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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, September 30, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 30 September 2021

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Point of Order, Community Land Ownership, Portfolio Question Time, Point of Order, Autumn and Winter Vaccination Programme, Urgent Question, Brexit Impact on Supply Chain and Labour Market, Points of Order, Decision Time


Points of Order

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I seek your guidance. Two days ago, the First Minister promised the Parliament that the Covid vaccination passport app would be available for downloading on Thursday. This is Thursday, and when I checked before coming into the chamber, there was no app. Less than 12 hours before it comes into effect, an essential part of the scheme is not ready.

Presiding Officer, this has been an utter shambles from start to finish. It is simply outrageous. As the Deputy First Minister is sitting in the chamber, and as people and businesses are waiting, can I ask the Government where the app is? If they cannot answer, how do we use your good office to get an answer?

On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

I will respond first to Mr Hoy’s point of order, which is not a point of order. The matter raised is not a point of order for me but I am sure that the Government will make arrangements for demonstration of the app.

Presiding Officer, I am grateful to you for allowing me to make a point of order. Mr Hoy asked where the app is. The answer is that it is available on the app store as we speak.

While that might be helpful, it was also not a point of order. Points of order are about procedural matters. I am hopeful that we might actually have a point of order in the chamber this evening.

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. On 22 September, Lorna Slater, the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, promised to update the Parliament before the end of September on the coalition’s plans for incineration. The most appropriate way of doing that would be via a statement to the Parliament. Instead, at the last possible minute, on the last day of the month, we have a Government-initiated question, a format that does not allow for full scrutiny, that has yet to be answered. Members have questions that need to be answered, such as whether waste will be imported to burn in Scotland, whether a moratorium will end work on incinerators that are in planning, as promised in the Green Party’s manifesto, and whether there will be a moratorium at all. The timing and manner of the announcement is designed to avoid scrutiny.

Presiding Officer, I seek your guidance on how we can ensure that ministers bring such significant announcements to the Parliament in good time and in a format that allows full transparency and scrutiny.

I thank Mr Golden for his point of order. I understand that the minister undertook to update the Parliament. As Mr Golden will know, updates can be provided by way of Government-initiated questions. However, should any member wish to further scrutinise the matter of any GIQ answer, they are, of course, able and free to request that a statement or debate be included in the business programme. Mr Golden might wish to pursue that with his business manager in advance of the next meeting of the Parliamentary Bureau.

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I will keep this brief. From 5 am tomorrow morning, Covid identity cards will begin their roll-out in Scotland. That will set a dangerous precedent. It will be possible for someone’s private medical information to be demanded from them by a stranger, who is not their clinician, in exchange for access to parts of our society. The draft regulations, which were published only late yesterday, make it clear that the door to expansion is wide open.

Serious concerns about scrutiny have consistently been raised in the Parliament. Where are the assessments of data security, equalities and privacy that would normally follow such regulations?

Presiding Officer, in your view, has the Parliament had the chance to meaningfully scrutinise this major policy change?

I thank the member for his point of order. The question whether the Parliament considers that it has had sufficient opportunity to consider a particular subject is a matter for the Parliament itself, but if any member believes that a particular item of business should be scheduled, there are a number of mechanisms through which they can make such a request, including speaking on the business motion.

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. For two years, Scottish Labour has said that the poorest and most disadvantaged young people in Scotland have been ignored by the Scottish Qualifications Authority and by the Scottish Government.

Today, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has taken the extraordinary step of taking statutory action against the SQA to force it to reform its policies. The implications of that are potentially huge. It could open up the SQA to legal challenge from thousands of young people across Scotland whose life chances have been harmed.

Presiding Officer, will you require the minister to make a statement to the Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity to explain how much of the situation is due to ministerial direction and why the SQA withheld the information in question from the Parliament only yesterday, and so that the minister can put on record why the Government can have any faith in the leadership of our national qualifications agency?

I thank Michael Marra for his point of order. As I have previously said, the future business of the Parliament is a matter for the bureau in the first instance. Michael Marra’s business manager may wish to request a statement on the topic that he has raised through that channel.