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More questions need to be asked of majority SNP government - Rennie

July 24, 2011 12:00 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat research has revealed a worrying drop in the level of scrutiny by MSPs of Scottish Government ministers. For the first time since the Scottish Parliament was formed, the number of written questions lodged by MSPs at the beginning of a new session has dropped. This has reinforced concerns that, with the Scottish Parliament seeing its first majority SNP government, Nationalist MSPs are not holding their own Government up to sufficient scrutiny.

There were 1,464 written questions lodged at the beginning of this Parliamentary session. This is down 26% when compared to the number lodged at the beginning of the 2007 session and is the first time that the number of questions has fallen at the start of a new session.

Nationalist MSPs asked 144 questions. This is just 10% of the total number of questions asked and is just 2.9 questions per SNP MSP.

During the same period Liberal Democrat MSPs asked 158 questions, or 31.6 per MSP.

Commenting Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said:

"These figures show that people were right to be concerned that an SNP majority would lead to poorer Parliamentary scrutiny of the Scottish Government. Holding Ministers to account and asking questions about their policies and plans is one of the key responsibilities of MSPs.

"So far this session we have seen a lot of grandstanding from the First Minister on issues like the supreme court and the independence referendum. We have also seen Ministers ducking and diving when it comes to taking responsibility for important issues like how to pay for the best possible public services.

"Just a few months ago the Finance Committee said that it is essential that there is effective scrutiny of the Scottish Government's spending priorities.

"That is why it's so concerning that the number of questions being asked of Ministers has dropped for the first time in the Parliament's history. Scotland now has a majority Government but SNP MSPs also have a responsibility to hold Ministers to account yet so far they are failing to do so."

Notes

Information on the number of written questions is from the Parliament's motions, questions and answers search engine. We looked at the number of written questions lodged between May and & 7 July at the beginning of each Parliamentary session.

When looking at the number of PQs per MSP, we've not included Ministers i.e. for this session we calculated the number of questions per SNP MSP based on 49 backbench MSPs.

More information can be found in the attached spread sheet.

In March, the Finance Committee's legacy report stated that: "The next session of the Scottish Parliament is likely to be extremely challenging given the continued pressure on the public finances. It is, therefore, essential that there is effective scrutiny of the Scottish Government's spending priorities. At the same time it is also essential that the Parliament and Government work together in seeking to develop a more effective use of public finances over the longer-term." (paragraph 4)