Point of Order

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:00 pm on 25th October 2007.

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Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour 5:00 pm, 25th October 2007

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. At First Minister's question time today, in response to my question, the First Minister said that the previous Government had committed itself only to a feasibility study and not to the provision of a station in Plains.

On 30 October 2006, the then transport minister, Tavish Scott, wrote to me, stating:

"The evidence provided to the Airdrie-Bathgate Bill Committee showed that there is a case for the construction of a station at Plains ... The Executive will ensure that a feasibility study is undertaken regarding Plains and this will be available at the start of the new Parliament in 2007. following that report, the necessary process of consultation and STAG analysis will start as soon as possible. This should enable the construction of the station to take place while the main route is being built."

During the preliminary stage debate on 23 November 2006, Tavish Scott stated:

"Our commitment should mean that stations can be constructed at Blackridge and Plains while the main route is being built."—[Official Report, 23 November 2006; c 29600.]

On 23 January, members of the private bill committee received a paper from the promoter of the bill, entitled "Consideration of Plains and Blackridge stations", which said that Transport Scotland had begun discussions with local authorities on the most appropriate way to take forward the minister's commitment to the construction of Plains and Blackridge stations. For Plains, there was to be a feasibility study, which would address the technical specification, environmental impact, project programme and cost.

In his letter of 22 October to Patrick Harvie, Stewart Stevenson stated that an additional stop at Plains should not be supported by the Scottish Government for reasons such as revenue impact and economic benefit and disbenefit—not issues agreed to by the minister who initiated the process. As paragraph 2.5 of the Transport Scotland report stated:

"The current Minister Stewart Stevenson asked Transport Scotland to look again at the impact on the overall business case of the Airdrie to Bathgate project of the provision of a station at Plains."

It is that intervention that has resulted in the change of policy about Plains station. The previous Executive committed itself to a station. I ask the Presiding Officer to consider whether it is in order for ministers to mislead Parliament. I recognise that that may be a matter for the ministerial code; however, ministers are first and foremost members of the Parliament—

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

You are over time, Ms Whitefield.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

I ask the Presiding Officer to reflect on what sanctions are available to the Parliament, especially if the ministerial code is not followed.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I remind members that they may not speak to points of order for more than 3 minutes. I thank the member for advance notice of that point of order, but she will be aware from the experience of several weeks in our recent history that it is simply not a matter for me.

However, this point of order gives me an opportunity to say something. Members will recall that, just before the October recess, similar questions were raised about the relative places of the standing orders, the code of conduct for members of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish ministerial code when it comes to conduct in the chamber. In order to provide the greatest degree of clarity on those issues, I am currently discussing the matter with the business managers and, when those discussions are complete, I will spell out the role of each of the relevant documents as they relate to conduct in the chamber.

In the mean time, I will make two points. First, members must accept responsibility for their conduct in carrying out duties for which they are elected. That includes things that they say in the chamber. As I have said previously, I am not an arbiter of the accuracy of what is said in the chamber.

Secondly, I inform members that my deputies and I, having discussed the matter, simply cannot continue to allow, through spurious points of order, the rerunning of debates that have already been closed. [Applause.] It does nobody any good to point at other members. Rerunning debates does not serve the Parliament or anyone else well, and I advise members to guard strongly against doing so in future.