SNP loses its majority on Holyrood

SNP loses its majority on Holyrood’s committees
The Herald Scotland, by Magnus Gardham


The SNP has lost its majority on Holyrood’s committees.


Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh announced a new committee structure, with 15 panels compared with nearly 20 in the last parliament.


The SNP will nominate conveners for eight committees but will not have a majority on any of them.


The party’s domination of the committees in the last parliament was blamed for eroding scrutiny of the government.


Opposition MSPs complained that critical reports were watered down and potentially embarrassing inquiries blocked by SNP backbenchers.


In the new structure, agreed after three weeks of talks between party whips and the Presiding Officer, the SNP will have the largest number of MSPs on every committee but could be outvoted by the opposition parties.


The committees with an SNP convener include Finance, which scrutinises the budget, and Standards, which deals with disciplinary matters.


Tory MSPs will lead four committees, including Economy and Justice, while Labour’s three convenerships including Health and Public Audit, which examines public spending.


Some of Holyrood’s "standing committees," which are enshrined in the parliament’s rules, are set to be merged in order to streamline the structure.


Finance will take on responsibility for looking into constitutional affairs and the Europe committee will be combined with Culture and Tourism.


Public Audit will also look at post-legislative scrutiny, assessing whether new laws are working as intended.


Scottish Labour’s business manager James Kelly said: "Having lost their majority in parliament it’s right that the SNP has also lost control of committees.


"Too often in the last session SNP members put commitment to their party ahead of doing right by the country in investigating the actions of government.


"Labour will use our position on committees to scrutinise the SNP Government’s actions and hold ministers to account. "We will nominate three senior MSPs to the role of committee convener, showing the importance we place on holding the government to account through committees."


Jenny Marra, the North East Scotland MSP who missed out on a place in Kezia Dugdale’s frontbench team, will take one of the party’s convenerships.


In a letter to MSPs, Mr Macintosh said negotiations to establish the new structure had been "co-operative and collegiate".


"This is very encouraging for the coming parliamentary session," he added.


In a message to MSPs, he said: "Those of you who become committee members have a very important job to do and I wish you well in your endeavours."