Following discussions between Parties in the Scottish Parliament, the Presiding Officer has written to all MSPs to inform them that:
• A new Committee will be created to scrutinise the response to the Covid-19 outbreak, subject to Parliamentary approval.
• Next week, the Parliament will be asked to allow Committees to hold formal meetings online, by changing Standing Orders.
The new Committee would be made up of 9 Members (4 SNP, 2 Conservative, 1 Labour, 1 Green and 1 Lib Dem), with a Conservative Convener and Labour Deputy Convener. It would last for the duration of any emergency legislation. The proposed remit is below:
To consider and report on the Scottish Government’s response to COVID 19 including the operation of powers under the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act, the Coronavirus Act and any other legislation in relation to the response to COVID 19 and any secondary legislation arising from the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act and any other legislation in relation to the response to COVID 19.
Proposed Committee Membership will be available in the coming days and will be published in the Business Motion ahead of the vote to create the Committee scheduled for next Tuesday.
The full text of the Presiding Officer’s email is below:
In closing proceedings at Holyrood two weeks ago, I spoke of the importance of Parliament continuing to function amidst this public health crisis, to provide opportunities for members to carry on holding the government to account and representing their constituents’ views and concerns, while at the same time avoiding putting anyone at undue risk. Exploring and testing new technologies to enable us to extend virtual scrutiny arrangements to more and more members, and in different formats, has therefore been a key priority for colleagues and parliamentary officials during this time.
With two leaders’ virtual question sessions to the First Minister now under our belt, we turn our attention to members’ virtual questions tomorrow, where many more members will have an opportunity to question various Cabinet Secretaries on the Scottish Government’s response to Covid-19. Building on and learning from our earlier experiences, the Parliamentary Bureau is continuing to look at other options for remote plenary sessions as well as arrangements for meeting safely at Holyrood, including social distancing measures and proxy voting, for when we do need to come together in person. Committees have also been meeting informally online over the past two weeks and there are plans for a number of committees to hold formal meetings virtually from next week to discuss the impact of the Covid 19 outbreak on key priority areas within their remits.
As agreed previously, the Parliament resumes at Holyrood next Tuesday when it will, amongst other things, consider rule changes to allow these formal committee proceedings to be held online. The Parliament will also consider proposals agreed today by the Parliamentary Bureau to establish a new short-life committee focused specifically on the operation of powers under the recent emergency Covid-19 legislation and on any future related legislation, primary or secondary. The Committee would have nine members, with a Conservative Convener and Labour Deputy. As you would expect, we have given this proposal detailed consideration and consulted with the Conveners Group to ensure that this committee complements rather than overlaps with the work of existing committees and we are confident that the remit and structure we are proposing does just that. The fine details, including membership, are still to be confirmed and will be included in a motion on committee establishment to be published early next week.
The Parliament, like every area of life, is adapting and responding to a challenging set of circumstances and it is unlikely we will be able to return to our normal routine for some time. However, during this crisis, I am confident that the measures we continue to put in place will ensure the Parliament can function as the place for scrutiny, transparency and government accountability.
As ever, I will continue to keep you informed of developments and next steps in the days and weeks ahead. In the meantime, I hope you and those close to you continue to keep well at this very difficult time.
Rt Hon Ken Macintosh MSP