An independent commission is to review the operation of the Scottish Parliament in holding the Scottish Government to account and its engagement with the Scottish public.
Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh announced that the Commission on Parliamentary Reform will be chaired by John McCormick, who stands down as Electoral Commissioner for Scotland at the end of this year, with other members to be appointed from the voluntary and private sectors as well as the political parties.
Set up with all-party support, the Commission’s remit is to consider ways in which the Parliament can:
- be assured it has the right checks and balances in place for the effective conduct of parliamentary business;
- increase its engagement with wider society and the public; and
- clarify its identity as distinct from the Scottish Government.
It is expected to consider fundamental issues such as the role of Parliament in scrutinising legislation, the conduct of committees and chamber business, and how public engagement in the legislative process can be improved. It will submit its report to the Presiding Officer in June 2017.
Explaining the move, Mr Macintosh said: “During this session the Scottish Parliament will turn 21, and in its lifetime we will have seen coalition, majority and minority government, further devolution of powers and a digital revolution. The time is therefore right for us to reflect on our experience and take a serious look at how the Parliament should evolve to ensure it best meets the needs of the Scottish people. I believe an independent, external commission is the best vehicle for achieving that.
“The Parliament’s systems are not broken but they are in need of an MOT. This is not about revisiting the work of the Consultative Steering Group: our founding principles are as relevant today as they were in 1999. Instead I am asking the commission to take a fresh look at how we conduct our business and to deliver practical recommendations for change."
He continued: “In 1999 the Scottish Parliament was hailed as groundbreaking, bringing a new, inclusive style of politics to Scotland. However, over the last decade or more, we have seen Scottish politics become increasingly tribal and divisive. This has, among other things, made it challenging for MSPs to find the space to develop in their distinct role as parliamentarians.
“I want the commission’s work, therefore, to help bring the Parliament back to its roots, ensuring Holyrood is open, transparent, truly participative and fit for the significant challenges which lie ahead.”
Mr McCormick added: “The commission has a wide and substantial remit, so we’ll be getting down to business as soon as possible. Hearing the views of the public will be key to informing our work and we will be announcing shortly how people can get in touch with us and make their voice heard.
“Holyrood was designed as a Parliament for all of Scotland, so the commission will want to hear from people right across the country and from all walks of life about how they think their Parliament could work better for them.”
For further information on the commission see www.parliamentaryreform.scot