Parliament set to lengthen First Minister's questions

FIRST Minister’s Question Time is set to be extended as part of sweeping changes in the way the Scottish Parliament goes about its business.

Presiding Officer George Reid is proposing the weekly slot should be lengthened by ten minutes to half an hour in order to give backbenchers and the smaller parties a fair share of the time.

In a letter to First Minister Jack McConnell, Mr Reid said the parliament had "a very different chamber post May 1" and reforms were needed to reflect that.

He also proposed backbenchers should be allowed longer speeches during debates, starting next Thursday when MSPs debate the Executive’s programme for government.

He said he would recommend the longer First Minister’s Question Time to the new procedures committee when it is formed.

Mr Reid welcomed Mr McConnell’s suggestion that individual ministers should be grilled more thoroughly by MSPs and estimated that the procedures committee would be able to report on that by the end of October. He also took up the call for changes to the hours that Parliament sits.