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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 03 March 2021

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Primary Care, Scotland’s Recovery, Standing Orders, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Autism and Learning Disabilities


Standing Orders

Our next item of business is a short debate on motion S5M-24246, in name of Bill Kidd, on “Standing Order Rule Changes – Inquiry into the resilience of the Scottish Parliament’s practices and procedures in relation to its business”.


Do not worry—this will be a very short debate.

Following the introduction of lockdown provisions almost a year ago, the Scottish Parliament adapted its practices and procedures to ensure that Parliament was able to meet. Since April last year, it has met in a mix of virtual, hybrid and socially distanced formats to ensure that parliamentary business can continue. Technology has been developed to allow us to participate in parliamentary votes via a virtual platform.

The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s inquiry looked at how other legislatures had adapted to the Covid pandemic. It was clear that the Scottish Parliament has been one of the best in ensuring that committee and plenary meetings and almost all types of parliamentary business can continue and that members of the Scottish Parliament can vote both in the chamber and in committees. The committee considered that to be a major achievement and a testament to the commitment and flexibility of members, the parliamentary authorities and, particularly, parliamentary staff.

The committee’s inquiry into the resilience of the Scottish Parliament considered what permanent changes were needed to standing orders to ensure that the Parliament could continue to meet in the face of any future challenges. The committee recommends in its report that a new rule should be introduced to allow for temporary rule changes to be made to standing orders for a time-limited period. That would provide greater flexibility for the Parliament, which would be able to agree more substantial changes to the rules in a shorter time.

In addition, the committee recommends that a number of permissive changes be made to allow for virtual and hybrid meetings of the chamber and of committees and for virtual voting in both the chamber and committees. It will be for the session 6 Parliament, once social distancing no longer constrains Parliament’s ability to meet physically, to consider in what circumstances virtual or hybrid meetings should take place in future.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s 2nd Report 2021 (Session 5), Standing Order Rule Changes — Inquiry into the resilience of the Scottish Parliament’s practices and procedures in relation to its business (SP Paper 953), and agrees that—

(a) the rule change on the temporary amendment to Standing Orders be made with effect from 8 March 2021, and

(b) all remaining rule changes set out in Annexe A be made with effect from 12 May 2021.

No other member has indicated a wish to contribute. The question on the motion will be put at decision time.