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Public Petitions Process Review

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party

It is right and proper that the Parliament regularly reviews its procedures. That allows the Parliament to examine what has worked well and what it can do better, with the aim of making this Parliament the best that it can be for the people of Scotland.

One of the measures of the Parliament’s success is how open and accessible it is to the people whom it represents. A key element of that is ensuring that the petitions system is effective. The system permits people from all strands of civic society to put on the parliamentary agenda issues that are important to them and to ask responsible bodies, including the Government of the day, to act on them.

Before we look at how the system might improve, we should note some of the successful petitions that have secured change. In 2000, a petition that called for the reinstatement of railway services to the Scottish Borders attracted more than 17,000 signatures and was a significant step towards the introduction of the Waverley Railway (Scotland) Bill to rebuild a section of the line in the Borders. That culminated in the building of the longest section of new railway in the United Kingdom for about 100 years, which has proved highly popular since its opening last September.

In 2014, a petition was lodged to have the Tinkers’ Heart of Argyll recognised, restored and listed as a monument of national historic significance. That is the only monument that the Scottish Gypsy Travelling community has. The site did not initially meet the criteria set out by Historic Scotland, but the petition impressed that organisation to such an extent that it led to a fresh evaluation of the circumstances and a public consultation. The site was reassessed and it is now recognised as a site of high cultural significance to Travellers and the whole of Scotland.

The Parliament should seek to build on those successes. I look forward to hearing members’ thoughts and suggestions during the debate.