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by Louise Wilson
23 June 2021
Parliament to be recalled during recess for COVID statements

Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone has written to MSPs on the issue Picture: Alamy

Parliament to be recalled during recess for COVID statements

Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone has confirmed the Scottish Parliament will be recalled in two virtual sittings during the summer recess to hear COVID announcements.

Parliament will be recalled on 13 July and 3 August to hear the anticipated announcements and allow MSPs to ask questions of the Scottish Goverment.

Earlier, the Scottish Conservatives had proposed that the Scottish Parliament be recalled three times during the summer recess to allow Nicola Sturgeon to update MSPs about COVID-19.

Chief whip Stephen Kerr has asked presiding officer Alison Johnstone to allow the parliament to sit on 12 July, 2 August and 23 August.

It follows accusations that the First Minister was seeking to avoid parliamentary scrutiny by making statements to the press rather than MSPs.

Kerr said: “The First Minister should face scrutiny when making important decisions with huge consequences for people’s lives.

“I have asked the presiding officer to intervene and prevent the SNP government from choosing when and how they face questions from the opposition.

“Our proposal would recall the Scottish Parliament for just a few days over the two-month recess, which is not a big inconvenience over an issue of such magnitude.”

Earlier this week, the presiding officer reprimanded the Scottish Government for announcing new restrictions relating to the Manchester travel ban via written parliamentary question.

Johnstone said: “I understand this mechanism has been used on earlier occasions to make such announcements. Notably, in this case the announcement was made by GIQ [government inspired question] on Thursday 17 June, a sitting day when there may have been an opportunity for members to scrutinise the decision in the chamber.

“I would therefore ask the Minister for Parliamentary Business to reflect on whether GIQs are an appropriate method to use for these announcements on days when parliament is sitting.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney yesterday defended the use of this mechanism because it had previously used to make a similar announcement with regards to Bolton.

He said: “If that mechanism is no longer judged to be appropriate, the government will of course reflect on that, but we were simply using the same mechanism that we used back in May when we announced the decision on Bolton.

“The government will take away what the presiding officer has said, because we respect parliament.”

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said: “The Presiding Officer consulted with business managers at yesterday’s Bureau meeting. She has today written to members to confirm her decision to recall parliament on 13 July and 3 August to enable anticipated COVID announcements to be made in Parliament and for members to scrutinise the Scottish Government.”

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