ERS urge Scottish authorities to draw up proposals for remote/digital working
- Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, Thursday 26 March 2020
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The Electoral Reform Society have called on the Scottish parliamentary authorities to bring forward new proposals to allow remote working and scrutiny of the government to continue during the coronovirus emergency.
The call comes as the Scottish parliament cuts the number of days it sits to just once a week and reduces the number of MSPs allowed in the chamber, with no proposal to utilise online technology, as part of measures to respond to the spread of coronavirus.
Ahead of its own recess, yesterday Westminster authorities granted select committees the power to meet via video link during the crisis, allowing them to continue their work holding the government to account 
In New Zealand lawmakers have set up a new select committee, chaired by the leader of the opposition, that will meet via video-link several times a week during recess – with the full authority of a normal parliamentary body – to keep a check on government decisions .
The ERS are urging parliamentary authorities in Holyrood to look at similar models and to put processes in place that would allow for ‘effective scrutiny’ by MSPs of the Scottish government to continue remotely – utilising proxy voting, and online technology to make sure that all MSPs are able to fulfil their duties in these uncertain times.
Willie Sullivan, Director, Electoral Reform Society Scotland said:
“Substantial scaling down of parliament to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading and taking extraordinary power to deal with the emergency is the right thing to do but raises questions on ensuring continuous effective scrutiny. All but shutting down parliament without putting alternative procedures presents substantial risks.
“Voters need to know that these powers and major life-changing decisions will be held to account in the weeks ahead. That means parliament must adapt rapidly.
“This could include virtual committee hearings via video-links, proxy voting or other online technology. The parliamentary authorities should now use the next week to draw up proposals that allow the work of MSPs and committees in holding the government to account, to take place remotely.
“At times of national crisis, we need more scrutiny, not less. Parliament now needs to take the urgent steps to modernise Holyrood ensuring both the safety of workers, MSPs and our democracy.”
Notes to Editors