David Maddox: Addressing the mess of First Minister's Questions must be the first job of Holyrood's next presiding officer

According to sources in the Scottish Labour Party, it seems Hugh Henry, the recently crowned Scottish politician of the year, is the hot tip to become Holyrood's Presiding Officer after the 2011 election. As the only major party not to provide a Presiding Officer since the parliament was reinstituted in 1999, it is certainly Labour's turn to provide one.

And, after his steely performances as chairman of the public accounts committee, taking, amongst others, First Minister Alex Salmond to task, there is also little doubt that Mr Henry may bring some authority back to the position and force the party leaders, ministers and errant back-benchers to treat the place with more respect.

But if Mr Henry is to be bestowed with this honour, one thing he needs to do is sort out the appalling mess that is First Minister's Questions.

One thing that sitting through Prime Minister's Questions after a few years of First Minister's Questions has revealed to this writer is that the former is by far the more effective at holding the government to account.

Just look at the comparison in bold figures. Last week in Holyrood, nine MSPs asked Mr Salmond 20 questions. The day before, 20 MPs asked David Cameron 29 questions. This disparity is the norm.

In the Commons, the Prime Minister has to tackle far more subjects and is put under far more pressure than the First Minister at Holyrood. It holds the executive to account better and it widens the interest.

There is no doubt that the not particularly well-liked Commons Speaker John Bercow has improved matters by cutting long answers and chivvying MPs along, but some of the criticism of current Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson is not completely fair.

Mr Fergusson, who is much better liked, has failed to get on top of the chamber and has, in some people's eyes, failed to win respect. But, if you look at FMQs under his predecessor George Reid, widely recognised as the best of the three Presiding Officers so far, things were not much better. Take his last FMQs on 29 March, 2007 – ten MSPs asked 21 questions.

The problem is a cultural one, partly born of a slightly snooty attitude that Holyrood should avoid the "yah boo'"of Westminster.

It hasn't succeeded by any measure but it also hasn't taken on some of Westminster's better qualities either.

There is also the issue of the leaders – and particularly Alex Salmond and Iain Gray – simply rambling on interminably, to the extent that by the time the party leaders have had their questions there is often time for only a few back-bench questions.

The problem also spreads into the debates where, as Mr Henry interestingly noted last week, the quality needs to be raised, perhaps by allowing politicians to actually talk for longer, although this would require them staying later and not rushing home for their tea at 5pm sharp.