Liberal Democrats are calling for sweeping reforms to be made to the way Holyrood operates – which could potentially see MSPs given the power to appoint Scotland’s most senior civil servant.
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said his party was “looking at” if the position of Permanent Secretary should be an appointment made by the Parliament as a whole.
The move is part of a series of reforms the Liberal Democrats want to see made to the Scottish Parliament following the May 6 election.
And with new Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also open to changing the way Holyrood operates, as part of efforts to improve trust in the institution, Mr Rennie said he could work with other parties to try to introduce legislation.
“We would want legislation to be brought in early doors,” he said.
“I think within the first six months we would want some legislation drafted, consulted upon and then introduced.
“We need to make sure we have got momentum behind this, to make sure people don’t forget how difficult it was, so we can drive it through.”
His comments come in the wake of concerns that Parliament was unable to effectively scrutinise the actions of the Scottish Government during an investigation into the handling of harassment allegations against the former first minister Alex Salmond.
MSPs twice voted to order the Government to release legal advice, but this was only done after the threat of a no confidence motion in Deputy First Minister John Swinney being carried.
Mr Rennie also recalled that Parliament had voted against the testing of five-year-olds in P1 as part of the Scottish Government’s national assessment programme – a programme which remains in place despite ministers being defeated on the issue.
The Lib Dems want to see a new rule brought in, so that the government can be found to be in contempt of Parliament, similar to existing provisions in Westminster.
Speaking about the Scottish Government, Mr Rennie said: “They have ignored the parliamentary vote on removing testing for five-year-olds. We think they should be prevented from doing that in future.
“It just shifts the balance more in favour of the power of Parliament, gives them another tool to be able to get the government to shift.”
In addition to this, Lib Dems want Holyrood to revert to its original four-year terms, and for MSPs to be elected using the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system of PR, instead of having a mixture of constituency and regional list MSPs.
Meanwhile, they say new remote working arrangements, brought in during the coronavirus pandemic, should remain in place when this is over, to make the Parliament a more flexible, family friendly place to work.
Organisations who receive cash should be allowed to speak out against the Scottish Government, without fear of losing out financially, Mr Rennie continued, stating the public health expert and Scottish Government adviser Devi Sridhar had complained that “last year a lot of public health experts were reluctant to speak out because of fear of losing their funding”.
Mr Rennie added: “That happens, I know, right across charities and the third sector, and that subtle threat needs to be removed.”
He also spoke about the Parliament getting more powers over appointments, suggesting US style hearings could take place in Holyrood to consider Government nominees for senior positions.
Mr Rennie, addressing members of the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists Association, said: “We’ve always been in favour of Parliamentary hearings for top officials, so Parliament can have greater control directly over the functioning of the executive.”
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