Commission on Parliamentary Reform Your Parliament Your voice


The Parliament has achieved much in its first 18 years. It is now a mature institution, supported wholeheartedly by the public. Now it is time to look to the future, to note the Parliament’s success to date and build on examples of good practice to make it as effective as possible as it takes on new responsibilities.

In accepting the invitation of the Presiding Officer to review the work of the Parliament, my colleagues and I on the Commission were aware that our main task was to ensure that the Parliament was equipped to meet the challenges ahead. Our work has convinced us that there is a need for reforms to be implemented speedily.

Left to right - Commission member John Finnie MSP hears from people in Inverness, John McCormick (Chair) welcoming people to an event held with Inclusion Scotland, and a formal meeting of the Commission.

Our recommendations are aimed at increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the Scottish Parliament as a single chamber, elected body keeping faith with its founding principles. Taken together they reinforce the crucial role of the committees and the chamber in scrutinising legislation and holding government to account and seek to improve the participation of people across the country.

We recognise that additional powers stretch the existing resources of the Parliament but we believe that it would not be justified to recommend a second chamber or an increase in the number of MSPs unless it can be demonstrated that the Parliament is currently working at peak efficiency. We have made recommendations as to how this might be achieved.

John McCormick


From left to right: Commission meeting in Inverness, John McCormick (Chair) speaking at the Scottish Older People's Assembly and Commission meeting in Galashiels.

Report Summary

Travelling across the country we heard that the Parliament is well regarded. Since 1999, it has made good progress in delivering the vision of an open, participative, power sharing, accountable Parliament with equal access for all. More could be done, however, to realise that vision.

In our report, we make a substantial number of detailed recommendations that, taken together, would deliver significant improvements in the effectiveness of Parliament. Crucially, these changes can be delivered this session when, arguably, the Parliament could face its greatest scrutiny challenge.


From left to right: Commission members John Edward, Katie Burke MSYP, Pam Duncan-Glancy, Fiona McLeod, Geoff Mawdsley and The Very Rev. Dr. Lorna Hood.

Our recommendations would deliver:

• More flexibility and spontaneity in the business of the chamber, improving opportunities for participation in debates and increasing ministerial accountability.

• An enhanced legislative scrutiny process with mandatory pre- and post- legislative scrutiny and the creation of a Legislative Standards Body.

• Smaller and stronger committees, led by conveners elected by the Parliament to underline their independence and authority, more able to set the political agenda rather than simply respond to the Government.

• A more efficient Parliament, allowing committees and chamber to meet at the same time and making better use of the rhythm of the parliamentary year.

• An enhanced role for individual MSPs to influence, and contribute to, parliamentary business and encouraged to be parliamentarians first.

From left to right: John McCormick and Fiona McLeod meeting with The Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives The Right Honourable David Carter, Commission event with former MSP's, and John McCormick and Johann Lamont MSP meeting with participants on the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) political shadowing scheme.

• A stronger role for the Presiding Officer to direct parliamentary business and ensure more effective scrutiny, accountability and debate.

• A renewed vision for an equal and diverse Parliament, with benchmarks for MSP recruitment from under-represented groups, while ensuring diversity issues become a more systematic part of scrutiny.

• Becoming a leader in public engagement, experimenting with new ways to gather views and evidence and opening up more opportunities for people to become involved, where they want and how they want.

From left to right: Jackson Carlaw MSP speaking at a Commission event in Inverness, Commission Member Professor Boyd Robertson hearing from people at an event in Sleat, and Katie Burke MSYP hearing from Galashiels Academy pupils.

• Providing enhanced support to committees, including the creation of a Committee Engagement Unit.

• Working with young people to encourage greater knowledge of the Parliament, removing barriers to people’s understanding of what the Parliament does and exploiting digital technologies to improve communication with people across the country.

• More effective monitoring and evaluation of the work of the Parliament, with better feedback to those who get involved, to provide self-sustaining improvement and engagement.

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