‘Unusual summer’ for the Scottish Parliament with proposal for weekly meetings during recess
The Scottish Parliament may continue to sit through the summer recess period on a weekly basis, and could also resume three weeks earlier than normal, under a proposal by the Parliamentary Bureau.
In an email to MSPs on Tuesday evening, Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said as the country begins to take its first steps out of lockdown “it’s clear that this is going to be a very unusual summer for everyone across Scotland and the parliament is no exception”.
“There remains an active need for scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and for the parliament to therefore revisit its normal approach to recess,” he said.
“Following discussion earlier today, the Parliamentary Bureau has unanimously agreed that members should have the opportunity to meet on a weekly basis each Thursday throughout the summer period.”
He said the bulk of the meetings would be virtual “statement-led sessions”, with topics arranged by the bureau at least a week in advance.
“However, the expectation remains that major government announcements will continue to be made to the parliament at Holyrood, and therefore the First Minister will make statements to parliament on two of those dates, 9 and 30 July.
“Hybrid arrangements will, as now, be in place on those two dates to allow any member to participate remotely.”
Macintosh said the bureau also agreed that parliament would resume fully “on the earlier date of 11 August, coinciding with the expected return of many Scottish schools”. Parliament is currently set for summer recess from 27 June to 30 August.
The proposal will be put to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday at decision time.
Macintosh said the proposal strikes “the balance of enabling members to continue to scrutinise the government at this changing and uncertain time while avoiding any undue risk to members and staff.”.
“Although as Presiding Officer, I have powers to recall parliament should the need arise, the business managers and I wanted to enable colleagues to make plans for the weeks ahead with as much predictability as is possible in these difficult times,” he said.
“As always, the final say on parliament’s sitting times remains yours, and the collective approach from the bureau will be put to the whole parliament to agree tomorrow at decision time.”