Tory MSP Murdo Fraser to contest Presiding Officer role

Senior Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser has announced he will be running for the vacant role of Presiding Officer at Holyrood with a pledge to make Parliament 'more effective' in holding the Scottish Government to account.

Murdo Fraser. Picture: Andrew Cowan

Mr Fraser, who was convenor of the economy committee in the last Parliament, wants to reform the much criticised Holyrood committee system and allow back-bench MSPs a greater say in debates.

He will face competition from Labour’s Johann Lamont, Ken Macintosh and Elaine Smith, with another Conservative, John Scott, also expected to stand in tomorrow’s election.

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Mr Fraser says he has shown the ability to chair Holyrood committees in a “fair, balanced and non-partisan fashion.”

He said: “I believe that I have the knowledge, experience and authority to fulfil the role.

“This Parliament is steadily acquiring more powers – a process I have long championed – and we need to ensure that our procedures and processes are adequate to the task of properly scrutinising legislation and holding the Government to account.”

He hailed the previous post-holder Tricia Marwick as a “ground-breaking, reforming Presiding Officer.”

“It is important that whoever takes over from her continues with the reform agenda,” Mr Fraser added.

At the top of the his agenda is reform of the Holyrood committee system after the SNP majority administration in the last Parliament meant the party dominated the committees. It led to concerns that criticism of ministers was often being watered down.

Mr Fraser today pledged “reform of the Committee system to ensure that, in a unicameral system, our committees provide more effective scrutiny of legislation and Government.”

They will also have the capacity to undertake proper post-legislative scrutiny.

Holyrood question times will also be livened up with the introduction of “open questions” for opposition MSPs, while backbenchers, from Government and opposition Parties, would also be given more chance to question Government ministers, including Nicola Sturgeon, and contribute to debates.

He added: “I hope that if I do become Presiding Officer I can work with Members to enhance the reputation of this institution with all the good work that we do in it.”