Holyrood's chamberAs predicted (see third point here), Holyrood has a new grouping for business purposes: John Finnie and Jean Urquhart, plus Margo, plus the Green MSPs. Five is sufficient to win a place on the Parliament’s Business Bureau, which haggles over the business schedule. It also feels a touch more than purely technical (unlike, say, the Greens tie-up with EFA at the European Parliament), given the five share support for independence and opposition to NATO.

It’s also the same size as the Lib Dem contingent at Holyrood, who currently get a slot at FMQs two weeks out of three: the Presiding Officer has been oddly reluctant to take questions from the Greens this session, but this group should remedy that. Looking at it over fifteen weeks, on five of those weeks the new group would not expect to get a question, on four of those weeks the Greens should have a slot, plus two weeks each for Jean, John and Margo.

FMQs has become increasingly dull and frustrating, and that’s from a low starting point. Two or three typically predictable and unconstructive questions from opposition party leaders are answered with chuckling, bombast and a failure to provide an actual answer. Sometimes there’s room for a backbench SNP MSP to ask a “would the First Minister agree with me” type question, and every once in a while a genuine constituency issue is asked responsibly and answered consensually. Maybe, just maybe, this change will help raise the tone and increase the extent to which the Scottish Government is genuinely held to account.

Joint release issued just now:


5 MSPs have decided to form a technical working group to assist them in their Parliamentary duties.

Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone of the Scottish Green Party have reached an agreement with Independent MSPs Margo MacDonald, Jean Urquhart and John Finnie to establish a working group under the Parliament’s Standing Orders.

This grouping will give the MSPs representation on the Parliamentary Bureau which decides Parliamentary business, in turn providing the MSPs with further opportunities to contribute to debates in the Chamber.

The Independent/Green Group agreed this statement:

“The five of us have discussed ways in which we can work together, and after taking advice from colleagues on our options, have decided to form a grouping to enhance our ability to represent our constituents.

“Although every member of our grouping is pro-independence and believes strongly in a more equal, sustainable Scotland, it is by no means a formal, party-based arrangement; no MSP has changed, or plans on changing, their party affiliation or on taking positions different to those they have taken in the past.

“We all look forward to pushing for an independent, fair and peaceful Scotland both inside and outside of Parliament, and to working with MSPs across the Chamber to achieve these goals.”