29 April 2020

The First Minister must do all she can to prioritise key coronavirus-related business and extend time for parliamentary scrutiny, Richard Leonard has said today.

In a letter to the First Minister, Richard Leonard said:

“I write following the sitting of the Scottish Parliament yesterday and your comments at the end that, whilst it is not for the Government to decide, you would be prepared to extend First Minister’s Questions to allow Members to ask questions and receive answers.

“This would be of great benefit in ensuring we can respond timeously to constituents who are contacting all of us in unprecedented numbers on a wide range of extremely important issues.”

Highlighting Scottish Labour’s concerns over the proposed business, Richard Leonard writes:

“The Scottish Parliament is scheduled to sit for two days next week to discuss non-urgent business, which could be delayed.

"It is our view that affording members the opportunity to discuss and debate urgent COVID-19 issues must take priority to ensure everyone understands the scale of the challenge the country still faces and the Government’s response.

Concluding, Richard Leonard states:

“Can I therefore request that the government issue a new business programme for next week which replaces the Agriculture Bill Stage 1 and the Consumer Scotland Bill Stage 3 with two days of parliamentary business on Covid-19.”

The text of Richard Leonard's letter to Nicola Sturgeon is ;

Dear First Minister

I write following the sitting of the Scottish Parliament yesterday and your comments at the end that, whilst it is not for the Government to decide, you would be prepared to extend First Minister’s Questions to allow Members to ask questions and receive answers.

This would be of great benefit in ensuring we can respond timeously to constituents who are contacting all of us in unprecedented numbers on a wide range of extremely important issues.

Given that it is the Scottish Government’s business proposal that the Bureau considers, can I therefore ask that the government brings forward a proposal to the Bureau that extends both the time for FMQs and for Ministerial Statements to afford the opportunity to MSPs to question and seek clarification.

Although Scottish Labour’s representative on the Bureau has previously asked for an extension of parliamentary sitting time for Covid-19 business, her proposal did not receive the support necessary from other parties’ representatives – including your own.

The Scottish Parliament is scheduled to sit for two days next week to discuss non-urgent business, which could be delayed.

It is our view that affording members the opportunity to discuss and debate urgent COVID-19 issues must take priority to ensure everyone understands the scale of the challenge the country still faces and the Government’s response.

Whilst we are expecting the public to remain in strict lockdown at this stage, this is entirely rested on transparency, trust and confidence.

If members of parliament are being asked to come out of lockdown to debate “routine” business, then there is a danger that this will break that trust and confidence with the public.

Can I therefore request that the government issue a new business programme for next week which replaces the Agriculture Bill Stage 1 and the Consumer Scotland Bill Stage 3 with two days of parliamentary business on Covid-19.

I appreciate that this may require an emergency meeting of the Parliamentary Bureau and our Business Manager, Elaine Smith MSP, will make herself available to participate in this.

Given the urgency of this situation, I look forward to an early response.

I hope you are keeping safe.

Yours sincerely

Richard Leonard MSP

Leader – Scottish Labour Party

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