Veteran Tory MSP Murdo Fraser has called for a cap on the number of Scottish Government ministers. 

In a new paper, titled ‘A blueprint for a more effective Scottish Parliament’ he suggests that the size of government should be up to Holyrood rather than Bute House.

The Tory says that the number of ministers should be “regularly reviewed in proportion to the number of MSPs with a view to introducing a cap in the case that the number if Ministers is above what the Parliament deems to be acceptable or necessary.”

It is one a of a number of radical recommendations in the pamphlet published by thinktank Reform Scotland

READ MORE: 25 years of devolution: McConnell calls for 'radical' reform

Mr Fraser, who is the longest-serving Tory MSP having joined the Parliament in 2001, also calls for a working group to look at whether or not Scotland needs more than the 129 MSPs it already has. 

This review, he says, should reflect "the fact that the Scottish Parliament possesses more powers than it did in 1999 and the increased work in committee and chamber level.” 

Mr Fraser says his cap on ministers could also help “free up more backbench MSPs.”

He is the latest senior figure in Scottish politics to suggest the number of parliamentarians in Holyrood should be reassessed.

The Herald:

Over the weekend, Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone also said it was “something that should be looked at.”

Last week, Members of the Senedd in Wales passed plans to increase their numbers from 60 to 96. The move is expected to cost as much as £17.8 million a year.

Other shake-ups suggested by the Tory include giving committee convenors a pay bump to reflect the seniority of the job. He also suggests they be elected as they are in Westminster. 

He also recommends another import from the Commons, with MSPs given the full rights of parliamentary privilege to allow them to speak freely from the chamber without fear of being sued for slander or being found in contempt of court.

Mr Fraser also argues that the focus of question time “should be on quality of scrutiny rather than the quantity of questions” and suggests the number of portfolio questions selected be reduced.

There is also a call for a ‘Confirmation Committee’ to approve Ministerial and public body
Appointments, establishing consequences for breaking the Ministerial Code of Conduct and more power for the Presiding Officer.

The Herald:

One of the biggest reforms suggested is the addition of pre-legislative and post-legislative scrutiny stages to the legislation process.

This could involve Scottish Ministers needed to provide a short statement in the chamber or relevant committee every time a consultation on proposed legislation is launched.

Mr Fraser said: “The Scottish Parliament was once seen as a beacon of democracy, but now finds itself in a complex web of political polarisation and institutional stagnation.

“Despite the various achievements throughout the Scottish Parliament’s first quarter of a century, it now stands at a crossroads, grappling with a crisis of confidence and effectiveness. Reform is not only desirable but essential if the institution wants to continue its promise to serve the people.

“The ambition to create a more European-style legislature which would encourage collaborative working and build consensus has not been fulfilled. Instead, Holyrood now mirrors the Westminster confrontational dynamic.

“The influence of party politics within committees has diluted their effectiveness, turning them into arenas for partisan debates and exchanges rather than a place of constructive communication and consensus-building.

“The checks and balances system in the Scottish Parliament has been seen to show multiple flaws, especially in the formation and scrutiny of legislation.

“Reforms are necessary to restore confidence in Holyrood.”

READ MORE: Scotland needs another parliament, for independents only

Former Scottish first minister Jack McConnell, chairman of Reform Scotland, said: “Murdo Fraser and I have our differences. My solutions to these problems would not be exactly the same as those he outlines in his pamphlet.

“But Reform Scotland is here to encourage and stimulate debate and I welcome his willingness to address these issues and begin a debate with some concrete proposals.

“This is the time for serious review of these original arrangements. Previous efforts have not gone far enough.

“I hope that this pamphlet does generate debate but also action to rebuild the Scottish Parliament into an institution that we can be proud of once again.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Any reform of the Scottish Parliament is for Parliament to consider.

“As we reach a milestone for devolution in Scotland, it is important to reflect on its impact and the Scottish Government will listen with interest to the debate the 25th anniversary of devolution has generated.”