Expectation versus reality: Holyrood’s original steering group deliver their assessment of the Scottish Parliament at twenty


Ahead of an event at the Scottish Parliament’s Festival of Politics this weekend, Members of the original Consultative Steering Group (CSG), who helped shape the Parliament’s procedures, have published their reflections on how Holyrood has lived up to their aspirations.

CSG Members were invited to Holyrood over the summer by the Presiding Officer, Rt Hon Ken Macintosh MSP, to discuss whether Scotland’s new politics transpired as they envisaged.

The nine original CSG members who met found that the Scottish Parliament has become a central and permanent part of Scottish life, and that their vision for a participative, open and accessible Parliament has thrived in the first 20 years.

However, they also commented that politics has been more polarised and tribal than they expected, and that while Committees have achieved much over the last 20 years, the sheer weight of their legislative workload has meant they have had limited capacity to undertake other important elements of their role.

Speaking ahead of the Festival event on Saturday, Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh MSP, said:

“The CSG’s contribution to setting up the Parliament was so valuable I thought in this, our 20th anniversary year, we should capture their reflections on how the Parliament has performed against the founding principles.

“Their report provides us with a number of interesting, challenging ideas which I’m sure will form the basis of a great debate at this weekend’s Festival of Politics.

“There are already changes underway stemming from the Commission on Parliamentary Reform. The views of the CSG will be a great contribution to the ongoing debate on how the Parliament can continue to grow and develop.”

Consultative Steering Group Chair, Rt Hon Henry McLeish, added:

“We were delighted to be asked by the Presiding Officer to consider our original report in light of the experiences of the Parliament’s first twenty years. CSG Members have all continued to play important roles in Scottish public life and watched the Parliament mature and thrive with pride.

“While we could never have imagined in the late 1990s what Scotland and the world would look like in 2019, we are pleased that the foundations we recommended for the Parliament were solid. It has been a huge success in its first twenty years.

“That said, all institutions must continue to evolve to ensure they are relevant and responsive to the environment they are operating in. We hope that our thoughts are a helpful contribution to the ongoing work around parliamentary reform.”


The report can be found here: Consultative Steering Group: Reflections on 20 years of the Scottish Parliament

The Festival of Politics event discussing this report is ‘Expectation versus reality: the Parliament at 20’, between 5 – 6:30 on Saturday 12 October. Some tickets are still available from www.parliament.scot/festival.

Members of the CSG who contributed to the discussion that was the basis of this report were:

  • Rt Hon Henry McLeish (chair)
  • Professor Alice Brown CBE
  • Sir Andrew Cubie CBE
  • Keith Geddes
  • Dame Deirdre Hutton DBE
  • Joyce McMillan
  • Sir George Reid
  • Esther Robertson
  • Lord Wallace of Tankerness, QC


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