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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee 26 September 2018

Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, Pre-budget Scrutiny 2019-20


Decision on Taking Business in Private

Good morning and welcome to the public part of the 24th meeting in 2018 of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. I ask people to ensure that their mobile phones are on silent.

Agenda item 2 is a decision on taking business in private. The committee is asked to consider whether to take item 4, which is consideration of our work programme, in private. Are we agreed?

No, I do not agree. Every time we have moved into private session I have given my agreement. I do not want to give my agreement again, because I think that the work of the committee over the past two weeks has been undermined by one member and we can have no belief that our meetings in private session will not continue to be undermined.

It is not that there has been a leak from the committee, as reported in the press, but the committee’s work in private session has clearly been misrepresented—with personal attacks on you, convener, for a start. Although I am sure that you are the most aggrieved member of the committee, I am aggrieved as well, because I read those reports in the press that were clearly from a member of our committee and there was a grain of information in them that was private, even though the spin put on it was not true.

We have had no commitment from the person responsible that it will not continue to happen. It has completely undermined the work of the committee in private session, because people out there read what appears in the press and that is what they think we are doing in private session, which is not true. I would prefer that we took all our business in public, so that the public can be assured that what we are doing is completely bona fide, right and appropriate. If we continue as we are, that person on the committee will, in my view, continue to undermine our work.

Thank you, Mike. I take note of your comments. I will take very short comments and then, because a member of the committee has not agreed to take item 4 in private, we will need to go to a division on that. I will observe that there are matters under item 4—our work programme—that I have given a personal undertaking as convener of the committee will not be made public until we have had a chance to consider them, so it would be inappropriate not to take the item in private.

I reinforce what the convener said about the practical point that there are matters in the private paper relating to our work programme that have been shared with us in confidence and are not yet a matter of public record. They may turn out to be preliminary and subsequently be changed. It is extremely helpful that people give the committee information to help it plan its work, and we cannot discuss the paper that is before us in public. If the committee were to conclude that the item should be discussed in public, that paper would need to be withdrawn and the parts of it that were shared in confidence removed. We cannot discuss the paper in public without the paper becoming public, and we cannot publicise the paper. Notwithstanding any of Mike Rumbles’s comments on other matters, in this particular instance, we cannot discuss the paper in public.

I have sympathy for Mr Rumbles’s position, but committees in the Parliament must and should be able to meet in private to discuss a wide range of matters. However, I impress on all fellow members of the committee that anything that is discussed in private should stay private.

As someone who wants to see as much openness and transparency as possible in all our deliberations, I think that it is important to say to anyone who is listening to this meeting that it is on rare occasions that we meet in private, but when we do it is to discuss the merits of evidence and come to a consensual point of view. That consensus and our ability to speak freely will be curtailed if anyone breaches that confidence, which would be very disappointing. Most importantly, if there is an agenda behind this—and I am not convinced that there is—the work of the committee will be frustrated if we do not go into private session. I encourage the committee to continue the collegiate nature of all our undertakings thus far. We should go ahead and consider the important matters of our work programme in private.

Mike, you have heard the views of the committee; do you wish to hold to your position on not taking item 4 in private?

I hear what everybody is saying, but I genuinely think that the work that we have done in private session has been deliberately misrepresented by a member of the committee.

If we ignore that or continue to operate as we have done before, nothing will stop that person behaving in that way. If it had happened just once, I would be inclined to agree with members, but it has happened twice in two weeks. The member has not indicated to me that he will not continue such behaviour. I want to press the decision to a vote.


I have heard a cross-section of views. The proposition is, that item 4 be taken in private. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.


Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)


Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)

The result of the division is: For 10, Against 1, Abstentions 0. The committee has agreed to take item 4 in private.