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Seòmar agus comataidhean

Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Thursday, February 22, 2024


Points of Order

Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I seek your advice under chapter 9 of standing orders, following today’s publication of the stage 1 report on the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill.

A few weeks ago, members agreed that the stage 1 debate should take place next Thursday. Members will know of my long-standing commitment to the establishment of a national care service. Indeed, it is more than a decade since I first proposed it, so what is currently happening troubles me immensely. I therefore seek your advice on two counts.

First, the conclusion of the report seems manifestly contrary to so much of the report’s contents. Page after page of criticism appears to have been ignored. It also appears that evidence given by the third sector, independent providers and those with lived experience has also been ignored. [Interruption.]

Let us hear the member.

Jackie Baillie

The party whip has been imposed to get the bill over the line.

Secondly, there is a question about the integrity of the Parliament’s processes. Let me explain. Substantial changes are being made to the bill following a deal between the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Government. No evidence has been taken on that as it came too late in the process. It radically changes the governance of a national care service, and this has caused—[Interruption.]

I would be very grateful if we could hear the member.

That has caused—[Interruption.]

The reason that I am asking is that I cannot address a comment, contribution or point of order if I cannot hear it.

Jackie Baillie

That has caused considerable disquiet in the care sector. Education, Children and Young People Committee members of all political stripes have been trying to get the Scottish Government to lodge its amendments so that they can be subject to scrutiny before stage 2 starts. They have written to and spoken to the minister, but the Government says no. One of the committee members even sought agreement to share the target operating model, which would have provided a direction of travel for the amendments. That, too, was refused.

I am concerned that the Government does not yet have any amendments. Otherwise, why would it refuse to share them with the committee so that members can do their job and scrutinise them properly?

There are unfortunate examples in the Parliament of a perception that a committee did not do its job in scrutinising legislation. We should not let that happen again, as the integrity of the Parliament is also at stake. Presiding Officer, can you advise whether there is an opportunity for the committee to reconsider its report in light of the arguments that I have made, and what would be the appropriate vehicle for achieving that?

The Presiding Officer

It is fair to say that I did not pick up all of the member’s comments, so I will refer to them and refer back, if required. However, I can confirm to the member that, under the rule that she refers to—9.6.1—any member may, by motion, propose that the bill be referred back to the lead committee for a further report on the general principles of the bill or on any particular part of it before the Parliament decides whether to agree to it.

Stephen Kerr (Central Scotland) (Con)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I seek your guidance on the appropriate conduct of members of the Parliament and your powers to safeguard members of the public, our staff and visitors in general to be able to enter and leave the Parliament. Last night, members of the public who were seeking to enter the Parliament were obstructed and intimidated—and all of that was orchestrated and trumpeted by a member of the Parliament: a Scottish Green MSP.

It is surely unacceptable conduct for a member of the Scottish Parliament to seek to prevent members of the public from entering their own Parliament, so I ask for your guidance on the following. In light of last night’s events, what actions will be taken to secure safe access for the public to enter their Parliament at all times? What action will be taken against the member, who I believe has brought disrepute to the Scottish Parliament? Not only did he plan and conduct the obstruction and the demonstration, but he claimed responsibility for it. He sought to shut down the Parliament.

We all believe in freedom of speech and the right to protest, but the right of the people of Scotland to come safely and securely into their Parliament and to leave it when they choose to do so must also be safeguarded.

The Presiding Officer

I am not aware of all the circumstances to which Mr Kerr refers, but it is absolutely clear, I am sure, to all of us that the security of all building users and our guests is paramount. I can confirm that I am aware that there were extremely difficult circumstances last evening and that all our scheduled events were able to proceed. I am certainly grateful to our staff and police colleagues who made that possible. I assure all members that our procedures are very much kept under review, and they are adjusted where that is appropriate.

The Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights (Patrick Harvie)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Further to that point of order, I trust—and I hope that we can all trust—that, in your consideration of these issues, you will give a high priority to the absolutely essential role that the right to peaceful protest plays in our democracy and in the life of our Parliament.

The Presiding Officer

I have commented on the points that have been raised. I am absolutely sure that all members here assembled understand the importance of the right to protest and the importance that we place on the rights of all building users and staff to use the building securely and safely.

That ends this item of business. I will suspend the meeting before we move on to members’ business. I will allow a moment for the galleries and the chamber to clear.

12:54 Meeting suspended.  

12:55 On resuming—