The case for the introduction of elected conveners for Scottish Parliament committees as a stand-alone reform has not been made according to a report issued today (Thursday 25 June) by the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments (SPPA) Committee.
The Committee was asked to consider the case for elected committee conveners by the Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Tricia Marwick MSP. This was part of the Presiding Officer’s reform work aimed at strengthening Parliament’s procedures to ensure they are relevant, topical and in touch with the wider public and civic Scotland.
However, during the course of its inquiry the Committee concluded that there are wider issues of committee reform which need to be considered first.
Committee Convener, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:
“The Scottish Parliament’s committee system plays a crucial role in scrutinising legislation and holding the Scottish Government to account.
“During our evidence we heard about the benefits that elected conveners had brought to the House of Commons. We also heard that change is needed in the Scottish Parliament committee system. But the Westminster system is very different and we are not convinced that these changes would have the same impact here.
“Instead, it became increasingly clear that to the Committee that elected conveners are not the right first step to wider reform. There are other issues which should be considered first.
“There is no doubt that the time for reform is now, in readiness for the next session of Parliament. That is why our Committee has agreed to begin a focussed discussion about the steps needed to strengthen committees’ ability to scrutinise legislation and policy, and hold the Government to account.”
The SPPA Committee intends to undertake an inquiry into the operation of committees and will report by Christmas 2015.
The Presiding Officer wrote to the Committee in October 2014 asking it to consider whether committee conveners should be elected by the whole Parliament. A copy of the letter can be found below:
PO letter to Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee (1.1MB pdf)
More information about the SPPA Committee’s consideration of the issue of elected conveners can be found below:
Inquiry into the election of Committee Conveners
The House of Commons introduced election for committee chairs in 2010. The change followed the establishment of a Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons which recommended the proposal for elected conveners.