Labour call for Holyrood FMQs to go public once a year

First Ministers Question Time should go public say Labour. 'Picture: Ian Rutherford
First Ministers Question Time should go public say Labour. 'Picture: Ian Rutherford
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VOTERS should be allowed to take part in a special public session of First Minister’s Questions, Labour has said.

The party has called for the weekly question-and-answer session at Holyrood to move out of the capital once a year and allow members of the public to send questions directly to the First Minister.

The idea is among several Labour will submit to an independent commission set up by Holyrood Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh and charged with reviewing how the Scottish Parliament works.

Labour has also suggested a backbench MSP-only session of First Minister’s Questions and that the parliament’s Finance Committee undertake an annual tour to ensure people across Scotland have a chance to scrutinise the Scottish Government’s budget proposals.

Business manager James Kelly said the reforms would make the parliament more open and transparent.

He said: “The Scottish Parliament has more powers over tax and spending than ever before yet power is increasingly being centralised by this SNP government to Edinburgh.

“Labour will propose that Holyrood opens up its doors to the voters with an annual session outside Edinburgh where voters can send questions direct to the First Minister.

“There should also be more opportunities for backbenchers to question the First Minister.

“A genuine open session - with no questions published in advance - would give backbenchers a real chance to hold the government to account and raise issues which matter in their constituencies.

“Last year will go down as the year when the SNP government produced the least-scrutinised budget ever.

“What would previously be announced in September was only finally revealed in the week before Parliament broke up for the Christmas recess.

“Under our plans, the finance committee would tour Scotland, reaching out to every region to make sure that all of the country can feed in to the budget process.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Decisions on reforming parliamentary business are for the Scottish Parliament to consider and decide upon, although we are always open to any positive changes.

“This Government is already the most open and transparent ever. Travelling Cabinets are now a well-established feature, with Ministers touring the length and breadth of the country to engage with communities and to answer questions on any topic they choose to raise.

“The weekly First Minister’s Question time sessions have also been extended by 15 minutes at the First Minister’s suggestion, and she has also offered to appear more frequently before meetings of all committee convenors.

“Similarly there have never been more ways to get in touch with Scotland’s First Minister, either online, through her dedicated website, or at the large number of public events she attends every year.”

The commission, chaired by former Electoral Commissioner for Scotland John McCormick, issued a call for views which runs until February. It has also written to more than 200 organisations and launched an online survey seeking opinions from the public.