Independent commission set to recommend Holyrood reforms – BBC News

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The commission was set up to give Holyrood “an MOT” but has heard calls for “radical” reforms

An independent commission tasked with reforming the Scottish Parliament is due to publish its report.

The Commission for Parliamentary Reform has been gathering submissions on how well Holyrood works since October 2016.

Chairman John McCormick was tasked with giving the parliament “an MOT” after 18 years in which its powers have expanded greatly.

The group has heard a wide range of views from respondents including MSPs and several former first ministers.

Some have called for “radical” reforms, including changes to the electoral system, the number of MSPs, sitting hours, ministerial question times and how committees are run.

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said he wanted the group to “help bring the parliament back to its roots, ensuring Holyrood is open, transparent, truly participative and fit for the significant challenges which lie ahead”.

Former first minister Henry McLeish wrote that the current number of MSPs was “incredibly limiting” in light of Holyrood’s new powers – although his successor Jack McConnell, said he was “strongly against” increasing the number of MSPs.

Mr McConnell also urged parliament to “work longer and harder”, calling the current standard of debate in the Holyrood chamber “too predictable, too partisan and too structured”.

Image copyright Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Image caption Many respondents to the commission have called for committees to have elected conveners

Mr McLeish said “a serious look at our electoral system” was needed, with a range of different suggestions brought forward.

Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles suggested switching Holyrood polls to the single transferable vote method used in council elections, while Alex Salmond raised the possibility of replacing the current regional list system with a single national list for each party.

‘Jobs for life’

Mr McConnell meanwhile suggested forcing candidates to choose between running in a constituency or on a regional list, and introducing a term limit for list MSPs to prevent them having “jobs for life”.

There has been broad backing among respondents to bringing in elections for committee conveners, as is done at Westminster.

Some have also suggested giving committees more power to compel witnesses to appear, and allowing them more time to work by letting them sit at the same time as the main chamber.

Mr McCormick has suggested that changes to the number of MSPs are unlikely, but said all submissions would be considered in the final report.

Writing in the Herald newspaper, he said: “We have heard from people across the country about what the parliament means to them and how it can improve. This commission is a very real opportunity to influence how the parliament should reflect Scotland today.”

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