During this session the Scottish Parliament will turn 21, and in its lifetime we will have seen coalition, majority and minority government, further devolution of powers and a digital revolution. The time is therefore right for us to reflect on our experience and take a serious look at how the Parliament should evolve to ensure it best meets the needs of the Scottish people. I believe an independent, external Commission is the best vehicle for achieving that.
The Parliament’s systems are not broken but they are in need of an MOT. This is not about revisiting the work of the Consultative Steering Group, our founding principles are as relevant today as they were in 1999. Instead I am asking the Commission to take a fresh look at how we conduct our business and to deliver practical recommendations for change.
In 1999 the Scottish Parliament was hailed as ground breaking, bringing a new, inclusive style of politics to Scotland. However, over the last decade or more, we have seen Scottish politics become increasingly tribal and divisive. This has, among other things, made it challenging for MSPs to find the space to develop in their distinct role as parliamentarians.
I want the Commission’s work, therefore, to help bring the Parliament back to its roots, ensuring Holyrood is open, transparent, truly participative and fit for the significant challenges which lie ahead.
I am delighted that John McCormick, who stands down as Electoral Commissioner for Scotland at the end of this year, has agreed to Chair the Commission which will consider ways in which the Parliament can:
- be assured it has the right checks and balances in place for the effective conduct of parliamentary business;
- increase its engagement with wider society and the public; and
- clarify its identity as distinct from the Scottish Government.
I am also pleased to have the support of all Party Leaders in the Scottish Parliament. Further information on the Commission can be found at: www.parliamentaryreform.scot