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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament 01 April 2020

Agenda: Point of Order, Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill (Emergency Bill), Business Motions, Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill: Financial Resolution, Deputy Presiding Officer, Scottish Government Legislation Programme, Covid-19 (Social Security), Covid-19, Business Motion, Committee of the Whole Parliament, Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill: Stage 2, Meeting of the Parliament, Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time


Point of Order

Good morning. The first item of business is consideration of motion S5M-21639, in the name of Michael Russell, on treating the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill as an emergency bill.

On a point of order, Presiding Officer—I will just catch my breath, as I was running.

Through your office, could we raise some issues regarding the systems for getting responses to questions from ministers? We are here as advocates on behalf of our constituents, and, from the start of the crisis, we have repeatedly raised a number of key concerns that have been raised with us by our constituents, many of whom are businesspeople or people in employment who need urgent answers to questions that are of concern to them and their families.

We appreciate that this is an extremely difficult time for the Government, public services and everyone else, but we cannot close down the advocacy role that we have in Parliament. I know that the issue that I am raising affects every person in here, so I ask whether, because today is a sitting day, you might have an opportunity to speak to the Government to try to come up with a system that allows us to get more than holding answers. I understand that, at times, holding answers will be necessary, but we have to have a system whereby we can get answers, in due course, from ministers to the serious questions that our constituents raise with us.

Thanks for that point of order. I recognise the points that Mr Findlay raises, which have been raised with me by a number of members from various parties. I think that all MSPs are being bombarded with emails and inquiries at the moment and are trying to reassure constituents and provide them with information and answers. Clearly, many members are also conscious of the fact that the ability to raise those issues in Parliament—and certainly in the chamber—will be constrained as we go into recess. However, as I tried to reassure members at the close of business last Wednesday, parliamentary scrutiny will continue through the recess, and there will be opportunities to submit written questions, as Mr Findlay identified.

The issue that Mr Findlay raises was discussed at the meeting of the Parliamentary Bureau yesterday, so it has been discussed by all the business managers, and the Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans responded positively to the questions that were raised by Mr Findlay’s business manager, which are the issues that Mr Findlay has raised today.

I can assure Mr Findlay that I am about to call a meeting of business managers this morning. At that meeting, I will put those points again. I assure him that the Government is aware of the issue, as are his business manager and the other business managers, and that the parliamentary authorities are also aware of the importance of scrutiny continuing throughout the recess and of the assurance that constituents need to receive through members such as Mr Findlay.

I hope that I will be able to get back to Mr Findlay on the issue by the end of the day.