole-Hamilton, and I welcome Beatrice Wishart, who is covering for him today.

Agenda item 1 is consideration of witness diversity. I refer members to paper 1 in their pack. The committee is asked to note the current and future work to improve and monitor the diversity of committee witnesses and, in the light of that, to consider the 2018-19 witness diversity statistics for the Scottish Parliament committees.

I invite comments from members.

Angela Constance (Almond Valley) (SNP)

The report on the issue is detailed and interesting. It is very positive to see that there has been an improvement over the lifetime of the Scottish Parliament, but I am sure that, across Parliament, people will accept that we need to continue to focus on improving the diversity of witnesses. Given the depth of the work that was carried out to look at the figures and to devise an action plan, I think that it might be prudent and useful for the committee—if the convener finds this agreeable—to write to all other parliamentary committees to reinforce and highlight the work that has already been done and to ask what further consideration will be given to the matter in due course.

Mary Fee (West Scotland) (Lab)

I agree entirely with the comments of my colleague Angela Constance. It is an excellent report, and it will be useful not only in informing committees of the progress that has been made throughout the Parliament and the steps that have been taken to encourage diversity, but in serving as a starting point and helping to generate a conversation within committees about what steps can be taken to improve the diversity of witnesses.

The Convener

We certainly want to acknowledge the recent work that has been done and the improvements that have been made and, to that end, we can write to committees to highlight the new guidance that is available for external organisations and committee clerking teams. Is that agreed?

Members indicated agreement.