LibLink: Tavish Scott: One party rule is harming Holyrood

This week, Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick put forward proposals which she said would strengthen the Parliament’s role in holding the Scottish Government to account as the Herald reports:

Under her plan, conveners of Holyrood’s 20 committees would be elected by their fellow MSPs, rather than installed by their party chiefs.

The move, which would be one of the most far-reaching reforms of the Parliament since its creation in 1999, would help remove party politics from the often sensitive work of committees, she believes.

Ms Marwick also threatened to put time limits on exchanges at First Minister’s Questions.

Trouble is, her proposals kind of depend on no one party having a majority, unlike the current situation.

Tavish Scott noticed that, and wrote a response in the Scotsman about how one-party rule is harming the Scottish Parliament.

The Presiding Officer now proposes that Holyrood committee conveners could be elected by the whole parliament and not appointed by their parties. It is a reasonable idea. But only if parliament was to forget politics on the day of these elections, and that seems unlikely. Currently, parties are allocated conveners in proportion to their seats in parliament. That is a fair principle. Marwick proposes retaining that. A party then chooses a particular MSP to chair a committee. Instead, Marwick wants the entire parliament to vote in each convener. In the current parliament, that would enshrine power in the hands of the SNP whips and in reality, that means Alex Salmond. Nothing happens in parliament without Salmond’s assent. The SNP controls parliamentary business, votes and the timetabling of legislation. That is what one-party rule means. Marwick now proposes that a majority government would in effect appoint conveners of committees, thus enshrining patronage and loyalty. A minority or coalition government might ensure a more open contest.

You can read the whole article here.

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