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by Tom Freeman
31 October 2014
Presiding officer looks to committee reform

Presiding officer looks to committee reform

Scottish Parliamentary committees could be chaired by conveners elected by fellow MSPs, in reforms suggested by the parliament’s presiding officer Tricia Marwick.

In a letter to Holyrood’s Procedures Committee to instigate an inquiry, Marwick said: “The approach of the convener has a significant impact on how effectively committees function and how they are perceived. Being elected would provide additional authority and status to these influential parliamentarians. This would support conveners in their scrutiny role and would set a confident example for other committee members seeking to become more prominent.”

The committee system is currently designed for the political parties to appoint conveners, but the SNP’s unexpected overall majority has led opposition parties to accuse several committees of obstructing business.

Labour’s Kezia Dugdale said committee reform was needed. “I think it’s the consequence of having a majority government in a parliament that wasn’t designed for that. If you’ve got a majority on almost every committee you have the ability to do things like park uncomfortable news or uncomfortable issues,” she told Holyrood recently.

The Presiding Officer’s intention is for the measure, if agreed, to be in place for the start of the next parliamentary session following the 2016 Scottish Election.

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