Business Motion

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:55 pm on 4th September 2003.

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Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 4:55 pm, 4th September 2003

I wish to object to the motion because an important issue of principle is involved.

Yesterday afternoon we had a debate on a Procedures Committee report about changes to the timing of First Minister's question time. There can be no doubt as to what came out of that debate. It was clear that, at one stage, the Procedures Committee was minded to recommend that First Minister's questions should be held at 2 pm on a Thursday. Strangely enough, the committee changed that view and there can be no doubt that that was done for one reason only—because it suited the Executive to change the time to 12 noon on a Thursday.

We have to ask why it suits the Executive. It suits the Executive because it can then control the media agenda for the rest of the day. It has not considered the negative effect that that change in timing would have on the rest of the Parliament. I know that the relationship between the Labour party and the BBC is somewhat fractured, but no one can deny the BBC's calculation of the viewing figures that shows that there would be less than half the number of people watching the programme at midday than would be watching at 2 pm.

Frankly, the Parliament needs a profile; it must show itself to be credible and it must be in the face of the public. That is the only way in which we are going to retain any credibility. This is a very cynical move on the Executive's part. It is anti-democratic and it is to be condemned absolutely. I underline that by objecting to the business motion.