HOLYROOD'S presiding officer has called for far-reaching reforms of how the Scottish Parliament operates, as she set out plans that would slash the number of committees and see influential convenors elected by their peers.

Tricia Marwick, in a speech to the David Hume Institute, said that "cultural and structural change" is needed in Parliament and that she hopes her plans will lead to some MSPs seeing themselves as parliamentarians, rather than just politicians.

Under the proposals, the number of committees would be cut from 17 to as few as 10, but would be offered greater flexibility in how they operate and become more powerful. Some MSPs sit on three committees, but they would only be allowed to sit on one each under the plan.

Committees, which are made up of MSPs, have a key role in parliament and are tasked with scrutinising legislation, taking expert evidence and conducting enquiries.

Currently, convenors of the groups are chosen by parties, but under Ms Marwick's reforms, they would be chosen in a secret ballot by MSPs.

It is hoped that heading a committee will be seen as an alternative career to seeking ministerial office, a culture that already exists at Westminster where MPs such as Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, have attracted high profiles.

The move follows concern over the politicisation of Holyrood's committee system. SNP conveners have been accused of blocking inquiries that might embarrass the Scottish Government, while opposition party convenors have faced claims of using their committees as a platform to attack ministers.

Ms Marwick said: "I have now come to the view that changing our culture is not enough and we need to consider structural change. Does our current committee structure serve us well enough? Why has no committee proposed any committee legislation since 2002, apart from procedural legislation. Why have we carried out virtually no post-legislative scrutiny?

"Being more radical in how we set ourselves up by allowing more flexibility within a structure of fewer, but better policy-aligned committees will benefit Members.

"I see elected conveners at the heart of this sea-change in the way we approach committee business... What I am setting out is no different to what is operating within the UK Parliament, some would say with real success."

The Presiding Officer emphasised that parties would still have a proportional share of committee conveners through D'Hondt, the system of allocation at Holyrood, but they would become directly accountable to Parliament as a result of a secret ballot of all MSPs.

"I believe that being directly appointed by your peers will create an important cultural shift... with conveners deriving their authority directly from the Parliament", she added. "I want to see more powerful conveners with a stronger voice, not feeling driven by any government's legislation programme."