Scottish Parliament plans virtual questions for first minister

First weekly grilling of Nicola Sturgeon due to take place this week

Credit: PA

The Scottish Parliament is considering holding weekly virtual question time sessions to allow party leaders to question first minister Nicola Sturgeon (pictured above) from today, despite being on Easter recess until April 19.

Presiding officer Ken Macintosh has written to all MSPs about the “need for parliament to be able to continue to hold the government to account during this public health crisis”.

Macintosh said he held a meeting of the Parliamentary Bureau on Tuesday to “review how best the parliament can continue to strike a balance” in scrutinising the Scottish Government’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak, while protecting the safety of MSPs and parliament staff.

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“Like other legislatures, colleagues here have been very busy in recent weeks examining and testing a range of options for virtual working and I am pleased to say that the progress they are making is very encouraging indeed,” he said, in the letter. “In the first instance, the Parliamentary Bureau is exploring holding a leaders’ virtual question time where party leaders can question the first minister.

“It is hoped that we would be able to hold the first of these sessions on Thursday of this week and, all being well, I would then want to open this up in subsequent weeks to include questions from all members.”

He said more details on how this would operate will be firmed up yesterday, as well as “necessary testing arrangements” to ensure the session runs smoothly.

“So, I hope to be able to write with more details shortly, including how you can watch the question period remotely,” he said.

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said the question and answer session would not be the same format as first minister’s questions (FMQs), which is held at midday on Thursdays during parliament’s sitting weeks.

“Questions to the first minister will be coming from party leaders so it is not strictly the same format of FMQs,” the spokesperson said.

Scottish parliament is on recess until April 19, however the spokesperson confirmed: “Any Q&A session would not be a meeting of the parliament and so not a formal recall of parliament.”


Sam Trendall

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