Point of Order

– in the Scottish Parliament on 5th September 2013.

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Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I refer to the “Code of Conduct for Members of the Scottish Parliament”, section 7.3.1, on conduct in the chamber or in committee, which requires that:

“Members shall at all times conduct themselves in a courteous and respectful manner”.

Earlier today, the First Minister responded to the leader of the Labour Party:

“I know that Johann Lamont and the Conservatives are welded together in the better together campaign, but her quoting a Conservative MSP, as definitive proof, really is evidence that the rest of Scotland would find rather tame and insubstantial.”

The comments referred to were made by me, as I stood in for the Labour Party convener at this week’s proceedings of the Public Audit Committee. Standing orders state with regard to the Public Audit Committee:

“no member who represents a political party which is represented in the Scottish Government may be convener of the Committee.”

Therefore, as deputy convener, I convened this week’s proceedings.

The remit of the Public Audit Committee is to consider and report on financial control, accounting and auditing in relation to public expenditure and to hold to account those in government tasked with spending money.

In June, the previous convener, Iain Gray, wrote on behalf of all members of the committee to the permanent secretary and the principal accountable officer for the Scottish Government, Sir Peter Housden, to ask several questions to assist the committee to do the job that it is tasked to do. I did not consider the permanent secretary’s responses adequate. He stated that he

“would speak with Ministers ... carry out reviews and consultations” and

“reflect how best to respond”.

In truth, he did not answer the questions that were put to him, and I stand by what I said.

I was fulfilling my duties as a parliamentarian and a member of the Public Audit Committee of the Parliament. I do not think that it was courteous or respectful for the First Minister to dismiss my comments in such a manner. Whatever side of the political or constitutional debate members of the Parliament are on, I ask that the views of every MSP must be responded to in a courteous and respectful manner as we carry out our parliamentary duties on behalf of the people of Scotland.

If the First Minister wants “definitive proof” of the inadequate and insulting answers given by the permanent secretary, they are available in the committee papers.

Presiding Officer, I find it very insulting, discourteous and disrespectful to refer to any member of the Parliament’s comments as “rather tame and insubstantial.” I seek your response on this matter.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I was part of the committee meeting that Mrs Scanlon was speaking about. This is not something that I would like to raise in the chamber, but I have to be honest: her comments were so rude that I had to disassociate myself from them at the first opportunity at the committee. I agree with Mrs Scanlon that respect is very important. It should be given to witnesses as well as to members of the Parliament.

The Presiding Officer:

I say to members that I am not prepared to rerun the Public Audit Committee’s meeting. Anybody who wants to find out what happened there can read the Official Report.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

Further to the previous points of order, Presiding Officer. As a new member of the Public Audit Committee, I suggest that its convener was not in the slightest bit disrespectful or discourteous. Ms Scanlon is known to all members as always courteous and respectful to all MSPs and is certainly not—

The Presiding Officer:

I have already said that I will not have a rerun of the Public Audit Committee’s meeting. [Interruption.] I ask you to resume your seat, Mr Macintosh. That was not a point of order and your microphone has been shut off.

I thank Ms Scanlon for advance notice of her point of order. I appreciate that she feels strongly about what was said, but my view is that it was part of parliamentary debate and did not breach standing orders.