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New Scottish Parliament committee to scrutinise Scottish Government response to coronavirus

Ken Macintosh - Image credit: David N Anderson/Holyrood

New Scottish Parliament committee to scrutinise Scottish Government response to coronavirus

A new Scottish Parliament committee will be created to allow MSPs to scrutinise the Scottish Government response to the COVID-19 outbreak, subject to parliamentary approval by MSPs next week.

The new nine-member committee will be set with four SNP, two Conservative, one Labour, one Green and one Lib Dem MSP, with a Conservative convener and Labour deputy convener.

It would last for the duration of any emergency coronavirus legislation.

The proposed remit is to consider and report on the Scottish Government’s response to COVID-19, including the operation of powers under the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act, the UK Coronavirus Act and any other legislation in relation to COVID 19.

Proposed committee membership will be published ahead of the vote to create the committee, which is scheduled for when parliament returns from the Easter break on Tuesday.

MSPs will also be asked to change standing orders to allow parliamentary committees to hold formal meetings online.

Scottish Parliament presiding officer Ken Macintosh has written to MSPs to outline the new proposals.

He wrote: “In closing proceedings at Holyrood two weeks ago, I spoke of the importance of Parliament continuing to function amidst this public health crisis, to provide opportunities for members to carry on holding the government to account and representing their constituents’ views and concerns, while at the same time avoiding putting anyone at undue risk.

“Exploring and testing new technologies to enable us to extend virtual scrutiny arrangements to more and more members, and in different formats, has therefore been a key priority for colleagues and parliamentary officials during this time.

“With two leaders’ virtual question sessions to the First Minister now under our belt, we turn our attention to members’ virtual questions [on Friday], where many more members will have an opportunity to question various cabinet secretaries on the Scottish Government’s response to COVID-19.

“Building on and learning from our earlier experiences, the Parliamentary Bureau is continuing to look at other options for remote plenary sessions as well as arrangements for meeting safely at Holyrood, including social distancing measures and proxy voting, for when we do need to come together in person.”

He added: “The parliament, like every area of life, is adapting and responding to a challenging set of circumstances and it is unlikely we will be able to return to our normal routine for some time.

“However, during this crisis, I am confident that the measures we continue to put in place will ensure the parliament can function as the place for scrutiny, transparency and government accountability.”

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