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Presiding Officer calls for leaders to keep it brief

ALEX Salmond and his main opposition sparring partners could face time limits if they argue too long during First Minister's Questions.

Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick has threatened to take the unprecedented step of calling time on exchanges if Scotland's leading politicians continue to ramble.

She has become increasingly frustrated by the length of time taken up by questions from, and answers to, the main opposition leaders leaving little time for backbenchers to contribute.

Concerns came to a head after a recent session when clashes between the party leaders took up 27 minutes of the allotted half-hour session.

Ms Marwick stressed time limits were a last resort but said: "I've had numerous, frequent discussions with the business managers about the length of time it takes for exchanges with leaders at First Minister's Questions and it's clear, despite that, we are still taking far too long. It's not fair on backbenchers, who have very little time to speak."

She warned: "I've had and will continue to have discussion with the party leaders and business managers in the New Year about the length of time they are taking.

"It's unacceptable to me, it's unacceptable to the backbenchers and essentially we have to get this sorted. It is not working as it should be."

"What I don't want to do is go down the road of other jurisdictions and cut people off after 30 seconds or a minute and say, 'This is it, your time is up'.

"That's not where I want to go, but it's a place I could go if I don't see the kind of improvements I'm hoping for."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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