At the start of 2019 SPICe published the first companion blog to the annual Scottish Parliament Statistics publication, bringing parliamentary facts and figures to life in a series of infographics. Scottish Parliament Statistics 2018-2019 has now been published and this blog focuses on a new selection of niche parliamentary facts and figures which aim to highlight the variety and depth of information that the publication contains.
The statistics generally cover the period of one parliamentary year, however some data is cumulative for the whole session.
A parliamentary year is a period, normally 12 months, beginning on the date of the first meeting of the Parliament following a general election, and on each subsequent anniversary of that date within that session. For the current session the parliamentary year runs from the 12 May – 11 May.
Did you know that committee business takes up more time than plenary (Chamber) business?
- MSPs spent a total of 944hrs 14mins in 490 committee meetings, more than double the 437hrs 43mins spent in the Chamber.
- 21 committees met during the parliamentary year.
- The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee met 37 times for a grand total of 100hrs and 45mins, followed closely by the Rural Economy and Connectivity at 92hrs 1min, over 35 meetings
- November was the busiest month for committees, with a total of 123hrs 49mins spent in meetings.
Committees play a central part in the work of the Parliament – taking evidence from witnesses, scrutinising legislation and conducting inquiries. Most committees meet weekly or fortnightly, usually on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday mornings, in one of the Scottish Parliament’s committee rooms – or in locations around Scotland.
A committee usually has between 5 and 15 MSPs as members. Committee members are selected having regard to the balance of political parties in the Parliament and membership is approved by the whole Parliament.
The members of a committee must choose a Convener and Deputy Convener from a particular political party decided by Parliament, following a recommendation by the Parliamentary Bureau.
Scottish Parliament Statistics 2018-2019 includes figures for the number of MSPs, by gender and party, that have been appointed to the posts of Convener and Deputy Convener. The figures are running totals, for the whole of the Parliamentary year, because MSPs sometimes move committee during the year.
Although only 46 (36%) of the 129 elected MSPs are women, MSPs have appointed 13 female Conveners and 11 female Deputy Conveners, which together equates to a much higher 48% of all Conveners and Deputy Conveners.
Scottish Parliament Statistics 2018-2019 provides further analysis detailing how the time spent in sessions in the Chamber (plenary sessions) is divided between different types of business.
During the parliamentary year 2018-2019:
- MSPs met in the Chamber on 108 days.
- November had the most plenary meetings – 13.
- Plenary business lasted for a total of 437hrs 44 minutes.
The infographic ‘Business in the Chamber 2018-2019’ provides a visual breakdown of the flow of parliamentary time based on the data contained in section 3.1 of the publication. It shows, for example, that in 2018-2019 the greatest proportion of time, 92hrs 22mins, was spent debating motions lodged by the Scottish Government covering a variety of topics. This was up from 90hrs 25mins in 2017-2018.
First Minister’s Questions might grab a lot of the headlines, however:
- FMQs only account for 35% of plenary time spent on oral questions – 28hrs 10mins.
- FMQs only make up 17% of the total number of oral questions asked – 230.
- Portfolio questions were the largest group of questions – 712.
Parliamentary questions can be asked by any MSP to the Scottish Government or the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.
Oral questions are answered at Topical, Portfolio, General and First Minister’s Question Times. Some oral questions may be answered in writing if the allocated amount of time for the session runs out. Urgent questions can also be taken in the Chamber.
Parliamentary questions can also be submitted in written form. Section 3.3 contains a full breakdown of both the number of oral and written questions by party. As a comparison with the oral question figures above, in 2018-2019 there were:
- 5772 written questions to the Scottish Government.
- 27 written questions to the SPCB.
In the parliamentary year 2018-2019:
- 56hrs 57mins of plenary time was spent scrutinising Bills, or 13 %.
- 98%, or 55hrs 55mins, of this time was spent scrutinising Government Bills. The remainder was Private Bills.
- 15 Bills were introduced.
- 12 Bills were passed.
- 12 Bills received Royal Assent and became Acts of the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish Parliament Statistics publications follow the progress of Bills from introduction to Royal Assent. The passage of a Bill can cross multiple parliamentary years, therefore section 5 provides information on all Bills that were being considered during that time.
The infographic ‘Session 5 Bills’ pulls together information from the current session, years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19, to allow us to build a more complete picture of the time taken for Bills to progress from introduction to Royal Assent.
It plots all Bill types that have been introduced so far this session – Government, Budget, Members’ and Private.
- Budget (Scotland) (No.2) Bill had the shortest passage time – 63 days (Budget Bill).
- Pow of Inchaffray Drainage Commission (Scotland) Bill has taken the longest time so far – 672 days (Private Bill).
- Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill was closest to the average time – 294 days (Members’ Bill).
To find out more and to explore the wealth of parliamentary data available, go to the Parliament’s website where you will find all the Scottish Parliament Statistics publications from 2009-2010 to 2018-2019. Earlier volumes are available on request: https://www.parliament.scot/abouttheparliament/46935.aspx
SPICe also produces a series of Fact Sheets which provide factual current and historical information on MSPs and Parliamentary Business: https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/15441.aspx
Blog images: copyright of SPICe