Meetings/items in private

54. Standing Orders provide that committee proceedings shall be held in public except when a committee decides otherwise. There are certain types of business which must be taken in public and committee clerks will advise on this.

55. In general Standing Orders only allow committee members to be in attendance at private meetings. The convener must ask any MSPs who are not committee members to leave before the private meeting or private part of the meeting starts. The only exception to this is where a committee is taking evidence on a Bill in private, in which case the member in charge (and relevant Minister) may attend and participate (but not vote)

56. The decision on whether to meet in private is one which must be taken by a committee and not by the convener. The decision must be taken on the merits of each individual piece of business. A committee could not, for example, agree a practice of taking a particular type of business in private. (For further information on meetings in public and in private see Guidance on Operation of Committees paragraphs 4.16 to 4.21). The Conveners’ Group has recognised the benefits that can be derived from taking draft reports in private which include an enhanced likelihood of achieving consensus and compromise. Consideration in private also ensures that media attention is not focussed on preliminary views which may not feature in the final report.

57. It is important for the convener to make it clear when a committee is moving into private session. It is the convener's statement that the meeting is moving into private session that acts as the trigger for broadcasting to close the microphones and stop recording for the purposes of the Official Report. It also is the trigger for the security staff to clear the public gallery.

58. If it is not clear that the committee is moving into private session, the meeting will continue to be broadcast and officially reported, which can cause embarrassment to members.