Scott ensures scolding for SNP Government

The BBC has the story of how the  SNP Government received a ticking off from the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick yesterday. They’ve developed a bit of an unfortunate habit of leaking reports and the like to the press before sending them to Parliament, in the style of the excesses of the Labour Westminster government. This infuriated Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland, Tavish Scott, not known for his patience in dealing with the Government’s shortcomings at the best of times.

He raised a Point of Order in the Parliament yesterday, asking the Presiding Officer to intervene “in defence of the Parliament.”

He said:

The matter is important because the Government has promised another dozen reports in the coming weeks. Parliament is democratically elected. It may be inconvenient for ministers sometimes to have to stop what they are doing in order to report to Parliament, but that is the democratic system. We now have a situation in which the Scottish Government treats the Parliament with contempt.

Tricia Marwick agreed with him:

I have made my position clear on many occasions; I expect any major policy announcements by the Scottish Government always to be made to Parliament, in the first instance. The Scottish Government can inform Parliament in a range of ways, including inspired questions or ministerial statements. The paper to which Mr Scott refers is the second in a series of discussion papers, and I know that the issue was raised before, when the first paper was announced.

I ask the Scottish Government to reflect carefully on whether the method that was used for those particular announcements was appropriate and followed the good practice guidance on making announcements in Parliament. I add that the Scottish Government should always ensure that it treats Parliament with the respect that it deserves.

And the SNP’s excuse? It had been circulated. By email at 22:43 the previous evening. The Parliament’s staff were less than impressed, telling the BBC:

The process that was followed clearly does not comply with the good practice guidance on announcements and the Scottish ministerial code, which set out five ways the government should inform parliament.

The issuing of an electronic copy of the document to the email mailboxes of four parliamentary committees at 22:43 is not one of the five.

We’ll just have to see if the Government takes any notice.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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