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Summary

  1. MSPs take evidence from the Malta High Commission to the UK on the EU presidency
  2. The first minister is accused of not giving a "straight answer" to parliament on delays to EU farm payments
  3. MSPs debate the Commission on Parliamentary Reform’s Report on the Scottish Parliament

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Colin Bell

All times stated are UK

  1. Parliament's out..... for summer

    Holyrood

    That brings to an end our coverage of the Scottish Parliament for Thursday 29 June 2017.

    The Scottish Parliament is now in recess and we will return on 5 September.

    Have a good summer.

  2. That takes us into summer recess

    Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh

    Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh says he wishes everyone well for the summer recess and that he looks forward to welcoming everyone back refreshed and reinvigorated in September.

  3. Ms Lamont says she the commission's report is a package and should be delivered as such

    Labour MSP Johann Lamont
    Image caption: Labour MSP Johann Lamont

    Ms Lamont says people who really care about an issue should be afforded the opportunity to ask a question or make a speech.

    The Labour MSP says there is some debate about the need for a second chamber and committees must be absolutely committed to the their role in scrutiny.

    She says there should be flexibility in questions and speeches.

    Ms Lamont says she the commission's report is a package and should be delivered as such.

    She says the assumption should be that the recommendations will be delivered.

  4. 'You cannot be what you cannot see'

    Ms Lamont says a theme that kept emerging was diversity and this applies to MSPs elected and their partners.

    "You cannot be what you cannot see," she says was a point made to the commission.

    Holyrood

    The Labour MSP says the recommendations of questions is not that they should stop, but that a number of questions that are never going to be asked are not selected.

    She says the recommendations recognise frustrations of the poor quality of engagement in the chamber.

    Ms Lamont says it cannot be good that people are referred to FOIs because the quality of answers are so poor.

  5. 'I have played on every part of the pitch'

    Labour MSP Johann Lamont
    Image caption: Labour MSP Johann Lamont

    Labour MSP Johann Lamont says it is really important that the commission report is taken seriously.

    She says the presiding officer and herself are the last MSPs that have been at Holyrood all the way through since year dot and she says "I have played on every part of the pitch".

    Ms Lamont cites her CV from party leader, to backbencher to committee convener.

    The commission member welcomes the chair John McCormick for his work and thanks her felllow members for their efforts too.

  6. MSPs should vote in the interests of constituents not their party says Mr Findlay

    Labour MSP Neil Findlay

    Labour MSP Neil Findlay says he didn't intend to speak in the debate but that he pressed his button to make a few points and that there is more of that required instead of pre-prepared lists on who will speak.

    Mr Findlay says the epitome of parliamentary integrity are those who go against their parties on certain issues and that there needs to be more of that.

    The Labour MSP says if this report encourages people to come to the parliament and vote in the interests of their constituents and not the interests of their party then it will be very welcome indeed.

  7. Everyone should embrace the scrutiny of legislation says Tory MSP

    Tory MSP Alexander Stewart

    Tory MSP Alexander Stewart says everyone should embrace the scrutiny of legislation.

    Mr Stewart says the greater focus on post scrutiny legislation is also very important.

    He says it is fantastic to be involved in debates in the chamber but that there are opportunities for things to happen outside.

  8. SNP MSP says it is about encouraging more debate

    SNP MSP Clare Adamson and Tory MSP Edward Mountain

    SNP MSP Clare Adamson says she is not convinced that Mr Mountain's "guillotine approach" to FMQs would encourage debate.

    Tory MSP Edward Mountain intervenes to say in the Canadian government the convener brings his hand down towards the table to indicate how long a person has to answer a question.

    He says once that hand lands on the table the answer stops which mean politicians answer more quickly.

    Ms Adamson says she thinks there would have to be more discussion on that because she is not convinced it would encourage more debate.

  9. Tory MSP says committees must be strong and effective

    Edward Mountain

    Tory MSP Edward Mountain says he agrees with the commission in the need for strong and effective committees, as they are, as the report states, "the engine of the parliament".

    Mr Mountain says the report calls for the loosening of party control over committees and he says his party does not do that.

    The Tory MSP says calling for party politics to be left at the committee door is "fanciful".

    He agrees a there should be a maximum of seven members on a committee.

  10. Need for reform? Term limit for MSPs and other electoral reforms

    Philip Sim

    BBC Scotland political reporter

    A number of respondents suggested reforms to the additional member system (AMS) method of electing MSPs, which uses regional top-up lists as well as more traditional constituency members.

    Mr McLeish said there was a case for "a serious look at our electoral system", saying that while the AMS system is "certainly better and more democratic" than the first-past-the-post method used at Westminster, there were "merits" to using more proportional representation.

    Meanwhile, Lord McConnell wrote that the mixed-member electoral system had seen the balance between MSPs representing their constituents and their parties slip too far in favour of the latter.

    He said there should be term limits on MSPs, to prevent list members having "jobs for life", and suggested candidates should have to choose between running in a constituency or on a list, not both.

    Some have suggested shaking up Holyrood's electoral system
    Image caption: Some have suggested shaking up Holyrood's electoral system

    Mr Salmond broadly backed AMS, but suggested that regional lists could be scrapped in favour of a single national list. He said he had "never been convinced by the regional aspect of the list", saying there was "absolutely no reason" why lists couldn't be national and "balanced across the community".

    Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles suggested binning the current electoral system altogether, in favour of the single transferable vote (STV) method.

    He said there was a public perception that list MSPs were "second class" members who made it into Holyrood by "creeping in the back door", and said using the council-style system of multi-member constituencies - larger than the current single-member constituencies but smaller than the regional list areas - would solve this.

    Meanwhile, a submission from the Evangelical Alliance called for consideration of whether there was "a way of electing MSPs that is less dependent on party position or patronage".

  11. Committee questions should not pre-prepared by the clerk says SNP MSP

    SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson

    SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson says Mr Macintosh's predecessor was keen on reform but brought about some changes he did not agree with.

    Mr Gibson says no consideration has been given to how the additional work in these recommendations will impact on constituents.

    The SNP MSP says committee questions should not pre-prepared by the clerk.

    He says he is disappointed that the suggestion is to reduce general and portfolio questions and he believes the recommendations should not be taken as one package.

  12. Need for reform? Change to committees

    Philip Sim

    BBC Scotland political reporter

    Committees have more work than ever with Holyrood's growing powers
    Image caption: Committees have more work than ever with Holyrood's growing powers

    There has been broad support for bringing in elections for committee conveners, as is done at Westminster. Dr Hannah White from the Institute for Government think tank said this could break the link between committee activity and party positions and encourage a sense of independence among conveners.

    Similarly mirroring the Westminster approach, the Labour group said committee conveners should have more powers to compel witnesses to appear before them.

    Several people suggested expanding the amount of time committees have to sit in, including calls to let committee and chamber business overlap.

    As well as some discussion of having more members on each committee, SNP backbencher John Mason suggested having more committees in general.

    The MSP suggested having smaller groups, of no more than seven members, so there could be more committees engaging with more people. "I consider it a considerable step backwards that committees have increased in size to 11," he said.

    Meanwhile, the Scottish Women's Convention called for a mechanism to enforce gender balance on committees.

  13. Call for committee scrutiny to improve from Tory MSP

    Conservative MSP Liz Smith
    Image caption: Conservative MSP Liz Smith

    Conservative MSP Liz Smith says there has not been wholly competent scrutiny of legislation in committee stage.

    Ms Smith points to the Children and Young People Act.

    She says judges at the UK's highest court ruled against the Scottish government's Named Person scheme within the act.

    Ms Smith calls for committee scrutiny to be improved.

    Video content

    Video caption: Supreme Court rules against Named Person scheme
  14. Lib Dem MSP calls for the parliamentary bureau to be open

    Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles and Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh

    Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles congratulates Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh for bringing this commission about.

    Mr Rumbles focuses on recommendations 43 to 45 on the parliamentary bureau.

    He says these include that the bureau operations should be observed openly.

    The Lib Dem MSP says all 75 of the recommendations should be implemented as best they can.

  15. Need for reform? Making the committee system more robust

    Philip Sim

    BBC Scotland political reporter

    Holyrood's committees have quizzed some high-profile figures from beyond the direct orbit of Scottish politics
    Image caption: Holyrood's committees have quizzed some high-profile figures from beyond the direct orbit of Scottish politics

    Holyrood's committees play a vital role in the work of parliament; and as Audit Scotland put it in its submission, with "significant new fiscal powers" exercised at Holyrood, scrutiny "has never been more important".

    Some changes have already been made - such as the move in 2016 to bar ministerial aides from sitting on the committees which scrutinise their bosses - but the commission has heard calls for much more reform.

    Lord McConnell was critical of how committees have performed, saying that "with a few notable exceptions, they have neither significantly influenced legislation nor the direction of national policy". He said the groups have been "more partisan and reactive than was expected", saying changes were needed to rebalance the roles of legislative scrutiny and longer-term inquiries.

    Former MSP Cameron Buchanan said that during the 2011-2016 period of majority government, "most of us felt we were becoming a one-party state", saying it was vital for committees to be "robust" and "not to be cowed by the government of the day".

    And current rural economy convener Edward Mountain said the groups "should be treated with more respect". He highlighted incidents where important reports were issued hours after ministers had appeared in committee and the limited time ministers are available for questioning.

  16. 'It shouldn't be a cherry-picking exercise'

    Green MSP Andy Wightman

    Green MSP Andy Wightman says there is a strong case for treating the recommendations as a package and that a lot of people have given a lot of time to this and the parliament should be respectful of that.

    Mr Wightman says "it shouldn't be a cherry-picking exercise".

    The Green MSP says committee conveners should be elected because the work of committees is vital to parliament.

    He says there should be a committee away day week at the beginning parliamentary recess.

  17. 'FMQs is the shop window to this place'

    SNP MSP Ben Macpherson
    Image caption: SNP MSP Ben Macpherson

    SNP MSP Ben Macpherson says: "FMQs is the shop window to this place."

    Mr Macpherson says the report seems to wish to implicitly remove tribalism in FMQs.

    He says there is an ambition amongst those in communities to have a more substantial FMQs.

    Labour MSP Daniel Johson says if it became less dramatic it would get less attention.

    Mr Macpherson agrees some people like the drama, but many people do not like party politics as it is now.

  18. Need for reform? Two lots of FMQs

    Philip Sim

    BBC Scotland political reporter

    Chamber

    Perhaps the most-watched part of the parliamentary week is the Thursday session of questions to the first minister. However, the commission heard a range of complaints about these sessions and the other times when ministers are quizzed.

    Lord McConnell said question times "need to change", telling the commission there were too many "non-challenging" closed questions. This was echoed by Mr Stewart, who said chances to question portfolio ministers were "extremely limited".

    Lord Foulkes, meanwhile, said presiding officers "do not seem to have understood their responsibility for ensuring the effectiveness of question time", arguing that their powers should be beefed up so they can ensure ministerial replies are "short and answer directly the question asked".

    Other suggestions included a time limit on contributions at FMQs to allow more speakers and more off-the-cuff backbench questions.

    The SNP parliamentary group pointed out that at the likes of portfolio questions, only around half of the scheduled questions are ever asked; MSP Sandra White suggested either having more time or less questions scheduled.

    She also suggested having a random draw of which question is selected next, giving members lower down the order paper a better chance of having their question selected in the chamber.

    Labour also wanted to see the system of written questions shaken up, with shorter timescales for answers and "a system which has teeth".

    And Action for Children Scotland suggested having two sessions of FMQs - one for party leaders to spar, and a second one where business and third sector groups could put forward questions, via MSPs.

  19. 'Removing some of the powers of the business managers would be helpful'

    Labour MSP Daniel Johnson

    Labour MSP Daniel Johnson says it is important for MSPs to take their parliamentary roles seriously.

    Mr Johnson says he is glad that his colleague James Kelly isn't here to hear this but "removing some of the powers of the business managers would be helpful."

    He then says he knows that his other colleague in the chamber will "clype on him" after this debate.