Commission set up to tackle 'tribal' Scottish Parliament

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh has set up an independent commission on parliamentary reform to help Holyrood cope with 'increasingly tribal and divisive' politics in Scotland.

Picture: Kate Chandler

The commission is likely to consider issues including the role of Parliament in scrutinising legislation, the conduct of committees and chamber business, and how public engagement in the legislative process can be improved.

Its remit includes considering ways Parliament can ensure it has the right checks and balances in place for the effective conduct of parliamentary business, and how Parliament can clarify its identity as distinct from the Scottish Government.

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John McCormick, who stands down as Electoral Commissioner for Scotland at the end of this year, will chair the commission, which has cross-party support from all leaders at Holyrood.

Mr Macintosh said the Parliament should “evolve to meet the best needs of the Scottish people”.

He said: “The Parliament’s systems are not broken but they are in need of an MoT.

“This is not about revisiting the work of the Consultative Steering Group, our founding principles are as relevant today as they were in 1999. Instead I am asking the commission to take a fresh look at how we conduct our business and to deliver practical recommendations for change.

“In 1999 the Scottish Parliament was hailed as ground breaking, bringing a new, inclusive style of politics to Scotland. However, over the last decade or more we have seen Scottish politics become increasingly tribal and divisive.

“This has, among other things, made it challenging for MSPs to find the space to develop in their distinct role as parliamentarians.

“I want the commission’s work, therefore, to help bring the Parliament back to its roots, ensuring Holyrood is open, transparent, truly participative and fit for the significant challenges which lie ahead.”

Mr McCormick said: “The commission has a wide and substantial remit so we’ll be getting down to business as soon as possible. Hearing the views of the public will be key to informing our work and we will be announcing shortly how people can get in touch with us and make their voice heard.”