Parliamentary Reform


The founding members of the Scottish Parliament foresaw the need for on-going change in Parliament, and as a consequence they recommended that the performance of our institution should be self-assessed and monitored regularly.


Well, this week politicians did exactly that, as we debated the issue of parliamentary reform.


And while the main focus of the debate was on the meeting times of parliament, there was consensus that there are more fundamental issues to be addressed.


The founders envisaged an institution, which at its heart, would have powerful committees with responsibilities to initiate legislation and hold the government of the day to account.


But the reality is that these goals have not been fully fulfilled.


Few bills have been initiated, and governments, whatever their complexion, have not always been properly held to account for the decisions they have made, due to time constraints, and the ability of Ministers to side-step tough questions.


To be truly committed to change we need to look at the fundamentals.


How do we improve our committees?


How do we make them more effective?


How can we make their ability to hold the government to account that bit better than it is now?


But most importantly of all, we need to ask ourselves how we continue to make our committees relevant to the people.


Committees are a gateway for the public into the parliament.


They give ordinary folk the opportunity to influence attitudes and to change the law of the land.


Take John Muir for example, his appearance two years ago before the parliaments Justice Committee and his compelling case for tougher sentencing for knife crime, gave this serious issue a national platform and influenced government thinking.


The chance for the public to effect change must not only be maintained, it must be strengthened.


The gate to the committees must be made bigger to give more people like John Muir a platform to be heard.


Only then, will real change be achieved.