Sarwar calls for ‘Clean Up Holyrood’ commission

Scottish Labour will launch a ‘Clean Up Holyrood’ commission to consult on ideas to give Scotland a parliament that can better hold the government to account and win back the trust of the people. In an effort to restore trust in the Scottish Parliament and in our politics after a series of scandals and growing levels of public concern, the consultation will explore:

  • The establishment of an independent ethics commission to oversee the Scottish Government.
  • Reforming Freedom of Information legislation to increase transparency in government by creating a presumption in favour of proactive publication of the public information held by authorities, subject only to limited exceptions.
  • Introducing parliamentary privilege at Holyrood to give MSPs raising issues the same protection as MPs.
  • The election of committee conveners by the whole Scottish Parliament, as is the case in Westminster.
  • Strengthening the power of committees to compel witnesses to appear and give evidence or to submit evidence.
  • Introducing a right to recall MSPs in exceptional circumstances.
  • Splitting the dual role of the Lord Advocate, so that the person who is in charge of prosecutions in Scotland is not also the chief legal advisor to the government.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said:

“We are rightly proud of our role in establishing a devolved parliament, but we have to accept that trust and faith in parliament has been lost in recent years. We need to rebuild that because only when people believe that Holyrood works for them will we be able to unite Scotland.

We cannot allow the circus that has defined the start of this campaign or the institutional failures that defined the Salmond inquiry to run over into the Parliament of the next five years.

The pandemic doesn’t end when lockdown ends – and Scotland’s recovery requires a government focused on solutions – and MSPs who have the tools to make sure they are getting it right.

Scotland deserves so much better than a parliament where egos, agenda and grudges are allowed to run rampant. And that is what is at stake in this election – we have a choice to put people, their families and our national recovery first.

The pandemic has changed Scotland – it’s time to ditch the old politics of division and focus instead on working together on the things we can do.”

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9 thoughts on “Sarwar calls for ‘Clean Up Holyrood’ commission

  1. If you really want to be radical, improve the quality and behaviour of MSPs and improve the accountability of Holyrood, campaign to change the voting system for electing our parliament from AMS to STV as used in local council elections. It will also prevent parties being formed with the specific aim of attempting to ‘game the system’.

  2. Some more to consider.
    1.-No party can enter Holyrood as a Scottish political party, unless registered as such by the Electoral Commission.
    2.-No person can be ennobled from Scotland unless approved by Holyrood.
    3.-The Secratery of State for Scotland should be directly answerable to Holyrood.
    4.-Broadcasting in Scotland should be a Holyrood responsibility.
    5.-Other than issues affecting the security of the state ( from outside), there should be a five year limit on the maintainance of policies, proposals, conversations, regarding Scotland, that should be kept secret from public scrutiny. This must include Westminster and State actors based outside Scotland but whose activities impact on Scotland.

    There are many, many more, but that is a start.

    1. You want independence, not devolution, which explains why your proposals for “improving” devolution are such a mixed bag of grievance and misrepresentation.

      1. There is not one proposal there, which requires “independence”, and none which are misrepresentations or grievances. All can be found in various devolved/federal Assemblies round the globe.
        I suggest ALL would improve Scottish governance, and am sad you disregard genuine suggestions because of your political blinkers.

        1. I never claimed any of your proposals required independence. That wouldn’t make any sense anyway, because independence would end devolution.

          You want to force Scottish parties to be separate from UK parties, because you believe Scotland should be separate from the UK. You want the Secretary of State for Scotland, literally a constitutional role and part of the UK Government, to be required to do the bidding of the devolved parliament. You want broadcasting to be devolved because you want *everything* to be devolved. And you apparently want the House of Lords to continue – I would prefer to see it replaced with an elected senate of the nations and regions.

          I have no idea what your fifth suggestion even means, but I’m pretty sure Nicola Sturgeon wouldn’t agree to it.

  3. A. You implied my preference for self-governance (shared with Keir Hardie who wanted Dominion status for Scotland) was the driver “which explains why your proposals”etc.
    B. I see no reason why properly established parties are a bad idea. People in both Labour and Tory parties in Scotland have previously proposed this. If Labour ever adopted a federal UK, this would be an idea. I cannot believe federalism would ever work, where the largest entity had zero interest in it. I think confederalism might be a better solution, but would perhaps require Ireland to take a part.
    C. What on earth is wrong with broadcasting being controlled by elected parliaments? Again, this is commonplace in devolved government, with no problems, pretty well everywhere.
    D. OK, you got me. I don’t want a House of Lords, but forgive my scepticism that Labour will be the party to get rid of it—I refer you to Keir Hardie once more.
    E. Why should the Secretary of State for Scotland not answer for his governments policies being enacted in Scotland? Doesn’t mean he would do Holyroods ” bidding”: that notion is absurd, given his “authority” is vested in Westminster.
    F. I am not a member of the SNP ( Labour was my only political home, once) so cannot answer for Nikla.
    My suggestion was/is that secrecy affecting Scotland by official bodies, should lapse after an interval of five years, no matter the source. We obviously cannot force Westminster, but Holyrood can make it very awkward for any other organisation who refuses to adhere, but wishes to do business here.
    Secrecy is an abomination in a democracy.

    1. Given that the topic is cleaning up Holyrood after the failings exposed by recent events, most of your proposals are irrelevant. How would forcing UK-wide parties to break into separate smaller ones help clean up Holyrood? It would just further undermine cross-UK links, which is your actual aim. How would devolving broadcasting help clean up Holyrood? It’s just another in the never-ending set of demands for more powers.

      In terms of the Secretary of State, I understood “answerable to” to mean something quite different from what you apparently did mean. She or he already can appear before committees in Holyrood. But I understood you to imply compulsion, which would be a constitutional inversion.

      On the secrecy point, while I’m sure I share your broad aims it seems just to be a wish rather than a workable proposal. I can’t see how such a law could possibly be framed.

  4. I agree that if you are a British (there being no UK-wide parties, and Labour partners an Irish nationalist party elsewhere) political party, there could be no issue relating to Holyrood which did not also relate to the much deeper and longer lasting sleaze at Westminster, so “cleaning up” one parliament would seem a tad hypocritical if you did not also propose cleaning up the other–and that wont happen will it? The ability for “British” politicians, who claim to be in favour of a “UK level playing field”, to then compartmentalize issues geographically, never ceases to astonish.

    A devolved broadcaster would have funding and responsibilities to the licence fee payer in a manner which simply does not happen now with BBC/Radio Scotland which has been stripped of staff, ambition and decent journalism.
    Do you think Radio Scotland now, is an equal of the quality of Radio Scotland as originally set up 40 years ago?

    Yes, the SoS should be expected to appear before Holyrood committees. Why would he not be? He can stay silent if he so wishes, and be judged on that silence.

    Law—Freedom of Information (Scotland) Bill. Engage with the law of the land, or take your operation elsewhere. It is fairly simple as a concept.

  5. There is some very good stuff in this that have to be followed to improve governance in Scotland. First and foremost “Splitting the dual role of the Lord Advocate, so that the person who is in charge of prosecutions in Scotland is not also the chief legal advisor to the government” is an absolute necessity and should be the case in any parliament. I assume this situation arose partly because the parliament in Scotland was being set up as a devolved administration ‘executive’ rather than a sovereign parliament. Whatever the reason it has to be sorted and quickly.

    There is a definite need to establish an independent ethics commission to oversee the Scottish Government. This should be used as an exemplar for roll out across the UK where presently, we are witnessing a government that stretches – if not abuses – the ‘muddy constitution we all inherit, in a dangerous manner. Procurement of PPE, the proroguing of parliament, attempting to use official resources for party political reasons and the Brexit deal itself have all been controversial or unlawful or a mixture of the two.

    Overhauling Freedom of Information legislation to increase transparency and “creating a presumption in favour of proactive publication” is an absolute must. The only problem with Scottish Labour’s suggested approach is over what would be described as a ‘limited exception’ – this leaves scope for government to side-step FOI at a whim – this would require some refinement.

    The suggestion that the election of committee conveners should be the province of the whole Scottish Parliament is bang on, as is the power to compel witnesses to appear and give or submit evidence. However, protection or assistance should also be given to any citizen compelled to appear to ensure that they are not financially penalised by this action (eg. legal representation or advice) and that they also have a ‘fifth amendment-style’ right to remain silent.

    Finally although the ‘Clean Up Holyrood’ commission is a good move in most respects, I cannot agree to introducing parliamentary privilege at Holyrood in any circumstance. As a basic principle the law must be applied evenly and to all. Indeed, it should be a priority for all citizens/subjects to remove this protection from MPs at Westminster. There should be no fear for MPs in this, if an issue is one that they wish to raise then they should have it checked in detail in order that what they say is true and not a lie, calumny or other misdeed. Why should there be any room or house in a country where a public accusation can be made leaving an accused without recourse to law for personal protection or redress?

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