Committee conveners able to investigate complaints against themselves under current system
A loophole that hands conveners of Holyrood committees sole responsibility to investigate complaints over their own conduct is on the verge of being closed following a review of the rules guiding MSPs conduct.
Under the Code of Conduct, which sets out the principles and standards of conduct expected of MSPs undertaking their Parliamentary duties, complaints regarding the conduct of members within the chamber and in committee meetings are referred to the Presiding Officer (PO) and committee convener respectively.
A decision taken on whether to refer a complaint to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee can therefore fall to the convener – even if the dispute centres around their own conduct.
In a review published today, the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee has recommended the procedure be overhauled and PO Tricia Marwick take the reins when the convener’s behaviour is called into question.
The committee’s report reads: “Section 9.1.6(a) of the Code currently provides that complaints about conduct in Committee are referred to the Convener. This would include a complaint about the Convener. Conveners can therefore find themselves in the uncomfortable position of investigating a complaint against themself.
“The Committee highlighted in its initial consultation its view that there should be an alternative mechanism for considering complaints about the Convener, to avoid investigation falling to the Convener.
“This was supported by the Conveners Group, the Public Standards Commissioner and the Scottish Government, all of whom suggested that the Presiding Officer should consider complaints about conveners. The Committee understands that the Presiding Officer is content with this proposal.
“The Committee agreed that it would be appropriate for the Presiding Officer to consider these complaints and the Code has been amended on this basis at paragraph 9.1.6(a).”
Parliament will now be asked to agree to the change, which forms part of a wider package of provisions the Committee has drawn up fresh from the inquiry.