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Holyrood debates must remain respectful even when heated, MSPs warned

Debate in the Holyrood chamber must be respectful, the Presiding Officer has said (PA)
Debate in the Holyrood chamber must be respectful, the Presiding Officer has said (PA)

Holyrood’s Presiding Officer has warned MSPs they must be courteous to each other, as the Scottish Parliament prepares to debate contentious legislation.

With Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Government having promised to bring forward a Bill for a second independence referendum, and with ministers also having tabled legislation aimed at reforming the process for transgender people to be recognised, the Parliament is set for heated debates.

Ms Johnstone, who became Presiding Officer a year ago, is clear that even on such controversial issues, debates must always be “respectful”.

She said: “Members have a code of conduct to which we must adhere, that is about being courteous and respectful to one another.”

Alison Johnstone
Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone said she is insists on respect in the chamber (Russell Cheyne/PA)

The Presiding Officer told the PA news agency that while debates between politicians of opposing views can be “robust” and “passionate”, she wants to ensure “each and every debate that takes place in the chamber is respectful”.

She said: “People will have different views on different aspects of legislation, but the chamber is a place to explore the proposal that is put to the Parliament, whether that is by the Government or a Member’s Bill.

“It is about a thoughtful, deliberative process.”

She said there will be “a lot of opportunity, as ever, to discuss any piece of legislation thoroughly”, but she stressed it is “very important Parliament debates issues in a thoughtful, considered manner”.

She added: “Parliaments have a leadership role. That is one of the reasons I am so insistent we debate in a respectful manner.”

She went on to say that while Holyrood is a “very young” Parliament, it has “shown itself more than able to debate issues thoroughly”.