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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 05 September 2018

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Scottish National Standardised Assessments, Programme for Government 2018-19, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, University of Stirling (University for Sporting Excellence)


Contents


Parliamentary Bureau Motions

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The next item of business is consideration of two Parliamentary Bureau motions. I ask Graeme Dey to move, on behalf of the bureau, motion S5M-13744, on designation of a lead committee, and motion S5M-13748, on parliamentary recess dates.

Motions moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Local Government and Communities Committee be designated as the lead committee in consideration of the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill at stage 1.

That the Parliament agrees, further to motion S5M-12897 in the name of Joe FitzPatrick on 19 June 2018, the following parliamentary recess dates under Rule 2.3.1: 9 to 17 February 2019 (inclusive), 6 to 21 April 2019 (inclusive), 30 June to 1 September 2019 (inclusive), 12 to 27 October 2019 (inclusive), 21 December 2019 to 5 January 2020 (inclusive).—[Graeme Dey]

The Presiding Officer

Elaine Smith wishes to speak against the motion on parliamentary recess dates.

17:01  

Elaine Smith (Central Scotland) (Lab)

I do not wish to speak against the motion, but I wish to speak on it. I seek clarification from the Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans, if that is acceptable.

The Presiding Officer

That is acceptable.

Elaine Smith

Thank you.

Since the Scottish Parliament’s inception, it has taken a family-friendly approach to the conduct of parliamentary business, including ensuring that our recess dates take cognisance of Scottish school holidays. That applies not only to elected members but to MSPs’ staff and all Scottish Parliament staff. Indeed, rule 2.3.2 of our standing orders states:

“In considering dates of any Parliamentary recess, the Parliamentary Bureau shall have regard to the dates when schools in any part of Scotland are to be on holiday.”

The parliamentary recess dates for 2019 were agreed by the Parliament when we met in June, and the motion that is before us seeks to change the agreed and publicly advertised Easter recess dates, which, for the past number of years, have been set as the first two weeks in April. I believe that the change is due to Brexit, but perhaps the minister can clarify that in summing up. If that is the case, the Brexit date is not a surprise. It was known when the Parliament agreed the dates in June and had been known for some time before that. The surprise was the minister’s intention to seek to overturn the previous decision of the Parliament on the issue. As far as I am aware, no advance notice was given to allow discussion of the decision by MSPs, staff trade unions or others with an interest in the matter.

After a decision at yesterday’s meeting of the Parliamentary Bureau, it is proposed that our Parliament’s Easter recess dates will now coincide with the English school holidays and those of the city of Edinburgh, but the majority of Scottish schools—[Interruption.] Members may wish to listen to this, because it covers their areas. The majority of Scottish school holidays are scheduled as usual for the first two weeks in April 2019.

Specifically, I ask what consultation the minister undertook with staff-side trade unions before proposing the change to the bureau. Although, at this late stage, I do not intend to vote against the motion, I want assurances that, in future, no decisions will be taken that impact on the Parliament’s family-friendly framework without full consultation and enough time to fully consult.

The Presiding Officer

I call Graeme Dey to respond on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau.

17:03  

The Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans (Graeme Dey)

The decision was a unanimous one of the bureau, which reflects the huge significance of Brexit for Scotland and the Parliament. Brexit will weigh heavily on the deliberations and actions of the Scottish Parliament over the next six months and beyond. Given that, from the perspective of business managers, it was inappropriate for the Parliament to rise for the Easter recess on the eve of Brexit day, especially given the unfolding and still uncertain nature of Brexit.

I note Elaine Smith’s point about having regard to school holidays, although of course Scottish Easter school holidays are variable across the country. We took the decision now, in part to avoid inconvenience to members and staff and to give ample notice of when the Easter recess will begin, to minimise the risk to colleagues of having to cancel arrangements.

The Presiding Officer

I thank Elaine Smith for giving advance notice of her request to speak.