Holyrood’s original steering group members asked: has the Scottish Parliament lived up to its founding principles?


Members of the original Consultative Steering Group, who helped define how the new Scottish Parliament should work in practice, have reconvened today at the Scottish Parliament to consider whether Holyrood has lived up to its founding principles.

At the invitation of Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, nine members of the steering group have been looking back on twenty years of the Scottish Parliament and whether Scotland’s new politics transpired as they envisaged.

The group will later present its reflections on devolution at the Festival of Politics in October 2019.

Mr Macintosh said he hoped the group would not only look back on the past twenty years of the Parliament but offer also views on parliamentary reform and how the institution might work in the future.

Speaking about the twentieth anniversary reconvening of the Consultative Steering Group (CSG), the Presiding Officer said:

“I was delighted to see so many members of the Consultative Steering Group attend and be involved in this year’s events marking the Parliament’s 20th anniversary.  Given the critical role the CSG played in shaping the Parliament and setting its founding principles, I thought this was particularly fitting.

“Following up on those events, I decided to invite all the CSG members to come back together once again, here at Holyrood.  I wanted to initiate a discussion on how the Parliament has performed against the original principles and, perhaps more importantly, to seek the thoughts of the original members on how we can improve the way the institution works.

“As before, I asked Henry McLeish to chair the session.  Those who were on the CSG have already contributed so much and my idea is that their current reflections and ideas will be included in a short document or report which would form the basis of a Festival of Politics event later in the year.  I also hope their views will inform the work of the parliamentary reform group of MSPs which I chair.  I look forward immensely to hearing their thoughts on how the Parliament has evolved.”

The group met at Parliament at 2.00pm on Tuesday 27 August.

Taking part were:

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

Background information

In December 1998 the Consultative Steering Group published its report: Shaping Scotland’s Parliament.  The report set out key principles for the new Parliament and detailed recommendations on how it should operate in practice, including a full set of Standing Orders governing chamber and committee business and the legislative process. 

The group adopted the following key principles:

 • the Scottish Parliament should embody and reflect the sharing of power between the people of Scotland, the legislators and the Scottish Executive; 

 • the Scottish Executive should be accountable to the Scottish Parliament and the Parliament and Executive should be accountable to the people of Scotland; 

 • the Scottish Parliament should be accessible, open, responsive, and develop procedures which make possible a participative approach to the development, consideration and scrutiny of policy and legislation; 

 • the Scottish Parliament in its operation and its appointments should recognise the need to promote equal opportunities for all. 

The group was chaired by then Minister of State at the Scottish Office Henry McLeish MP.  The report was addressed to the then Secretary of State for Scotland, Donald Dewar MP.  Find the CSG report here.

Media arrangements

The Parliament’s in-house photographer will provide free hand out photos of the meeting.



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