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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, October 29, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 29 October 2020

Agenda: First Minister’s Question Time, Point of Order, Brian Taylor, Portfolio Question Time, European Union Exit (Further and Higher Education), UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Points of Order, UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill: Financial Resolution, Decision Time


Points of Order

On a point of order, Presiding Officer—[Interruption.]—Yes, it is a real one, thank you for asking.

On Tuesday, Parliament rightly debated the Scottish Government’s plans for a new, tiered approach to tackling Covid. I am pleased that those important measures received cross-party support. Today, shortly before First Minister’s question time, the Government announced the list of tiers that our respective local areas will fall into. From next week, those new tiers will place restrictions on millions of people in our constituencies and regions, and many thousands of local businesses will be affected. Inverclyde, in the region that I represent, was placed in tier 3 despite all of its current indicators being at levels 1 and 2.

People rightly have questions of us, and we, as members, rightly have questions of the Government—[Interruption.] I would appreciate it if members listened to the point that I am making.

Let us hear the member make the point of order.

Presiding Officer, I appreciate that you extended First Minister’s question time today to accommodate questions from members and also that the First Minister expressed a willingness to take as many questions as she could. I thank her for that. However, by the close of that session, many members, including some on the Government benches, still had important questions to ask the Government about the measures that will be introduced. We will not now get the opportunity to ask the Government those important questions before the measures come into force on Monday.

Presiding Officer, what additional steps will you or parliamentary officials take to ensure that, when such announcements are made, every member has a legitimate right to ask questions or to raise concerns and that they will be given the opportunity to do so? That is the least that we can offer those who are affected by the decisions that we make here.

Such matters are procedural questions for the chair and, more properly, for the Parliamentary Bureau. The point of order that the member makes is similar to the one that was made by Johann Lamont following FMQs.

The bureau is actively considering the process by which the response to Covid is scrutinised. The current process is that the Government proposes a programme to the bureau and the bureau agrees that programme and proposes it to the Parliament. The Parliament then votes on the business programme and allocates time. The amount of time that is allocated to scrutiny is in members’ hands. That subject will be on the agenda on Tuesday. I encourage all members to speak to their business managers if they do not have enough opportunities to put questions or if they would like the opportunity to attend committees or to improve the scrutiny process in some other way.

I hope that that addresses the member’s point.

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Mr Greene and Johann Lamont have raised pertinent points. [Interruption.] If Government backbenchers do not like that, then that is tough. We have every right to raise questions and points on the floor of the Parliament on behalf of our constituents.

The issue that we have is that the new impositions have been brought in before members have had any opportunity to ask questions about them. I appreciate your saying that the issues are being discussed, but we have been raising them for eight months and they continue to be discussed. New laws, new guidance and new regulations are brought in that affect not only hundreds of thousands but millions of people, who are ramming our inboxes every day with questions about a range of issues, but we do not have the opportunity to scrutinise thoroughly what the Government is doing before measures are implemented. That is the key point that members are raising.

I thank Mr Findlay. I do not want to prolong the discussion, but this Parliament and the United Kingdom Parliament have passed laws that give the Government executive authority to act urgently to bring into force emergency measures, which is why the Government has used the affirmative procedure. However, those matters are causing some concern among a wide variety of members and the general public, which is why they are on our agenda right now. I suggest to all members who have views on the matter that they bring them to the attention of the Parliamentary Bureau through their business managers, and we will discuss them. I hope that we will be able to move matters forward in a constructive manner.