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Pearson backs call to reform Holyrood committee status

A SENIOR MSP has backed calls to enhance the status of Holyrood's committee conveners.

Graeme Pearson, Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, said proposals for MSPs to elect conveners would improve scrutiny of government policy.

He said Holyrood would benefit from the same ­"independence of approach" shown by committees at Westminster.

Mr Pearson spoke out after Holyrood's presiding officer, Tricia Marwick, called for committee conveners to be elected by their fellow MSPs rather than installed by party bosses as at present.

It follows concerns that committees have been organising their business in a bid either to protect or attack the government, depending on the party loyalties of conveners and key members.

Electing conveners would give them an alternative mandate to pursue inquiries in the wider interests of the parliament and public, Ms Marwick believes.

Mr Pearson said: "I have a similar view and think the biggest weakness of the Parliament lies in its ­inability to hold government to account in an effective manner particularly - but not solely - when that government has a majority in the chamber. Many would suggest that such problems exist at Westminster but the reality of recent committee action there demonstrates an independence of approach, creating a ­wariness on the part of ministers. As a result, a greater care is taken to deliver clear accountability for the actions taken in the name of government policy."

He added: "A well supported committee ­structure should have the ability to examine the details, the actuality of government business and report the facts to the floor of the parliament."

He said the plan would have to be seen as fair to all sides but added: "I have no doubt that the Parliament could overcome that problem if it wished."

The Presiding Officer will ask Holyrood's procedures committee to consider the proposal with a view to producing recommendations for the next parliament, to be elected in 2016.

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