Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 12th January 2006.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid None 2:00 pm, 12th January 2006

We now proceed to the election of a member of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. I have received two valid nominations for appointment. In alphabetical order, the nominations are: Kenny MacAskill and Margo MacDonald.

A copy of the guidance explaining the voting procedure that will be followed this afternoon has been placed on each member's desk. I will ask members to cast their vote for their preferred candidate. A separate vote will be called for each candidate. I remind members that they may vote only once and may use only their yes button when voting. The votes of a member who casts more than one vote will be treated as spoiled, in which case none of those votes will count. Any member who wishes to record an abstention will have an opportunity to do so at the end of voting for the candidates.

Once all the voting has been completed, there will be a short delay of a few minutes while the result is verified. I shall then announce the number of votes cast, the number of votes for each of the candidates and the number of abstentions. A candidate will be elected if an overall majority is obtained.

We proceed now to short speeches of three minutes from each of the candidates, in alphabetical order.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 2:01 pm, 12th January 2006

At the outset, I pay tribute to my colleague, Andrew Welsh, who is standing down from the SPCB. Since the re-establishment of our Parliament, he has served as a member of the SPCB, which was an unglamorous position in difficult times. We owe a debt of gratitude to him and to all those who serve or have served on that body.

Such service has always been viewed as non-party political. As a creature of statute, the SPCB is a vital part of the functioning and administration of this institution. Like others, Andrew Welsh forsook party loyalty and divisions when acting in that role; I will do likewise. The SPCB's purpose is to serve not party or sectional interests but those of the Scottish Parliament and the people that it serves. Members have my assurance that, if elected, I will act without fear of or favour for individuals or party.

I do not know what particular skills I bring, but I offer commitment, diligence, approachability and integrity. I have always considered it an honour and privilege to serve in this Parliament. Whatever views I may hold about Scotland's future constitutional arrangements, I view it as essential to uphold the integrity of this institution and to seek to nurture and cherish it.

The role is about serving not just members but those who work here and those whom we are here to serve. In asking for members' support, I reaffirm my commitment to be diligent, accountable and approachable. I will serve the institution and all its members irrespective of any party affiliations and I will do so without fear or favour.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent 2:03 pm, 12th January 2006

Electing the Parliament's corporate body is a duty incumbent on the 129 MSPs who comprise the Parliament. The SPCB acts in the name of that electorate to preserve and promote the Parliament's good name and the ethos that is enshrined in our mace. The SPCB should be guided by those four principles in managing the Parliament's affairs—other than Executive business and the opposition to that from our other political parties and representatives—but it is not, nor should it be, one of the Parliament's party-political forums.

When I expressed that view to colleagues in all parties and in none yesterday, the vast majority agreed with me—perhaps some were only being nice—but some people ventured the opinion that, as in the case of the Subordinate Legislation Committee, an SPCB member who is a willing volunteer will be better than one who is a pressed man or woman. However, a few colleagues thought that the SPCB should be comprised of members of the four biggest parties. I respect those colleagues as politicians and I even like them as people, but I fail to see why only their party's representatives can take decisions of a non-partisan nature on behalf of the whole Parliament.

Most decisions and votes in the Parliament will be taken along party-political lines. Those will be based sometimes on ideology but more often on manifesto commitments. That is the nature of our parliamentary democracy and I take no issue with it. Business needs to be organised in an orderly manner and the electorate's wishes should be respected.

However, the Parliament as an institution is not the preserve of whichever party wins the election; it has to be cherished, protected and allowed to evolve and develop in sympathy with the people who send us here and trust us to strive to organise our business, unhindered—as far as possible—by the different priorities and concerns of competing political parties. We should take some decisions as parliamentarians rather than as MSPs who represent political parties, and this is one such decision.

The Scotland Act 1998 currently binds us to having only four elected members of the SPCB. That is one of the matters that we might expect to be changed when the act is amended to meet more sensitively the needs of the Parliament. However, I do not consider that a priority because I believe that even within the current statutory framework there are ways open to us through which we could improve the level of ownership of the SPCB by all MSPs.

The lines of communication between the SPCB and MSPs and, subsequently, the quality of the SPCB's stewardship of parliamentary affairs could be improved. At present, the only formal communication between the corporate body and the back benches occurs in infrequent question-and-answer sessions in the chamber. I propose a more continuous flow of information both ways—particularly when decisions have to be taken that will reverberate outside the Parliament and for which, theoretically and certainly in the eyes of the public, we are all responsible. The decision on the provision of a smoking facility is one example that springs to mind. If the SPCB had invited MSPs to attend its meetings on an observer or advisory basis, depending on the issues under discussion, perhaps there might have been more accurate and sensitive reporting of Scottish Green Party members' expenses.

I have a number of other ideas for improving the transparency and communication of the work undertaken in our name by the SPCB. I will discuss those with colleagues if I am elected. However, I assure them that if I am elected, I will ask for a recount.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

We will proceed to the vote.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. If the corporate body is a non-party-political body, would it not threaten to bring it into disrepute if party whips tried to instruct their members how to vote on the matter?

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

That is, of course, a matter for members, individually and collectively. As I said, we will proceed to the vote.

The first vote is for members who wish to support Mr MacAskill. Members who wish to vote for Mr MacAskill should vote yes now.

Members voted.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

We now proceed to the vote for Margo MacDonald. Members who wish to vote for Margo MacDonald should vote yes now.

Members voted.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Voting for the candidates has concluded, but there is of course a third vote. Any member who has not voted for a candidate and who wishes to register an abstention should press their button now.

Members voted.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

I now have the verified results of the election of a member of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. The total number of votes cast was 115. I declare the result as follows: Mr Kenny MacAskill 94, Margo MacDonald 20, Abstentions 1. There were no spoiled papers.

VOTES FOR MR KENNY MACASKILL

Division number 1

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Baillie, Jackie, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brown, Robert, Brownlee, Derek, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Fergusson, Alex, Finnie, Ross, Fraser, Murdo, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Grahame, Christine, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McFee, Mr Bruce, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Murray, Wallace, Mr Jim, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

VOTES FOR MARGO MACDONALD

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

As the result is valid, and as Kenny MacAskill has received more votes than the total number of votes for the other candidate, I declare that Kenny MacAskill is selected for appointment to the SPCB.

As a member has now been selected for appointment to the SPCB, the election process is complete. I offer my congratulations to Mr MacAskill on his election.