Scotland to adopt ‘fully virtual parliament’

Written by Ailean Beaton on 4 May 2020 in News
News

System will be implemented over the next few weeks

Credit: Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament has announced plans for a “fully virtual parliament” involving all MSPs being able to ask questions, take part in committee business and vote remotely.

First minister’s questions will also be extended to one hour in length as part of a ‘hybrid’ system, and there will be more members’ question time sessions added as well.

It is hoped that this week parliament will be able to hold 16 meetings over four days, leading to “enhanced scrutiny” on the government’s response to coronavirus.

Presiding officer Ken Macintosh said that he hopes that this ‘hybrid’ approach could be tested by the week beginning 11 May, with the aim of fully implementing it the following week.


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But it is unclear when remote voting will be fully implemented as part of the overall approach.

He said: “I am also pleased to advise that by next Thursday we will also be in a position to hold a full virtual meeting of the parliament involving all members should there be demand to schedule this. The format of that meeting has still to be agreed, however, I would expect it to be a mix of a set number of Members indicating in advance that they wish to participate, with all other members able to request to speak during the meeting and called at my discretion in the normal course.”

Macintosh added: “I am also very keen to ensure that those at risk who may be at home for a longer period of time are able to participate fully in all aspects of parliamentary business. While the bureau continues to consider options for proxy voting arrangements, we’re now working towards creating a ‘hybrid’ style chamber where all members can ask their questions, speak in debates, and in time vote remotely in all business that takes place at Holyrood.

“It is my hope that by the week beginning 11 May we will be in a position to test this hybrid approach, with a view to it being operational by the following week. Finally, can I thank you as members for your continued support, assistance and patience as we navigate our ways through these changes.

“Feel free to contact me directly at any time should you have any issues you wish to raise and I assure you that I will continue to work with colleagues to address your concerns and ensure parliament fulfils its role effectively at this difficult time.”

 

About the author

Ailean Beaton is a journalist at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where this article first appeared. He tweets as @AileenBeaton.

 

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