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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, February 8, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 08 February 2018

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, East Neuk First Responders, Islands (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Point of Order, Islands (Scotland) Bill: Financial Resolution, Decision Time


Point of Order

On a point of order, Presiding Officer—[Interruption.] In 10 years, I have never forgotten to insert my card for the microphone, but now I have done it twice in one week.

Presiding Officer, I want to raise a point of order under rule 3.1(d) of the standing orders, which states that your role as Presiding Officer includes the responsibility to

“represent the Parliament in discussions and exchanges with any parliamentary, governmental, administrative or other body, whether within or outwith the United Kingdom”,

and under chapter 15 of the standing orders, the purpose of which is to ensure that parliamentary scrutiny takes place in a spirit of openness and accessibility.

Yesterday, the UK Government wrote to you regarding material that it wished to make available to MSPs to examine on an extraordinarily limited basis and on the condition of secrecy. That letter was sent to business managers and committee conveners at 1 o’clock, which was at the end of the first session of that limited availability. The remainder of those sessions are either during times when the Parliament is meeting or when MSPs are in their constituencies and regions. I have been told that, of the small number of members who managed to make it to the limited session this afternoon, many were given the opportunity to look at only even-numbered pages, turning an insult into a farce.

Presiding Officer, what was your response to the UK Government on behalf of the Parliament in respect of the absurd and limited amount of scrutiny that was made available to us? Mr Walker, the UK minister, describes it as facilitating parliamentary scrutiny, yet parliamentary scrutiny must be transparent and open in the spirit of chapter 15 of our standing orders. I hope that you will communicate to the UK Government the Scottish Parliament’s rejection of that sign of complete contempt.

Thank you for advance notice of your point of order, Mr Harvie. I am not surprised to hear you express your dismay in such a manner.

For your information and that of other members, I note that my office circulated the letter to business managers and conveners of the relevant committees as soon as I was aware of it, which was at lunch time, following First Minister’s question time.

I fully understand the concerns that you raise, and I agree that the arrangements that have been put in place for members of the Scottish Parliament to view the documents offer limited opportunity for scrutiny and, further, that it was unhelpful to receive such late notice of those proposals. I trust that the UK Government will reflect on the arrangements that it has put in place. If you wish to raise your objections further, I advise you to do so directly with the UK Government.