Legislation process should be improved, says Committee

20.03.2015

Measures to make the legislative process in Scotland more transparent have today (20 March) been published by the Scottish Parliament’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.

In the first major review of the legislative process since the Parliament was established, the Committee has called for a number of changes to make the system more open and easier to understand. Changes include making the documents accompanying draft bills clearer and extending the timescales between some stages of the legislative process.  

Committee Convener, Stewart Stevenson MSP said: 

“This inquiry was about making sure that what we do as a Parliament is open and accessible for those we represent. We heard that the legislative process can be difficult and confusing to follow. Our inquiry was about what more could be done so people from all walks of life could become engaged in shaping the laws of Scotland.

“Whilst we appreciate that the legislative process can be complex, this cannot be a barrier to the public becoming involved. The language used must be jargon free where possible and the process itself must be made clearer. Just as important is to ensure that the process is not rushed which is why we have suggested increasing the time between certain stages of the legislative process.” 

Contained within the report’s recommendations, the Committee has made it clear that information issued must be free from technical language. Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Better information must be available about the timetables for bills.
  • Increasing the minimum time gap between the second and third stages of the legislation process from 10 days to 14 days.
  • Improving guidance on amendments to help people engage with the process at stages 2 and 3.
  • Extending the deadline for lodging amendments at the second and third stages of a bill by an extra day.

Background

The Committee’s inquiry examined the general rules around public bills. The legislation process has three stages which in summary are:

  • Stage 1 – Parliamentary committees consider the general principles (the overall purpose) of the bill and normally ask members of the public for their input. Then the Parliament debates and reaches a decision on the general principles of the bill.
  • Stage 2 – A parliamentary committee considers the bill in detail and takes a decision on proposed changes (referred to as amendments).
  • Stage 3 – The Parliament can consider further amendments to the bill. Then the Parliament decides whether to pass or reject the bill.

A copy of the Committee’s report can be found on the Committee’s webpages: 

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/29891.aspx

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