Call for Scottish Parliament reforms to boost openness

Scottish Parliament
Image caption The Scottish Parliament Business secretary has called for reforms of the parliament

Reforms are needed to ensure Holyrood is more open, responsive and in tune with the public, the parliamentary business secretary has said.

Bruce Crawford has called for a review to raise standards at the Scottish Parliament.

He also said that there should be greater scrutiny of legislation and engagement with the public.

Labour welcomed the moves, but criticised the SNP's dominance of committees.

Mr Crawford said that while structural and procedural changes were needed, any reforms needed to go further.

He highlighted several potential areas for improvement, including:

  • Ensuring quicker responses to public concerns
  • Greater pre- and post-legislative scrutiny
  • More focussed committee inquiries
  • Encouraging committees to bring forward their own bills
  • Changing the chamber sitting times
  • More flexible rules on contributions from backbenchers

Mr Crawford said: "Scotland's legislature is founded on a distinctive and progressive vision - one in which the government, the parliament and the people work in partnership to shape our nation's destiny and deliver the policies Scotland needs.

"Holding the government to account may seem more relevant now that there is a majority government but this is not the first time such a majority has held sway across parliament - the first eight years were dominated by a coalition which also held a majority of committee conveners and members.

"I have already taken steps to ensure the smaller parties have committee places and that the Liberal Democrats are represented on the Parliamentary Bureau. But we need to go further."

Labour Business Manager Paul Martin said the parliament was never designed for majority rule, so attempts to introduce more checks and balances were welcome.

He added: "But these suggested reforms don't change the fact that by dominating every committee and then electing one of their own as presiding officer the SNP are already acting as judge, jury and executioner.

"Labour will engage positively with this process to ensure the parliament lives up to the expectations of the people of Scotland and will bring forward its own proposals to make the parliament more accountable."

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