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Commission on Scottish Devolution

Volume 508: debated on Tuesday 6 April 2010

The Government welcome the Scottish Affairs Committee’s report on the inter-parliamentary recommendations made by the Commission on Scottish Devolution. The commission, established by the Scottish Parliament in December 2007 and supported by the UK Government, produced its final report in June 2009. The report set out a package of measures designed to review 10 years of experience of devolution and to recommend changes to enable the Scottish Parliament to serve the people of Scotland better, to improve the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament and continue to secure the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom.

The Government welcomed the final report from the Commission on Scottish Devolution on its publication and responded formally with a White Paper “Scotland’s Future in the United Kingdom” on 25 November 2009. Of the 63 recommendations, 42 were for Government to consider and 39 were accepted in the White Paper, including a radical package of reform to the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament. The Government signalled their commitment to bring forward legislation as soon as possible in the next Parliament for those matters outlined in the White Paper that require it.

The Scottish Affairs Committee’s consideration followed a letter from the Speaker of the House of Commons to both the Scottish Affairs Committee and the Procedure Committee to ask for their views on how the recommendations in part 4 of the Calman commission’s final report might be taken forward. Part 4 of the commission’s final report related to relations between Parliaments and Governments.

Response to the Committee’s Recommendations and Findings

The Scottish Affairs Committee’s report provides consideration of the recommendations made by the Commission on Scottish Devolution in relation to strengthening co-operation and communication between the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament. These recommendations cover the following areas of co-operation and communication:

Operation of the Sewel Convention between Parliaments;

Increased involvement of Scottish MPs on Public Bill Committees where the Sewel Convention is engaged;

Introduction of a regular “State of Scotland” debate and reconsideration of the “self-denying ordinance”;

Ensuring that Standing Orders allow greater co-operation between committees in the House of Commons and Scottish Parliament;

Consideration of a “Scottish Super Grand Committee”;

Examination of the access arrangements for MSPs and removal of the equivalent barriers in the Scottish Parliament;

Discretion for committees and Parliaments to invite Ministers to appear before committees of either Parliament;

Continued role for MPs and Scottish Affairs Committee in scrutinising the shape and operation of the devolution settlement;

Enhanced communication and co-operation between the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament, including appropriate resourcing to enable this to happen and a recommendation for secondment and exchanges of staff.

All of these recommendations relate to the operation of effective inter-parliamentary relations. These are matters for the House, as acknowledged by the Government in the White Paper. Where the committee recommends changes to Standing Orders the Government will give consideration to bringing forward the necessary motions early in the next Parliament.

In the White Paper the Government agreed that a strong relationship between the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament was an essential part of a framework for co-operation within the UK. We also welcomed the support shown by the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament to consideration of how to strengthen their relationships in its White Paper.

The Government believe that the third report from the Scottish Affairs Committee provides a very positive response and a strong framework for improving co-operation in line with the recommendations from the Commission on Scottish Devolution.