1.1 Becoming involved in the lawmaking process of the Scottish Parliament
As one of our constitutional duties, citizens are expected to vote in parliamentary elections to both the Scottish and UK Parliaments. Both MSPs and MPs are elected through democratic processes (each election process differs). In voting in elections, a citizen is becoming involved in lawmaking (even though they may not realise this). Scottish Parliamentary elections are held every four years, UK Parliamentary elections every five years (subject to exceptions).
There are other ways to become involved in the parliamentary lawmaking process. These include:
- writing to a parliamentary committee to give your viewpoint
- using the media or social media to generate public interest in an issue and pressure parliament to make changes to the law
- writing to an MSP on a particular issue
- lobbying an MSP to make an amendment to a Bill.
Individuals can also consider:
- standing for elections as an MSP (you need to be over 21 and could stand as an independent candidate or as a candidate for a political party)
- taking place in online debates using the discussion forums on the Scottish Parliament website
- if they have specialist knowledge, they can register as a potential adviser to a committee
- submitting a petition to the Parliament asking for the introduction of a new law or change to an existing one (or that they look into a matter of public interest or concern)
- becoming involved in a cross-party group. These provide an opportunity for MSPs, individuals and organisations to meet and discuss areas of interest
- attending a committee event. These are held throughout Scotland to discuss issues with the public. As you learnt earlier, the Scottish Parliament has achieved international recognition for its openness and the way in which it provides opportunities for its citizens to become involved
- responding to a consultation
- applying for a job at the Parliament or undertaking work for an MSP.
Now attempt Activity 1 which encourages you to explore the website of the Scottish Parliament.
Activity 1 The Scottish Parliament: becoming involved
Explore the getting involved section of the Scottish Parliament website.and in particular look to see:
- what topics the current consultations cover
- the process for submitting a petition to the parliament
- what petitions have been submitted previously.
The ‘Getting Involved’ section of the website is set out into different sections to assist navigation and enables individuals to learn about how they can become involved. In Week 6, you explored examples of a number of individuals who became involved in the work of the parliament as they sought a change in the law.
- When we looked at the website in 2018, the current consultations ranged over a wide number of topics. There were a number of preventive measures being considered in relation to health, substance abuse, consultations on land and buildings transaction taxes, licensing of fun fairs, changes to planning, changes to the regulation of privately operated car parks.
- Petitions can be submitted using an online process and can be submitted by any individual regardless of age or the number of signatures collected. There is a section where you can view current and previous petitions, look at how they were worded, what changes they were seeking, whether they were open, lodged or closed.
- Submitted petitions cover a wide range of matters including (but not exclusively) health, tax, road safety, travel, funding, access to justice, environmental concerns, vaccination, sewage sludge spreading, local area matters and individuals. Information is provided on previous action taken (if any), the petition history and comments made on the petition.
An example of a petition is provided in Figure 5. This petition was made on behalf of the Scottish Crofting Federation in response to increasing numbers of geese in the Western Isles and others (from approximately 150 breeding pairs to over 10,000 over a period of 18 years) and the impact on agriculture and threat to the continuation of island crofting. A number of goose-management schemes had been in place since 2000. These are managed by Scottish Heritage but more funding and support was being called for.
In relation to goose-management schemes, the Scottish Government website states:
Historically, wild geese have formed an important part of Scotland's natural heritage.
Following a period of decline in the 1950s-70s, goose numbers have increased in Scotland and in recent decades the recovery of certain goose populations has caused agricultural damage to crops in some areas.
As a result many farmers and crofters affected by large numbers of grazing geese regard them as agricultural pests.
A national policy framework for goose management has been in place in Scotland since 2000 to help balance agricultural and conservation interests.
Where geese are making use of agricultural land, initial responsibility for minimising damage to crops and grass rests with the farmer or crofter, who should take appropriate steps by scaring and, where appropriate and legally possible, shooting geese.
Where this is impossible, either because of goose numbers or because the necessary level of scaring and any associated shooting could not be undertaken due to the protected status of the population, a local goose management scheme may be considered.
The schemes aim to minimise losses to farmers, whilst ensuring that Scotland fulfils its international nature conservation obligations. These schemes are targeted at specific geese populations and defined areas. Most of the schemes provide payments towards the maintenance of disturbance free feeding areas while encouraging the scaring of geese on other parts of the holding.
The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee agreed that the petition PE01490 should remain open at a meeting held on 9 March 2016 as the issues were ongoing.
Uou can also find details of your MSP on the Scottish Government website. You may also like to explore the ‘Your voice’ section and watch the video which explains how you can become involved in the work of the Scottish Parliament. There is also an extensive education section which you may like to explore.