MSPs vote to establish 16 scrutiny committees - with SNP controlling half

The Scottish Parliament has agreed to set up 16 scrutiny committees after a row which saw the process delayed by over a fortnight.

MSPs from all parties had been deadlocked since the election last month over the creation of the committees, which are expected to hold the government to account and scrutinise proposed legislation.

Calls had been made for their powers to be strengthened after the temporary committee set up to examine the government’s handling of sexual harassment complaints against former first minister Alex Salmond struggled to get the information it demanded from the government in the last session.

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It was believed the SNP – the largest party – had pushed to have majorities on key committees, but opposition MSPs raised concerns that could neuter the system.

The Scottish Parliament has agreed to establish 16 committees.
The Scottish Parliament has agreed to establish 16 committees.

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Now the Parliament has voted to establish 16 committees despite SNP ministers reportedly wanting to cut the numbers to 12, with membership to be decided later this week.

The SNP will chair half the committees, with convenership of the others split between the opposition parties.

Education and health will be the largest committees with ten members each, and will be chaired by a Conservative MSP and an SNP MSP respectively.

A new Covid recovery committee, which will only consist of six MSPs, will also be chaired by the SNP, with its remit being to consider and report on matters relating to Covid-19 which fall within the responsibility of Cabinet secretary John Swinney and other ministers, including the operation of powers under the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act, the Coronavirus Act and any other legislation in relation to the response to the pandemic.

Six other committees – constitution, finance, social justice and social security, equalities and human rights, criminal justice and delegated powers and law reform committees – will also all be chaired by SNP MSPs.

As well as education, the Conservatives will chair the committees for public petitions, net zero, energy and transport, and the rural affairs, islands and natural environment.

The Scottish Greens will chair a committee for only the second time – local government, housing and planning – as well as having a deputy convenership on the equalities committee.

Scottish Labour will chair the economy committee along with the standards, procedures and public appointments committee as well as the public audit committee.

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