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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 Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

I am happy to agree on the golden age of Nigel Don on petitions, equally as much as I am on the golden age of petitions with David Stewart. I accept that that is my point. The committee has always been prepared to do that. It is therefore an extremely interesting and rewarding committee on which to sit.

Before my time on the committee, a petition was submitted by Mike Gray and Tina McGeever on access to new medicines. I think that that led to a completely transformational way in which end-of-life medicines were made available to the wider Scottish public.

In this session, the petition on vaginal mesh implants, which Mr Stewart mentioned, has been one of the most extraordinary petitions that we have heard evidence on. There have, of course, been ramifications across the whole world as a result of the interrogation of that issue in Scotland. Scotland was the first to act at a Government level with dramatic intent and to bring about a potential change in the wellbeing of those affected.

I am not indifferent to our need to broaden access, but what matters to me more is the substance of the petitions that come before us. I would like to see that enhanced. On access, my particular contribution in respect of the recommendations in the early report, before we consider the evidence of the debate elsewhere, is that it is now the custom and practice of all members to issue annual parliamentary reports. If we are going to harness the Parliament’s capability to promote the petitions process to the widest possible body of people, it would be useful to have an advertisement from the Parliament about the parliamentary petitions process within those annual reports and an offer by the member issuing the leaflet to help facilitate the petitions that some of their constituents might be interested in raising.

That approach would allow the petitions process to be advertised to the widest possible community and it would enable those who might feel slightly intimidated about the potential process to feel that they had a link beyond the very helpful clerks to help with implementing the petition.

The Public Petitions Committee is an extraordinary committee; it stands head and shoulders above many parliamentary petitions committees the world over. One signature on one petition can ensure that an important issue is heard in this Parliament and that action can follow. We should be very proud of that.