Standing Orders Rule Changes (Admissibility of Petitions and Minor Changes)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 15th March 2016.

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Photo of Michael McMahon Michael McMahon Labour

One of the roles of the Public Petitions Committee is to keep under review the operations of the Parliament’s petitions process. I would like to say a little bit about the effect of the proposed rule changes on that process.

The change to rule as inadmissible a petition that breaches the rule of law reflects a similar requirement in relation to motions.

As has been indicated, the proposed rule change in relation to a petition being on a matter of national policy or practice is the formalisation of a long-standing practice. Petitions can, and frequently do, derive from personal or local issues, and that will continue to be the case.

Far and away the majority of petition proposals that are received are serious in the subject matter that they raise. However, on occasion proposals are received that are technically admissible but clearly frivolous. Changing the admissibility rules in the way that is proposed will make responding to such proposals a clearer and easier task.

At present, the rules say that a petition cannot be brought in the same or similar terms as a petition that was brought by the same person and was closed fewer than 12 months previously during the same session. The changes to standing orders that are proposed would remove the “same person” element from the rules. Doing so would strike the balance between the opportunity to petition being open to all and the effective use of parliamentary time.

Overall, the changes are intended to provide additional clarity in the operation of the petitions process. The revised standing orders will complement the determination on the proper form of petitions and new guidance for petitioners that will be developed. Together, those things will support the on-going delivery of a robust and transparent system that allows the public to put issues directly on the Parliament’s agenda.