Meeting date: Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Meeting of the Parliament 04 December 2018
Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Thyroid and Adrenal Testing, Diagnosis and Treatment, Veterans, Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, Point of Order, Decision Time, Autistic Children’s Experiences of School
- Time for Reflection
- Topical Question Time
- Thyroid and Adrenal Testing, Diagnosis and Treatment
- Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
- Point of Order
- Decision Time
- Autistic Children’s Experiences of School
Point of Order
On a point of order, Presiding Officer.
I make a point of order in relation to an exchange during topical question time today. I do so under standing orders rule 7.3, which says:
“Members shall at all times conduct themselves in a courteous and respectful manner”.
Topical question 2, from Rhoda Grant, was about the action that the Scottish Government is taking in response to Cairngorm Mountain Ltd entering administration, and my colleague John Finnie was called to ask a supplementary question. He made some very reasonably worded criticisms of the situation and talked about the need for due diligence in the use of public funds. Mr Ewing, responding on behalf of the Government, rejected those criticisms rather angrily.
That is all fair enough, within the realms of debate. It is not unusual, and it is certainly not out of order, for the Greens to criticise Mr Ewing and for Mr Ewing to reject those criticisms—he is perfectly entitled to do so. However, Mr Ewing went on to say that he would
“keep the main parties that support us informed”
That response and the very clear indication that my colleague John Finnie will not receive relevant updates on Government actions on the matter fly in the face of the expected relationship between Government and Parliament. Ministers are accountable to the whole Parliament—not only to those who support their policies and actions.
I would argue that rule 7.3, in addition to requiring respect to be shown to members as individuals, requires that members should respect the relationship of accountability and the equal status of all MSPs. Parliament should not accept the idea that it is the ministers’ place to decide whom they should be accountable to, on the basis that they support the Government.
The Scottish Parliament’s publications and the ministerial code refer to the key principles of the consultative steering group on the Scottish Parliament. Those principles set out that power should be shared between the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland, and that the Scottish Parliament should hold the Scottish Government to account. I ask you, Presiding Officer, to ensure that ministers keep the whole Parliament informed on such matters and do not feel able to pick and choose by whom they are held accountable in the Parliament.
I thank Mr Harvie for his point of order and for the advance notice of it.
I was in the chair for the exchange, and I noticed the remarks. I thought that the minister was perhaps a little off hand in his treatment of Mr Finnie, but he was not personally discourteous. As Mr Harvie recognised, it was very much part of the robust political exchange that takes place in the Parliament.
The minister will have noted Mr Harvie’s comments on the substantive point that he raised. I assume that the minister will keep the Parliament informed of developments, just as he did today. It is, of course, up to the member and any other member to ask questions of the Government if they wish to hold it to account.