1st Report, 2012 (Session 4): Annual Report 2011-12

SP Paper 151

PU/S4/12/R1

1st Report, 2012 (Session 4)

Annual Report 2011-12

Remit and membership

Remit:

To consider public petitions addressed to the Parliament in accordance with these Rules and, in particular, to—

(a) decide in a case of dispute whether a petition is admissible;

(b) decide what action should be taken upon an admissible public petition; and

(c) keep under review the operation of the petitions system.

(Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament, Rule 6.10)

Membership:

Neil Bibby (until 22.12.11)
Richard Lyle (until 08.09.11)
Angus MacDonald (from 07.03.12)
Mark McDonald (from 08.09.11)
Anne McTaggart (from 22.12.11)
Nanette Milne
David Stewart (Convener)
Bill Walker (until 05.03.12)
Sandra White (Deputy Convener)
John Wilson

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerk to the Committee
Anne Peat

Assistant Clerk
Stuart Todd
Alison Wilson

Annual Report 2011-12

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows—

Introduction

1. This report covers the work of the Public Petitions Committee during the first parliamentary year 9 May 2011 to 8 May 2012 of the fourth session of the Parliament.

2. The main purpose of this Committee is to consider all admissible petitions. The Scottish Parliament’s public petitions system enables members of the public to have direct access to this Committee to raise issues of concern. The public petitions system is an example of the Parliament’s founding principles of accessibility, participation and, in particular, the sharing of power put into practice.

Working practices

3. At the start of the Session the Committee reviewed working practices and agreed that notes by the clerk should be public papers and published as part of the meeting papers. Notes by the clerk provide a summary of what the petition seeks, the action taken and any previous consideration by the Committee. The Committee’s view was that these notes provide a helpful summary of the petition’s progress and that publishing these notes makes the work of the Committee more accessible and open.

Petitions considered

4. At the end of Session 3, the previous Public Petitions Committee left a legacy of 43 current petitions to be taken forward by this Committee. During the period of the report, the Committee considered the 43 petitions carried over from the previous session and 37 new petitions. The Committee heard evidence in person from 22 new petitioners.

5. The Committee also heard oral evidence from a number of Scottish Ministers as follows: the Minister for Housing and Transport in relation to PE1098 and PE1223 on school bus safety; the Minister for Public Health and the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs in relation to PE1351 on ‘time for all to be heard’; and the Minister for Children and Young People in relation to PE1393 on tackling child sexual exploitation in Scotland.

6. During this reporting year the Committee continued to deal with a wide range of issues with health, justice, education and transport concerns being most frequently raised. The list below details some of the new petitions received and considered by the Committee and gives a flavour of the diversity of issues raised by way of public petitions—

  • PE1395 seeking targeted funding for lesser taught languages and cultures at universities.
  • PE1396 on the overbreeding and abandonment of Staffordshire bull terrier dogs.
  • PE1402 on the development of a policy for the diagnosis and treatment of adult ADHD.
  • PE1403 on the provision of protection, support and assistance to victims of crime.
  • PE1404 on the provision of insulin pump therapy.
  • PE1411 on gender specific school uniforms.
  • PE1426 on establishing a national donor milk bank service.

Chamber debate

7. The Committee successfully secured Chamber time to debate a petition by Mrs Andrea McArthur on the diagnosis and treatment of Pernicious Anaemia and vitamin B 12 deficiency. The debate took place on 7 March 2012. Following the debate, the Minister undertook to draw new guidance on the matter, due to be published by the British Committee for Standards in Haematology in the summer, to the attention of relevant clinicians in NHS Scotland. The Minster also undertook to draw the attention of the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) to the debate.

Feedback

8. It is not always easy to say unequivocally that a petition has been successful. Petitions calling for a review of guidance or procedures are deemed successful if such a review is undertaken. This has been the outcome for a number of petitions considered by the Committee during the period of this report. The very act of having the subject of a petition considered as part of the Parliament’s formal proceedings will, by some, be regarded as success in itself but the Committee is keen to get a clearer picture from petitioners of their views. From the start of the next reporting year, on the closure of a petition, the Committee will seek feedback from petitioners on their views of the process, whether their expectations have been met and how they feel about the outcomes.

Information sharing

9. There is continued interest from other legislatures and organisations in the ‘Scottish petitioning model’. Over the period of this report the Committee has participated in events and met with delegations as follows—

  • The Committee was invited to be represented at a ‘Reform of E-petitions’ seminar hosted by the Hansard Society in partnership with the Backbench Business Committee at Westminster. The purpose of the seminar was to consider the UK Government’s e-petition process and the potential for reform.
  • Following an invitation to speak at a public participation conference, the Convener travelled to Johannesburg to share the Scottish Parliament’s knowledge and experience of its public petitions system. The conference was attended by over 300 national and international delegates. The Convener delivered a presentation on effective petitions systems in legislatures.
  • The Committee was pleased to welcome the Joint Committee on Investigations, Oversight and Petitions (IOP Committee) of the Oireachtas. The IOP Committee visited the Scottish Parliament as part of its work to design a new petitions system for the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Bills and subordinate legislation

10. The Committee did not deal with any Bills or subordinate legislation during the period of the report.

Equalities

11. Equalities issues continued to be mainstreamed throughout the Committee’s work. One example of this is the Committee’s consideration of a petition to reform school uniform policy, specifically on gender-specific school uniforms. In relation to this petition, the Committee sought and received written evidence from a number of relevant bodies and groups and commissioned the Scottish Youth Parliament to consult its members on the issues raised. Consideration of the petition continues.

Committee meetings

12. During the period of the report, the Committee held 16 meetings. In general, meetings were held in public. 3 of these meetings were held partly in private to allow the Committee to discuss oral evidence heard.

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