Founding principles of Holyrood have been 'abandoned', says former SNP minister

The founding principles of the Scottish Parliament have been "abandoned", according to a former SNP minister.

Alex Neil said all parties, including the SNP, are to blame and the situation “needs to be sorted”.

He was responding to comments by Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr, who called Holyrood “sterile and uninspiring”. Mr Kerr, a former MP, said the standard of debate is poor and the committee system is a “busted flush”, rigorously controlled by the SNP.

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Referring to the big parliamentary occasions such as the Budget statement, Mr Kerr said: “The opposition parties don't have a right of reply and there is no debate. At best, there is up to an hour for questions. If there was so little scrutiny at Westminster, there would be uproar.”

The Scottish Parliament. Picture: Jayne Wright
The Scottish Parliament. Picture: Jayne Wright
The Scottish Parliament. Picture: Jayne Wright

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, he added: “A lively and relevant democratic culture needs a lively and relevant Parliament. We badly need to reform the Scottish Parliament, and we need a change to our political culture.

“Tribal politics is our curse. It means seeing the people who propagate arguments that are counter to our own viewpoints as being wicked or somehow less moral than we are.

“It means we have a Parliament so addicted to conflict that any pretence or aspiration to provide a space to grow consensus is doomed. The people of Scotland deserve better.”

The SNP dismissed his comments, while the Scottish Parliament said they included “a number of factual inaccuracies around the management of parliamentary business”. It said: “The presiding officer [Alison Johnstone] meets regularly with all political parties, and her door is always open to any member who wants to discuss how the parliament is operating. Furthermore any member can approach the standards and procedures committee with proposals on how to enhance parliamentary procedures.”

A spokesman said the schedule of business in the chamber “is proposed by the parliamentary bureau and subject to the agreement of parliament as a whole”.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Neil, who was an MSP between 1999 and 2021 and a minister under both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, said he “totally, fundamentally” disagrees with Mr Kerr’s politics.

But he added: “Unfortunately his analysis of how the Scottish Parliament operates is correct. All parties, including his and ours, are to blame for it. The founding principles have been abandoned. It needs to be sorted.”



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