Holyrood reform bid to address ‘tribal and divisive politics’

Holyrood will debate whether the call for Scotland to remain in the single market.
Holyrood will debate whether the call for Scotland to remain in the single market.
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The Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer is to establish an independent commission to see if reform of Holyrood can overcome the “tribal and divisive” nature of Scottish politics.

Ken Macintosh has announced that the commission will be chaired by John McCormick once he steps down as the Electoral Commissioner for Scotland.

The establishment of the commission follows concern that Holyrood is not scrutinising legislation as effectively as it could be.

When Holyrood was founded in 1999 it was assumed that parties would have to do deals or form a coalition to govern effectively and finely balanced committees would examine legislation.

However, the rise of the SNP has led to concerns that the institution is no longer fit for purpose when it comes to holding the Scottish Government to account.

Those voicing concerns were particularly vocal when the SNP managed to achieve an overall majority in the last parliament.

The recent dominance of the Nationalists has had an impact on Holyrood’s committees which have tended to have a SNP majority leading to claims that legislation is not being looked at critically enough.

Mr Macintosh said the commission would look at Holyrood’s “checks and balances”, would “clarify its identity as distinct from the Scottish Government” and engage with the public at large.

Mr Macintosh 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.”