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October 23, 2019

Could do better?

In preparation for the establishment of the Scottish Parliament there was a great deal of consultation on the detail of how the Parliament should work. A Steering Group, chaired by Henry McLeish, published a report in 1998 which identified four key principles on which the operation of the Parliament would be based – Accountability, Openness and Accessibility, Power Sharing and Equal Opportunities. To mark the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament, that same steering group reconvened this summer at the invitation of the Presiding Officer to consider progress. Their report was published earlier this month.

Scottish Parliament

The report can be found here:

Members of the original Consultative Steering Group (CSG), who helped shape the Parliament’s procedures, have published their reflections on how Holyrood has lived up to their aspirations.

CSG Members were invited to Holyrood over the summer by the Presiding Officer, Rt Hon Ken Macintosh MSP, to discuss whether Scotland’s new politics transpired as they envisaged.

The nine original CSG members who met found that the Scottish Parliament has become a central and permanent part of Scottish life, and that their vision for a participative, open and accessible Parliament has thrived in the first 20 years.

However, they also commented that politics has been more polarised and tribal than they expected, and that while Committees have achieved much over the last 20 years, the sheer weight of their legislative workload has meant they have had limited capacity to undertake other important elements of their role.

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh MSP, said:

“The CSG’s contribution to setting up the Parliament was so valuable I thought in this, our 20th anniversary year, we should capture their reflections on how the Parliament has performed against the founding principles.

 “There are already changes underway stemming from the Commission on Parliamentary Reform. The views of the CSG will be a great contribution to the ongoing debate on how the Parliament can continue to grow and develop.”

Consultative Steering Group Chair, Rt Hon Henry McLeish, added:

“We were delighted to be asked by the Presiding Officer to consider our original report in light of the experiences of the Parliament’s first twenty years. CSG Members have all continued to play important roles in Scottish public life and watched the Parliament mature and thrive with pride.

“While we could never have imagined in the late 1990s what Scotland and the world would look like in 2019, we are pleased that the foundations we recommended for the Parliament were solid. It has been a huge success in its first twenty years.

“That said, all institutions must continue to evolve to ensure they are relevant and responsive to the environment they are operating in. We hope that our thoughts are a helpful contribution to the ongoing work around parliamentary reform.”


The report can be found here:

Members of the CSG who contributed to the discussion that was the basis of this report were:

  • Rt Hon Henry McLeish (chair)
  • Professor Alice Brown CBE
  • Sir Andrew Cubie CBE
  • Keith Geddes
  • Dame Deirdre Hutton DBE
  • Joyce McMillan
  • Sir George Reid
  • Esther Robertson
  • Lord Wallace of Tankerness, QC