Tory MSP to launch Bill to meet 'pressing need' of Holyrood reform

How the Scottish Parliament scrutinises government legislation and operates could be set for a radical overhaul should a member's Bill be backed by MSPs.

Donald Cameron, the Conservative constitution spokesperson, announced his intention on Wednesday to lodge a member’s Bill that would focus on parliamentary reform in Holyrood.

It follows several years of complaints from opposition MSPs and former Cabinet ministers, such as the SNP’s Alex Neil, who have called for reform of the Parliament’s committee system.

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The latter was initially established with the intent of being a powerful tool of scrutiny. But critics have said the failure to see committee conveners elected by MSPs rather than the existing system has weakened their ability to properly scrutinise legislation.

The filibuster techniques used by the Scottish Conservatives during the passage of the Gender Recognition Reform Act has also sparked calls for reform.

In the chamber, Mr Cameron said: “There are increasing concerns that the Scottish Parliament’s processes are inadequate when it comes to the legislative scrutiny of the executive and for that reason I intend to bring forward a member’s Bill on parliamentary reform.

"Can I take this opportunity to invite the Scottish Government to work constructively with me on this project and in the first instance, will the minister meet with me so that we can discuss these issues together?”

It is understood the exact nature of the reforms are yet to be decided upon, with the work on the Bill at a very early stage.

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron is set to launch a member's bill aimed at reforming Holyrood.Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron is set to launch a member's bill aimed at reforming Holyrood.
Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron is set to launch a member's bill aimed at reforming Holyrood.

A member’s Bill requires the support of at least another 18 MSPs from a number of political parties to proceed. Examples of this in this Parliament include the buffer zones bill from Green MSP Gillian Mackay and the assisted dying bill from Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur.

Mr Cameron later told The Scotsman there was a “pressing need” for reform.

He said: “Over the last year it has become increasingly clear that the ability of the Scottish Parliament to robustly hold the executive to account has been found wanting, and there is a pressing need for meaningful reform.

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“All parties seem to agree that change is needed, and with the 25th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament coming up next year, it seems an ideal time to review the processes of the Parliament as an institution.

“Although my members’ Bill is in its infancy, my aim is to deliver something that improves the function of our Parliament, and I am eager to hear from all parties and external stakeholders to achieve this.”

Responding in the chamber, George Adam, the minister for parliamentary business, said he did not agree with some of the points made, but that he would be “happy to meet” to discuss the proposals.

He said: “Although I do not agree with some of the points that the member made, I’m quite happy to meet with him and discuss things as we move forward. On the whole, I believe we do work with those in opposition and other parties and with the committee system to ensure that scrutiny is there for the Scottish Government.”

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