Call to end MSP twitter ban

by Oct 18, 2011 1 Comment

Green MSP Patrick Harvie has set down a motion calling for the Scottish Parliament to end its ban on tweeting during debates.

Last week MPs voted to continue to allow the responsible use of social media in the House of Commons. However, MSPs are currently blocked from doing so by the Scottish Parliament’s code of conduct, which prohibits the use of electronic devices in the chamber.

Patrick Harvie MSP said the ban makes Holyrood look like it is “stuck in the twentieth century.”

“Holyrood has always been ahead of Westminster on public engagement, from the innovative Petitions Committee to the decision to allow TV interviews in the building, a move which led the House of Commons to open up too. Now Westminster has set a lead on Twitter and social media while Holyrood looks stuck in the twentieth century,” he said.

This change should also be “self-policing”, he said, adding that “any MSP who tweets about the football while there’s an important debate going on will quickly be found out.”

Harvie argued the change could increase public engagement about the work of MSPs and the Parliament.

“Public confidence in politics is still at a low ebb, and we should not be ruling out any constructive ways to engage people with the process. Twitter and Facebook can open up our discussions to the electorate, and we should have nothing to fear from that,” he said.

Harvie spoke to Holyrood Daily last week about how it may be time to “relax the rules” on the use of social networking and electronic devices during debates.

The motion in Patrick Harvie’s name reads as follows: S4M-01085 – Social Media in the Scottish Parliament That the Parliament notes the decision of members of the House of Commons to permit the responsible use of mobile devices and social media in the debating chamber; considers that debates would not benefit if members used electronic devices in ways that did not relate to the subject under debate; notes, however, that members are already expected not to read in the chamber printed material that is unrelated to the debate and that a similar rule could apply to the use of electronic devices; considers that the use of social media during parliamentary debates can be a way of engaging the public in the political process and can enhance democratic participation, and would welcome consideration of a possible change to the Parliament’s rules by the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, the Presiding Officer and members themselves.

Should MSPs be allowed to tweet from the Holyrood chamber? Vote now in Holyrood magazine’s opinion poll at www.holyrood.com

Katie Mackintosh Katie Mackintosh

Katie is Holyrood magazine's Health Correspondent and has been with the magazine since 2005. She has an MA in Sociology with Gender from Edinburgh University and a post graduate diploma in Journalism from Napier University. Katie has been named PPA Scotland Feature Writer of the Year three times - in 2008, 2009, and again in 2013. She was also shortlisted for magazine writer of the year at the Scottish Press Awards in 2012. An Aberdonian by birth but a Glaswegian by nature, she now lives in Fife with her husband and young...

1 Comment

  1. Jennie Kermode

    Should social media be allowed in the chamber? Absolutely! The facts on which a debate rests can easily change during discussion and social media have the potential to allow members to keep up to date. Contemporary politics is an organic, constantly evolving process and it is ridiculous that those responsible for making key decisions should be kept in isolation from important, relevant information available to everybody outside the chamber.

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