A Scottish Parliament committee is inviting members of the public to have their say by text.
People from all over the country are invited to text comments or questions they want MSPs to put to witnesses as part of a session on energy and fuel.
The unique scheme, launched by Duncan McNeil, convener of the Local Government and Communities Committee, will inform Members’ questioning at the committee’s meeting on Wednesday 3 October.
At this meeting, witnesses from organisations including Energy Watch and Scottish Gas will give evidence on areas including the Scottish Government’s Central Heating Programme, support grants and the Warm Deal scheme.
A new pilot scheme will follow, launching on 8 October, allowing members of the public to text enquiries to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Information Service.
Speaking about the mobile initiative the convener said:
"Effective democracy requires politicians and the political process to be accessible. We hope members of the public will take advantage of their familiarity with this technology and have their say.
"By raising questions sent in from the people affected by fuel poverty, we hope to get a clear picture of the issues people face when trying to ensure they have a warm home for themselves and their families.
"The end result will be a submission by our committee to the Scottish Government shaped by members of the public.”
From today, all interested members of the public have to do is text their questions to 80011, starting the message with SP and including their name and where they are from.
The mobile service will allow people to contact the committee wherever they are and complements existing methods of writing, sending emails and contacting the committee by phone.
Convener Duncan McNeil MSP explained why the committee had agreed to consider the issue of fuel poverty:
"According to figures published the 2004/05 Scottish House Condition Survey in April, there were 419,000 Scottish households living in fuel poverty in 2004/2005, compared with 350,000 the previous year and 293,000 the year before.
"We want to examine the impact of the Scottish Government’s Central Heating Programme and the Warm Deal scheme in view of the Housing Act 2001’s commitment to eradicate fuel poverty, as far as reasonably practical, by 2016. Our committee is keen to see this honoured and to consider how this worrying trend can be reversed.”
The Scottish House Condition Survey 2004/05 can be accessed through the Scottish Government’s website: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/03/26155927/4
Incoming individual text messages are limited to 160 characters; the length of a standard text message and are charged at the standard network rates.
Users will receive a text from the Scottish Parliament confirming receipt of their message.
As well as the text service, suggested questions can also be e-mailed to the committee members at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The committee can also be contacted via the local rate public information number below and in writing to Martin Verity, Local Government and Communities Committee Clerk, The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP.
Scottish Parliament Text Message Service
Charged at the standard network rate, the committee’s service is the precursor to a Parliament wide pilot scheme which will be launched on Monday 8 October and run until Friday 22 December.
The new text service will enable members of the public to:
contact their MSPs.
receive the name of their MSPs by texting the Parliament their postcode.
ask the public information team questions about the Parliament.
request free leaflets.
find out information about visiting the Parliament