Holyrood’s new sitting patterns and reform measures set out for Parliament’s endorsement

30/05/2012

Changes to Holyrood’s standing orders, which will see the Parliament’s chamber sit three afternoons a week, have been set out today by a parliamentary committee.

Changes to Holyrood’s standing orders, which will see the Parliament’s chamber sit three afternoons a week, have been set out today by a parliamentary committee.

The changes, instigated by the Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick and developed into a package of reform measures by the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments (SPPA) Committee, are designed to make the Parliament more responsive to topical and emerging issues.

If agreed by the full Parliament next week (6 June) the reform measures and new sitting patterns will begin immediately after the summer recess. 

Setting out the detail of the procedural changes, the SPPA Committee report says the measures will support:

  • the creation of a robust parliamentary working week by moving to morning committee meetings and afternoon plenary session;
  • plenary meetings on Tuesdays to allow Parliament to question the Government and debate topical matters earlier in the week;
  • the introduction of topical question time to enable backbenchers to question the Government at short notice on matters that have national implications or national significance;
  • more time in the Chamber for questioning ministers (and indeed the proposed working week produced by the Bureau based on the Committee’s report also increases the time available for debates);
  • shorter periods between lodging questions and them being asked in the Chamber, to enable backbenchers to ask more up to date questions on current affairs.
  • an additional members’ business debate a week, including during the day after First Minister’s Questions, thus increasing the time available for, and the status of, backbench business.

SPPA Committee convener Dave Thompson MSP said:

“Our committee has always shared the Presiding Officer’s aim to improve the topicality of parliamentary business and to increase the Parliament’s ability to respond quickly to emerging issues.

“Our report, if endorsed by the full Parliament, will support fundamental change to the Parliament’s working practices, and our committee welcomes this. 

“As we made clear in our initial report in December, the committee sees this as the start of a process which should run for the course of this session.  Our committee intends to keep a watching brief on how effective these reforms prove to be and whether any further changes would be beneficial.”

Background notes

The full report “Parliamentary Reform – Standing Order Rule Changes” can be found on the SPPA Committee’s web page:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/29890.aspx

The report includes on page 10) an illustration of the new proposed parliamentary week, which shows committees meeting each morning from Tuesday to Thursday and the chamber sitting each afternoon.

Each chamber session will begin with questions to Government Ministers.

First Minister’s Question Time will remain in its 12 noon Thursday slot.

The standing orders changes have been produced to give effect to the measures first announced by the committee on 21 December 2011.

The Committee has noted the Parliamentary Bureau’s explanations in the areas where it is not endorsing the Committee’s recommendations in their original form.  In keeping a watching brief on how effective these reforms prove to be, the Committee may review any outstanding recommendations in the future.