Scotland politics

Tricia Marwick calls for larger Holyrood committees

Tricia Marwick Image copyright Scottish Parliament
Image caption Tricia Marwick said some subjects may work better under a larger committee

Holyrood's presiding officer has set out reform proposals which would see fewer but larger and more powerful committees in the Scottish Parliament.

In a lecture to the David Hume Institute, Tricia Marwick called for a fundamental look at how the committees operate.

She also wants committee conveners to be elected by their peers.

The Scottish Parliament currently has 17 committees, with 132 places shared among 80 MSPs.

Mrs Marwick wants to reduce the number to 10 or 11.

"I have now come to the view that changing our culture is not enough and we need to consider structural change," she said.

"Does our current committee structure serve us well enough?

"Why has no committee proposed any committee legislation since 2002, apart from procedural legislation. Why have we carried out virtually no post-legislative scrutiny?"

'Powerful conveners'

She added: "Larger committees could provide a better overall policy fit, bringing together some subjects that, although separate just now, may work better under one larger committee.

"These larger committees could be focused on what is important to the parliament in terms of policy fit."

She said the Scottish Parliament should be clear in setting out its own policy priorities and shape its own committees according to its own needs.

"Larger committees would be able to break into smaller sub groups ... meeting to discuss in a more flexible way ... it simply doesn't need all the committee members to be working on all the committee business all at the same time," she said.

"We need to be more creative in how we work."

Mrs Marwick also supports the introduction of elected committee conveners as part of a cultural shift within Holyrood.

Parties would still have a proportional share of committee conveners but those conveners would be directly accountable to parliament as a result of a secret ballot of all MSPs.

She added: "I want to see more powerful conveners with a stronger voice, not feeling driven by any government's legislation programme."

Holyrood's committees have previously been criticised for a lack of teeth when it comes to scrutinising the Scottish government, with opposition MSPs accusing the SNP administration of suppressing dissent.

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