Correspondence

The Public Petitions System

The Convener of the Public Petitions Committee, Johann Lamont, wrote to the Committee to request changes to Standing Order Rules governing the operation of the petitions system. The Committee took evidence from Johann Lamont on 3 December to explore the proposed changes in more detail.

The Committee agreed to consult on the proposed changes and wrote to all MSPs on 22 December 2020. The responses the Committee received are in Annexe C of its report.

The SPPA Committee published a report on 9 March 2021 recommending to the Parliament that the Rules at 15.5 on the admissibility of petitions be changed. 

The changes to Standing Orders were agreed by Parliament on 17 March 2021.

The remit of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee

The Convener of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee wrote to the SPPA in 2019 to ask the SPPA Committee to consider a revision to Standing Orders so that “and Human Rights” was included permanently in the Equalities Committee remit.

The SPPA Committee considered this request and agreed to consult the Justice Committee and the Parliamentary Bureau. The Justice Committee did not raise and concerns and the Parliamentary Bureau made some comments in its letter.

The SPPA Committee published a report on 2 March 2021 recommending to the Parliament that a permanent change be made to Rule 6.9. 

The changes to Standing Orders were agreed by Parliament on 17 March 2021.

Presiding Officer’s determination to identify a Scottish Law Commission Bills

Rule 9.17A.1 of Standing Orders defines a Scottish Law Commission Bill, including a provision that such a Bill must comply with such criteria as shall be determined by the Presiding Officer.

In November 2020, the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee (DPLRC)  wrote to the Committee to highlight the review it had published of the Presiding Officer's determination to identify a Scottish Law Commission Bill.

In December 2020, the Presiding Officer wrote to the SPPA Committee inviting it to examine the findings of the DPLRC’s review.

The Committee considered the DPLRC Committee’s review in the context of the Standing Order Rule and wrote to the Presiding Officer to confirm that it was content with the revised determination.

Urgent questions to the SPCB 

Gordon MacDonald wrote to the SPPA Committee at the end of 2019 to ask it to consider a change to Standing Orders to enable urgent questions to be put to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB). He stated—

           “I believe that such a mechanism is necessary for when there are occasions when urgent questions need to be raised with the SPCB.”

The SPPA Committee wrote to the Presiding Officer in his capacity as chair of the SPCB and the Parliamentary Bureau and considered his responses. The Committee agreed at its meeting of 28 January that there was a case for providing for urgent questions to the SPCB and decided to consult the SPCB, the Parliamentary Bureau and MSPs.

At its meeting on 4 March 2021 the Committee agreed Standing Order Rule Changes in relation to SPCB urgent questions. The Committee published its report on 9 March 2021.

The changes to Standing Orders were agreed by Parliament on 17 March 2021.

Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland

The Committee responded to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life’s consultation on prospective revisions to the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland.

The Committee has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance about the appointment of Willie Watt as Chair of the Scottish National Investment Bank.

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance attended the Committee’s meeting on 11 February. The Committee sought some further information following the meeting

Members’ work outside Parliament

The Committee received some correspondence on 30 October 2019 from Gordon MacDonald MSP about the Code of Conduct Rules which restrict MSPs’ ability to work as lobbyists or parliamentary advisers. Mr MacDonald proposed that these could be tightened up. The Committee responded to Gordon MacDonald’s letter on 2 March 2020. The Committee reviewed the Rules in this area, agreed that they were fit for purpose but agreed to issue a reminder to all MSPs and to keep the matter under review.

 

Remote Voting

The Committee received some correspondence on 28 January 2020 from Gail Ross MSP about Remote Voting.

The Committee responded to Gail Ross on 27 February 2020.

 

Proxy voting

The Committee received some correspondence on 5 February 2019 from David Stewart MSP about proxy voting.

The Committee responded to David Stewart’s letter on 5 March 2019. The Committee thought it would be helpful to await the outcome of a review of the pilot scheme in the House of Commons on proxy voting in order to determine what lessons could be learned about how proxy voting had worked in practice – and whether these might be applicable to the Scottish Parliament. The Committee therefore intends to return to the issue of proxy voting as part of its future work programme.

On 12 March 2020, the Committee agreed to ask MSPs for their views on whether proxy voting should be introduced in the Scottish Parliament. 

Law Officers Answering Questions in the Chamber

The Committee has received correspondence from Mike Rumbles MSP and Adam Tomkins MSP about the Law Officers answering questions in the Chamber. 

The Committee discussed this correspondence and agreed to write to the Scottish Government to ask for its views on the points it raised, and the proposal that Standing Orders should be amended. The Committee also agreed to seek information from the Scottish Government on how it is decided which oral questions are answered by the Law Officers and which by other Ministers.

Following receipt of the response from the Scottish Government, the Committee discussed it at its meeting on 16 May and Mike Rumbles presented his case for revising Standing Orders. The Committee then questioned the Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans on the proposal at an evidence session on 30 May

Following the evidence session with the Minister, the Committee discussed the issue and agreed that Standing Orders should not be changed and wrote to Mike Rumbles MSP And Adam Tomkins MSP to inform them of its decision. A copy of these letters is available below.

The letter from the Convener of the SPPA Committee to the Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans includes a copy of the original correspondence from Mike Rumbles MSP and Adam Tomkins MSP. 

The Committee received a response from the Scottish Government on 20 March 2019. 

Freedom of Information

At its meeting on 29 June the Committee considered the resolution of the Parliament agreed on 21 June 2017 on Scottish Government compliance with the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, and noted the call for an independent inquiry and for post legislative scrutiny of the Act. The Committee agreed to write to the SPCB and, subsequently, the Scottish Government to seek their views on this matter.

Commission for Parliamentary Reform

At its meeting on 20 April 2017 the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee took evidence from the Commission on Parliamentary Reform. After that meeting the Chair of the Commission, John McCormick, wrote to the Committee with some additional information.

Scotland Act 2016

The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee has been considering Standing Order rules changes in relation to the Scotland Act 2016 - super-majorities.

At its meeting on 2 March 2017 the Committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government for its views on the proposed Standing Order rule changes.

Acting Conveners

Parliamentary Liaison Officers

The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee has been considering the issue of Parliamentary Liaison Officers.

At its meeting on 17 November 2016 the Committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government to recommend that the Ministerial Code be revised to extend the requirement on Parliamentary Liaison Officers to declare their status.

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