Committee system is not fit for purpose

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THE rejection of presiding ­officer Tricia Marwick’s call for Holyrood committees to have their heads elected (your report, 25 June) came as no surprise. 

The newly published report of the standards, procedures and public appointments committee (SPPA) makes fairly anodyne reading – again not a surprise since Ms Marwick’s proposal was a fairly anodyne one in the first place. Electing heads of committees would make little or no difference, as the SPPA concludes. 

A major defect of the committee system can be seen in the composition of the SPPA committee itself. It consists of four SNP MSPs and three from the other parties. Such is the make-up of most committees. Regardless of which party is in government, I do not see how such a system has the ability to hold it to account.

More radical steps are needed. It seems obvious that no single party should have a majority of members on a committee. This current system explains why so many committee reports are littered with the phrase “agreed by division”, that is forced through by the party holding the majority of members. ­Publication of draft reports along with final reports would also be a step in the right direction.

The committee system is not fit for purpose. I sincerely hope that the SPPA committee will follow up its promise to carry out “a focused and practical discussion about the steps needed to strengthen committees’ ability to ­scrutinise legislation and policy and hold the government to account”. 

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue

Edinburgh

I WAS interested to note (“MSPs plan Holyrood committee reform inquiry”, your report, 25 June) that Stewart Stevenson MSP, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s SPPA committee, quotes a recent inquiry as having concluded that, “change is needed in the Scottish Parliament committee system”.

Mr Stevenson, however, seems reluctant to embrace radical change of how the committees act, but instead favours simply changing the way the committee members are ­selected.

As someone who has had a fair experience of the ins and outs of Holyrood committees, I would strongly disagree with Mr Stevenson.

The Holyrood committee system started life as the “jewel in the crown” of the Scottish Parliament but over the years has degenerated into being a “boil on its bum”.

Tinkering with the system is not enough. MSPs have spoiled a good idea and it is time that the Scottish public had a real say in parliamentary committees.

Tom Minogue

Victoria Terrace

Dunfermline, Fife

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