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Point of Order

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:35 pm on 2nd June 2004.

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Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour 2:35 pm, 2nd June 2004

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. As leader of the parliamentary Labour Party, I seek your ruling on a point of order relating to the rights of backbenchers.

The motion that we are about to debate did not appear in the Business Bulletin until today. That means that although the business managers had a copy and could lodge amendments, that right was denied to backbenchers and, I suppose, to independent members also. Mr Swinney's actions might be within the letter of paragraph 6 of rule 8.2 of standing orders, but they are certainly not within the spirit. They also make it difficult for you to exercise your duty to take account of the interests of members equally under paragraph 3 of rule 3.1 of standing orders. I understand that this practice is against your guidance and I ask if a breach of standing orders has not occurred, and for your guidance on how rules can be tightened up to give all members a fair crack of the whip.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

As there seem to be no further points of order, I say to Mr McNeil that the SNP did not break any rules by lodging the motion yesterday. However, Presiding Officer good practice guidance has existed since 1999, and it requests that all motions due for debate are lodged two clear days in advance in order to give others the chance to consider amendments.

Are there any other points of order?

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Further to this point of order, Presiding Officer. If the rule of the Parliament is that motions should be lodged two clear days beforehand to allow for reflection on the part of backbenchers and others, was today's motion in order and was it in order for you to accept it?

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

I chose my remarks with some care and if you had listened to them, Mrs MacDonald, you would know that I did not use the word "rule". I said that no rules were broken and that good practice has been established since 1999.

If there are no further points of order, we will get on. [Interruption.] I am sorry. Ms Ferguson has a point of order.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I had indicated that I wanted to speak by pressing my request-to-speak button.

I have heard the response to the points of order and I feel that I have to add something because it is not just about process; it is about the courtesies of the Parliament, which are also observed in standing orders. The normal practice has been for business managers to bring their issues to the Parliamentary Bureau so that the bureau knows what is going to be discussed in Parliament. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the issue was trailed in the newspapers on the Sunday prior to the bureau meeting on the Tuesday. That point was made to the SNP business manager at the time.

In spite of that, I understand that last Thursday the SNP held a press briefing on the issue and that that was followed by a press release from Mr Swinney. Perhaps it is no surprise that that was then followed by a press release from Mr Salmond. That was discourteous enough, but it was then followed by a phone call from the SNP that indicated that because of staff sicknesses, it could not submit its motion until Monday, which was a holiday. In effect, that means that the motion was not submitted until Tuesday and, as colleagues have said, it could not appear in the Business Bulletin until Wednesday. There has been a discourtesy to the Parliament and that is also covered by standing orders. I would be grateful if you could look into that matter, Presiding Officer.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

I do not have much to add to my previous statement that no rules were broken, but good practice should be observed.

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