Scottish Parliament should return to business, say Tories

Parliamentary proceedings have been upended by the coronavirus crisis, with the number of MSPs in chamber tightly managed.

The Scottish Tories have called for Holyrood to return to business as the country moves into the first phase of easing lockdown.

Parliamentary proceedings have been upended by the coronavirus crisis, with the number of MSPs in the chamber tightly managed, while some have made contributions via video call.

Committees have also moved online, with MSPs scrutinising legislation and decisions by the Scottish Government through video conferencing.

Now, Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw has called for the Parliament to return to face-to-face businesses, while social distancing is observed.

Mr Carlaw said not all MSPs should return to Edinburgh, suggesting there is “still a place” for digital contributions.

It is not possible to hold the Scottish Government to account, he said, while the current measures remain in place.

Mr Carlaw said: “Business at Holyrood was suspended for good reason. But it’s now time to get things back up and running.

“It’s just not possible to fully hold the SNP Government to account when Holyrood is only meeting once a week.

“It’s perfectly possible for other key processes to return, like opposition debates and committee sessions, while observing social distancing and making full use of technology.

“We’re not saying Holyrood needs to be jam-packed full of MSPs again – there is still a role to play for digital contributions for those unable to come back.”

The House of Commons is due to return in full on Tuesday, despite a letter sent to leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg from MPs protesting against the move.

Mr Carlaw said other issues required the scrutiny of MSPs, over and above the current pandemic.

“As Scotland moves out of lockdown, as well as holding the SNP to account on Covid-19 we have to get back to other issues of importance too,” he said.

“Let’s not forget that prior to coronavirus the SNP was being exposed in Holyrood for its shambolic approach to the domestic agenda.

“Those failings have not gone away, which is why we need the Scottish Parliament back and operating better than ever.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Parliament said it was “simply not accurate” to say parliamentary business had stopped.

She added: “In the past weeks, the Parliament has sat on its usual three days per week, with Ministerial statements, portfolio questions and debates taking place.

“All of which provide the opportunity for opposition parties to question the Government.

“In addition, committees have continued to meet to scrutinise the Government’s work in relation to Covid-19 and other matters and there has of course been extended FMQ sessions on a weekly basis.

“If the Scottish Conservatives, or indeed any party, has concerns about the parliamentary business schedule, there are a number of decision making forums in which they can raise these, not least the parliamentary bureau on which every party, including the Conservatives, is represented.”