Wednesday, 23 December 2009

We have left the building

Well, not quite, but no more blog postings this year. The Parliament will shut down from tomorrow (Christmas Eve) until we return on Tuesday 5 January 2010 (Committee's first meeting is 12 January so papers for that will go out on the 5th or 6th). How will you cope without this blog and my pointless and tenuous musical references/connections. However, I have a few CDs coming my way at Christmas (from Richie Havens to the Silent League) so will be back with a vengeance next year!
We have some projects we are taking forward and which we hope to launch in January. These are aimed at further publicising the petitions process here and the work of the Committee. The anticipation! Can you contain yourself!! I think next year will be a good one for the Committee and, importantly, we hope for petitioners.
Anyway, I hope you all have a good Christmas an a guid New Year.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Screening and diagnosis of Haemochromatosis (Iron Overload)

We've considered quite a few health petitions over recent meetings. This afternoon we considered another one from George Scott on Haemochromatosis. This is a genetic disorder which causes the body to absorb excessive iron from the diet and then deposits it in the liver, pancreas, heart, endocrine glands and joints. This can lead to liver cirrhosis, heart damage and diabetes.
It's always interesting to receive petitions like this, people seeking to raise our awareness of conditions that perhaps don't receive a lot of attention compared to others. I thought the petition was really well put together with lots of information. The oral presentations from George Scott, Dr Fitzsimons and Dr Robson were particularly useful. You could see the committee was getting absorbed into the topic.
In the end we agreed to write to the UK National Screening Committee, the Scottish Government, Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, British Society for Haematology, Molecular Haematology Unit and the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society looking for more information about the issues raised in the petition. We've also asked the petitioner for some statistical data about incidence rates.
We'll have another look at this petition next year once all this information comes back.
John Farquhar Munro MSP, Deputy Convener

Friday, 11 December 2009

School bus safety

Our discussion this afternoon on school bus safety was interesting and hopefully productive. You will know that we have been looking at these petitions for a while now.
It was good to hear from petitioner Ron Beaty again (sorry that Lynn Merrifield couldn't make due to illness) - we hope they found some satisfaction in our discussion and what we are trying to do. It was interesting to hear from Garth Goddard of the Yellow School Bus Commission about the outcomes from the report which it published on this issue earlier this year and from Malcolm Bruce MP who tried to legislate on this issue in the House of Commons.
Malcolm Bruce mentioned the scope for a 'school bus overtaking ban' pilot scheme that he had raised with the UK transport minister and which could perhaps run in Scotland. We agreed to look into this idea further. Also discussion around what individual local authorities are doing and what provision is made by them in terms of school buses. What are the regional variations? What scope is there through contracts to address this issue? The committee will follow up issues that arose from this afternoon and then come back to these petitions next year to see where we are.
Nanette Milne MSP

A braw year?

I think this has been a braw year for the PPC. As I said at our meeting this afternoon, we met 18 times during 2009, with three of these meetings being external in Easterhouse, Fraserburgh and Alness. Here we met with local groups and individuals, schools, and discussed issues around what we do, the role of the Parliament, how to get involved through petitioning. Some great moments (folk sitting on the floor at the Easterhouse meeting as we ran out of space and seats; the pupils at Fraserburgh Academy and who had the nicest hair; being piped in at Alness Academy when we arrived!).
We hosted our knife crime summit in the Parliament back in January on John Muir's petition; contributed to the moving stories exhibition with 4 of the 10 stories being from petitioners; played a role in the recent Understanding and influencing your Parliament conference; met with several delegations eg Wales, Vietnam, Victoria in Australia; concluded our year long inquiry into the public petitions process; introduced several ways to better publicise the work and role of the committee (including this blog!); and continued our consideration of our access to cancer drugs petition inquiry from 2008.
We considered 79 new and 277 current petitions over the course of our 18 meetings. This resulted in the issuing of around 2,000 letters and e-mails seeking information.
Now I think all of this, and all the other work we've done is pretty impressive. But we can do more and we will. We've got some exciting work ahead of us in 2010 including more external meetings in St Andrews, Thurso and Arran, our young petitioners meeting which we will hold, more projects to increase our presence using new e-technologies plus, of course, lots of interesting and important petitions to consider. We will continue to improve the petitions process wherever and whenever we can to ensure it meets the needs and expectations of the people who use it.
Can I wish you all a happy Christmas an a guid New Year.
Frank McAveety MSP, Convener of the PPC

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Welcome Back My Friends...

... To The Show That Never Ends by Emerson Lake and Palmer was one of the first elbums I every bought (from a place called Easy Rider in Forrest Road in Edinburgh). Triple album. Wow! Anyway, Tuesday sees the final meeting of 2009 of the committee but, of course, the work continues in 2010 with a very full programme of meetings and external events. We are already filling the agendas for January meetings. The work goes on. So that's this week's tenuous musical link.
Two oral presentations on Tuesday. The first will take the form of a round table discussion on two petitions relating to school bus safety. Taking part are petitioners Ron Beaty and Lynn Merrifield, along with Malcolm Bruce MP, Garth Goddard of the Yellow School Bus Commission, a representative from Aberdeenshire Council and Josh Kane MSYP who is the Convener of the Scottish Youth Parliament Transport, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee. Those following the committee will be aware of the past consideration it has given to these petitions, mainly around the issues of seat belts and improving safety signage on school buses.
The second oral presentation relates to George Scott's petition on Haemochromatosis (Iron Overload). There have been a number of health petitions before the committee in recent weeks (eg the last meeting petition on Low Dose Naltrexone). Two very interesting petitions. You can see all the petitions being considered next Tuesday on the agenda. I just hope the meeting doesn't last as long as the ELP album mentioned above! (me, Royal Albert Hall, circa 1995, ELP reunion concert - not 'alf!).
Will post an update after Tuesday's meeting.
All the best,
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Friday, 4 December 2009

Local public petitioning processes?

Interesting petition just posted up on our e-petition site which is calling for the introduction by local authorities of locally based public petitioning processes (perhaps modelled on the system we operate here in the Parliament?). This would allow people at a very local level to take forward petitions on more local issues and have them considered (as the national parliament, petitions here must have a national aspect to them).
Of course this was something which the committee looked at during its inquiry into the public petitions process (paras.178-185).
You can of course support this e-petition by simply adding your name online (easy peasy) or posting a comment up to the discussion forum. Looking to put this before the committee at its 26 January meeting.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Thursday, 3 December 2009


The Scottish Parliament was the first legislature in the world to accept e-petitions. A what I hear you ask! Basically, its a petition which we would host on our website which allows people (from all over the world) to go in, view it online, add their e-signature and enter into a discussion forum where they can, if they wish, put forward an opposing view to that set out by the petitioner. You can view our e-petition site here.
E-petitioning is often cited as a good example of e-democracy. Now that opens up an entire debate as to what e-democracy is which I am not going to go into here but we are proud of the opportunity which e-petitioning has provided to encourage and provide a further option for people to participate in the public petitions process as a democratic process. To give you some stats, around 3/4 of the petitions that come forward, the petitioner want to go up as an e-petition. Since 2000 when the first e-petition was hosted, there have been over 100,000 e-signatures and over 3,000 discussion comments. Site usage is over 1 million hits per month. Pretty impressive!
Of course, since then many other legislatures (and local authorities) have introduced e-petitioning systems - Queensland, Bundestag to name two of the big players in this field. E-petitioning has also enhanced the world profile of our public petitioning process here. However, the core of a petitioning process must be the scrutiny that is given to the petition itself, whether e or not. It is what the Parliament does with it. That is where the role of the PPC here is so crucial.
The reason for raising this issue is that we are now taking forward a project to revamp our e-petition site. We want to improve the appearance and functionality of it, introduce more modern technologies eg Web2.0 and offer more facilities to users which will allow us to share more information about the petition with them. Central to this project is ensuring we maintain ease of use for users. So, what would you like our new system to do? If there is a feature which you think the new system should have, let me know. At the end of the day, it must meet the needs of petitioners and the people who want to access e-petitions.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Monday, 30 November 2009

What's up this week

Well, committee meeting tomorrow afternoon. Agenda actually not that bad compared with recent weeks. Did get slightly worried that I had maybe left some petitions off by mistake!
Two oral presentations from petitioners on NHS interpretation/translation services and on availability on NHS of low dose naltrexone.
Visiting the committee this week is Johannes Fritz from the University of Erlangen in Germany who is undertaking a research project on behalf of the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag on e-petitioning. This follows up an earlier visit from Ralf Lindner at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research two years ago. Johannes will watch the committee's meeting tomorrow afternoon and then I'll have a sit down and blether with him on Wednesday morning before he meets Convener in afternoon. He also has other meetings lined up with various academics. Looking forward to sharing some ideas and thoughts on how public petitioning progress are being developed by the committee here and in Germany.
Also on horizon are discussions with the blood donation services in Germany and Greece in connection with petition before the committee at present. This will follow on from the videoconference held with Paris last week (see post below).
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Videoconference with Paris

The Committee has gone international again, this time with a videoconference with Paris. Frank McAveety (convener), Anne McLaughlin and Robin Harper heard from Dr Gilles Folléa, Leslie Sobaga and Sophie Skotnicki about how France has been promoting and encouraging blood donation (and eventually succeeded) for the best part of the last 10 years. Dr Folléa is one of the top heads of the Etablissement Français du Sang (EFS), the equivalent of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service.

The videoconference was on the back of petition PE1274 by Andrew Dannet which seeks to introduce a scheme to pay people each time they donate blood and to consider other measures to encourage more people to donate.

We received valuable information based on the French experience which will no doubt assist the Committee's work on the petition. We learned that in France, there are 156 sites where people can donate blood with 85% of these sites being mobile (going from town to town), all this backed up by local and national awareness campaigns pretty much throughout the year. One good idea that they have is that when people donate blood they are asked to make another appointment so that it is not just a one off (men can give blood up to 6 times a year and women up to 4). Donors are then reminded of the appointment by text message.

This was a videoconf which was well worth it and the petition will be back before the Committee in April.

Just to show you how international we really are, la vidéoconference a apporté des éléments neufs et innovateurs qui vont sans nul doute aider le comité dans ses délibérations. L’approche française est certainement un succès et les examples donnés, à la fois simples et pratiques, illustrent une bonne utilisation d’outils informatiques. Par example, lorsque quelqu’un donne du sang, on demande à cette personne de reprendre aussitôt un rendez-vous pour une prochaine fois. Le donneur recevra ensuite un message par texto pour lui rappeler du jour et l’heure du rendez-vous. Simple et efficace!


Clerking team

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Understanding Parliament conference

Last Saturday (21st), over 100 people from small, local community groups around Scotland came together for the 1st ever "Understanding and Influencing Your Parliament" conference. For nearly everyone who came along, this was their first experience of engaging with the Parliament.

The petitions process was at the heart of what we had to share with them. We started the day in the Chamber with five speakers giving short presentations about the Parliament, the Scottish Government and what it is like to be an MSP - especially how constituents can help Members to do their jobs. As the Presiding Officer emphasized, the day was all about "people power". We wanted to show our delegates how they are at the heart of Scotland's political processes, and how they can use them to get their voices heard on their issues. One delegate coined the phrase "a citizens' democracy", which sparked lively debate from our panel. Here you can see petitioner Tina McGeever talking with some of the delegates.

We were delighted to welcome Michelle Stewart, one of our petitioners, to speak in the Chamber. Michelle's input - from the heart and without any notes - clearly showed why she was named as Campaigner of the Year earlier in the week.
Networking in the Garden Lobby had started first thing over coffee and continued over the lunch break. Delegates had a chance to go on a quick tour of Holyrood and to get their pictures taken for use in their local papers, newsletters and websites.

In the afternoon, it was back to the hard work with two workshops.
Fergus and Frank McAveety led sessions on petitions, sharing their knowledge and experience. As delegates departed at the end of the day, many of them mentioned that they were away to think about or even draft a petition so they must have captured everyone's imagination!
Michelle stayed on and we were joined by Tina McGeevor as well - they both contributed to sessions about how to run a campaign. Feedback has been very positive with comments about how much people learnt on the day and how pleased they were to experience their "open and accessible Parliament" in action. This event really showed how the Committee and the Education and Community Partnerships team can work together, with other Members and colleagues of course, to promote the work of the Parliament and how people can get involved, as flagged in the Committee's recent inquiry report. I suspect we'll be called on to run the conference again, judging by its success. Well, at least it keeps Fergus and Frank out of the CD shops on a Saturday afternoon.
Rosemary Everett, Head of Education and Community Partnership Team

Monday, 23 November 2009

Vietnamese delegation

A delegation from the Office of National Assembly of Vietnam visits the Parliament this week for a series of meetings and discussions. The main objective of the visit is to provide an opportunity to learn about the development of devolution in Scotland, relations with the UK Parliament and the other devolved institutions, the role of an MSPs, the support services involved in the work of the Parliament such as information and research, the legislative process and the work of parliamentary committees, the scrutiny role of the Parliament.
I will be meeting the delegation on Wednesday when we will have a blether about our public petitioning process. I met with a similar delegation 12 months ago - I must have said something that interested them!
The group comprises parliamentary officials and I am looking forward to meeting with them.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Tuesday's meeting

A long meeting on Tuesday afternoon, started at 2.00 and ran on until 5.20 pm. At one point I was thinking about the advert that was on the telly years ago for a well known make of tea which featured chimpanzees. The advert had the Houses of Parliament in the background and the chimps are dressed in suits. Anyway, the key line in the advert was "Let's make it an all night sitting" as they pour another cup of tea. In my head on Tuesday, this was funny!
If anyone is still reading this post well here goes. Three oral evidence sessions and you can read posts about the cancer drugs and fairtrade food in schools petitions (see posts below from Frank McAveety and Nanette Milne). The third oral evidence session was on reducing levels of stillbirths and neonatal deaths (PE1291).
It is quite incredible the breadth of subjects which are covered at one meeting. On Tuesday the committee considered 20 petitions on 18 different subjects. It is interesting to watch the discussion amongst committee members change so quickly from one subject to another and for the petition to move forward in a constructive way through the identification of further questions to ask.
All the letters arising from Tuesday were issued yesterday. These are inviting written submissions from a wide range of bodies. Most of these petitions will now roll forward to the meeting the committee is having in February 2010 at which it will consider only current petitions. There are around 40 petitions down for discussion at that meeting. Gulp!
We now turn our minds to the next meeting on 1 December with the papers going out early next week. As the second best band to come out of Scotland (AWB - Blue Nile first, Sutherland Brothers third) once sung, Lets Go Round Again! (me, Edinburgh Oden circa 1981!).
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Tina McGeever petition

I thought you would welcome a post on the outcome of our discussion yesterday afternoon on Tina McGeever's access to cancer drugs petition (PE1108). As you know, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, was giving evidence to the committee on progress and action by the Scottish Government in taking forward the conclusions of our inquiry report.

This, I thought, was a really useful and helpful discussion with the Cab Sec in terms of getting clarity and details of what practical steps are being taken to improve the processes at a very local level for patients accessing cancer treatment drugs. The petition came forward on the back of the experience of Tina and her late husband Michael Gray.

It was encouraging yesterday to hear the steps being taken on a number of fronts such as improving local liaison between the health board, clinician and patient, more (and better quality) information for patients on exceptional prescribing to be renamed individual patient treatment requests).
We welcome and appreciate the work that has been done and will be continue to be done by the Scot Govt and we are pleased to have been able to assist in this. Of course we will continue to consider the petition but I think yesterday took us all a good way forward to bringing about the necessary improvements. That is what we are working together to achieve.
You can listen to Tina being interviewed after the meeting on Radio Scotland i-player (about 16m 40s in).
You can also watch the archive of yesterday discussion with the Cab Sec on Holyrood TV (this was the first petition on the agenda).
Frank McAveety MSP, Convener

Monday, 16 November 2009

Visit this week

Another visit this week. A Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation of around 50 elected members will visit the Parliament on Wednesday and Thursday for a series of meetings with MSPs and officials. Highlight of the visit will of course be a discussion on public petitions! The delegation is made up of elected members from a wide range of countries - Australia. Cameroon, Pakistan, Malawi, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Brunei Darussalam, Namibia and many others.
This will be another great opportunity for the committee to talk about and demonstrate the importance of an effective and relevant public petitioning process. The delegation asked that discussing public petitioning was on the programme for their visit.

Well done Dyce Academy!

Well done to Dyce Academy pupils Julia Standing, Erin Young, Laura Stebbings and their teacher, Ruth Teehan, who were at this afternoon's committee meeting. They were talking to us about their petition (PE1292) on Fairtrade food in schools and did a fantastic job putting over their arguments. We had a good discussion with them and the pupils spoke about the particular situation at their own school.

You can watch the archive of our discussion through Holyrood TV (scroll along to about 47 minutes).
We agreed to write to the Scottish Government, Scottish Fair Trade Forum, Scottish Parent Teacher Council and some local councils - including Aberdeen - about the petition. An issue we have raised is about balancing the promotion of healthy eating against that of enterprise education. We also want to know whether guidance issued by the Scottish Government on health eating in schools will have a bad impact on encouraging pupils to think about fair trade and the social, environmental, ethical and community benefits associated with this.

Earlier in the day the pupils had a tour of the Parliament. I hope you each enjoyed your day.
Nanette Milne MSP

Thursday, 12 November 2009

South Australia Legislative Council

The Convener, Frank McAveety MSP, will meet with Bob Sneath MLC, the President of the South Australia Legislative Council and Jan Davis, the Clerk to the Council, this afternoon to discuss the public petitions process here. This is the latest in a series of discussions which the committee has had with Australian legislatures in recent months on petitioning. It held a videoconference with the Petitions Committee at the House of Representatives (the federal Parliament) in September and later that month the Speaker and Clerk to the Victoria Legislative Assembly visited the Parliament. Its good that there is interest across the world in what the committee is doing and the public petitions process that we operate here.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Late. Again!

Terrible performance on my part in not posting before now. We issued all the papers for next Tuesday's committee meeting earlier this week. That should have been my prompt to post details but I never. Can you forgive me!
Anyway, the committee has a further bumper meeting on Tuesday. All papers available on committee's webpage. Meeting starts at 2.00 pm in committee room 2 and you can watch live via Holyrood TV.
First petition on agenda is PE1108 on access to cancer drugs. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing will answer questions about progress made by the Scottish Government and others in improving access to cancer treatment drugs since the committee's inquiry report last year.
Next up are a couple of new petitions (PE1290 and PE1292) along the lines of save our school tuck shops. Some of the pupils from Dyce Academy will speak to the committee about their petition.
The other oral presentation relates to petition PE1291 from SANDS the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.
There are four other new petitions and 13 current petitions down on the agenda. As I say, you can view the online version of the agenda where you can hyperlink to each petition page for more details. Very nifty!
No other items on the agenda. I will post up details of what came out of Tuesday's meeting afterwards.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Friday, 6 November 2009

Committee of the year?

Each year, The Herald newspaper hosts the Scottish political awards. This year, the committee has been shortlisted for the 'committee of the year' award. To be recognised in this way is appreciated, particularly given the many petitions and important issues which it has dealt with this year on behalf of petitioners who have brought issues forward to their Parliament.
The event takes place in a couple of weeks . As they say at the Oscars, just being shortlisted is an honour in itself!!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Special petitions meeting for young people!

I wanted to post up a quick note on the outcome of our discussion this afternoon regarding our idea for a special public petitions committee meeting to consider petitions from young people. I am really pleased that we agreed to take this forward (we highlighted the idea in our petitions inquiry report (para.33) earlier this year).
So what happens next? Well, we have already started discussions with Young Scot and the Scottish Youth Parliament about how to make this happen. It's great that we are going to work with these key bodies and tap into the skill and expertise they have. We want to encourage a number of petitions from across Scotland, which will emerge from the grassroots and cover issues that matter to young people. We will provide the forum for these petitions to be discussed and to hear from the young petitioners themselves. Provisionally we have agreed 15 June for this meeting at a venue to be agreed. It may be here at Holyrood, it may be external - perhaps linking in with a project which SYP is taking forward.
Of course I'll keep you updated on how we move forward with this.
Frank McAveety MSP, Convener of the PPC

Petition on display of sexually graphic magazines and newspapers

You will recall at our last meeting on 6 October, we heard from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP, and Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, Tam Baillie, about petition PE1169.
We had a further discussion on this petition this afternoon. Focus was on whether to take forward research on compliance with the voluntary code on this issue (we had questioned the Cab. Sec. about this). There is a recognition that this voluntary code is perhaps not working as it should.
So what happens now? Well, we will write to the Scottish Government to follow-up on what the Cab Sec said and ask whether it intends to undertake any research. However, we will also consider the scope for us to commission research into this issue should the Scottish Government say it has no plans to do so. Precisely what this research will look at we will need to think about very carefully but, initially, we identified issues around the levels of non-compliance with the code, people's perceptions of sexually explicit front covers being in view of children in some shops, the social cost of the problem in terms of the exploitation of women and children, improvements to the code, should it have a mandatory footing rather than be voluntary.
We will of course keep followers of the petition in touch with this.
Marlyn Glen MSP, PPC

School bus safety petitions

We discussed the two petitions on school bus safety again this afternoon. For those following these important petitions, you will know that the committee has taken a close interest in this issue. The petitions are PE1098 from Lynn Merrifield and PE1223 from Ron Beaty. While the petitions deal with different issues, central to them both is improving school bus safety.
We have already heard from the Scottish Government's Minister for Transport, Stewart Stevenson MSP, when we held a meeting at Fraserburgh Academy earlier this year. What we have agreed to do next is invite Malcolm Bruce MP (who is promoting the School Bus Safey Bill through the House of Commons), Josh Kane MSYP, Convener of Scottish Youth Parliament Transport, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, David Blunkett MP, Chairman, Yellow School Bus Commission and a representative from Aberdeenshire Council along to our meeting on 15 December for a round table discussion on this matter.
We want to see what else can and should be done to make our children's journey to and from school safe and enjoyable and we hope our discussion on 15 December will help.
Nanette Milne MSP

Catholics in Scottish prisons petition

The committee discussed petition PE1073 this afternoon. This calls on the Parliament to investigate and establish the reasons for the apparently disproportionate number of Catholics in Scottish prisons. The webpage gives you the background to this petition and the consideration we have given to it so far. You will see that we wanted to widen the scope of the petition to also cover the disproportionate number of Muslims in prisons.
At our last meeting we agreed to consider whether research in this area was desirable. This afternoon, we discussed the initial responses we have received from academics in this field.
The committee has been particularly interested in this issue which is why we think it might be worthwhile taking forward some bespoke research. What we will now do is approach some academics to take forward a more detailed scoping study which would provide more information on precisely what we might want to research.
Once we have this more refined information we will consider whether to commission research. We hope to look at the petition again before the end of the year.
Frank McAveety MSP (Convener) and John Wilson MSP, PPC

Monday, 2 November 2009

Ryan McLaughlin petition update

In my last post I flagged up that the committee, tomorrow afternoon, would be looking at Ryan McLaughlin's MS and vitamnin D supplementation petition. You might want to watch this You Tube clip to hear Ryan talk about his petition.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Hold On!

I have been trying to think of an appropriate song to link this post to and the only one I have in my head right now is 'Hold On' by Deep Purple (from their best ever album in my view, 1974's Stormbringer - sorry, cannot find You Tube link). Tenuous I know but 'Hold On' we have another bumper petitions committee meeting coming up (groan, that was terrible!).
With the October recess now a distant memory its back to normal parliamentary business and the resumption of committee meetings. The agenda and papers for next Tuesday's meeting were published yesterday and are available via the committee's webpage.
On the new petitions, the committee will hear from ProjectScotland about a national youth volunteering policy and from Multi Ethnic Aberdeen Ltd about NHS interpretation and translation services. MEAL are one of the bodies taking part in the Parliament's community partnership project.
On the current petitions, there are a few returning to the committee including the petitions on school bus safety (PE1098 and PE1223) and PE1169 on the display of sexually graphic magazines and newspapers. You will recall the committee heard from Tam Baillie, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People and Kenny MacAskill MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice at its last meeting. Also coming back is Ryan McLaughlin's petition on vitamin D supplements. Ryan came to the committee in June when he and 500 other bravehearts walked down the Royal Mile to the Parliament. A very colourful day!
Finally, the committee will discuss its work programme for 2010 and agree meeting dates and the locations for its three external meetings. It will also agree the date for the special petitions meeting for young people it has undertaken to hold next year (see para.33 of inquiry report).
As ever, you can watch the entire meeting live via the excellent Holyrood TV from 2.00 pm (committee room 1)
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Monday, 26 October 2009

Hold the front page! New podcast!

The committee launched another podcast today. An introduction to the public petitions system includes an interview with the convener, Frank McAveety MSP. You can access the pod cast here. Why not visit the Scottish Parliament's podcast page where you can download podcasts on other aspects of the Parliament's work.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Knife crime

You will be aware that the committee has been considering the petition (PE1171) from John Muir on knife crime for about 16 months now. The committee has been trying to take forward an open discussion on the issues which arise out of John's petition. Earlier this year it sponsored a unique debate in the Chamber of the Parliament when police, victims, their families, churches, social work, media, charities, legal bodies, children's groups, community groups, academics, politicians and others came together for an open debate on how to tackle this problem. The discussion was facilitated by Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor. There was a lot of focus on this debate and what the committee was trying to do.
You can read the oral transcript of what was said and and read the report of the debate which are both available on the committee's webpage. There are also photographs of the event available on our Picasa page.
The committee has now received the response from the Scottish Government to this report.
So what happens next? Well, the Justice Committee here in the Parliament is currently considering the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland ) Bill which contains provisions relating to custodial sentencing. This was one of the core issues in John's petition, that of mandatory custodial sentencing for carrying a knife. That committee is due to complete Stage 1 of the Bill by the end of November. It is expected that the PPC will then look at the petition again (at one of its December meetings) to reflect of where things are and what it can do next.
We will of course keep you updated with the committee's work on this petition. You can access the petition and all the related material via its own webpage. John Muir was one of the people who took part in the Parliament's 10th anniversary Moving Stories exhibition and you can listen to his moving experience about why he had to bring his petition forward.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Yes, we are still here!

I'm aware that we hadn't posted any new comments on to the blog for a week or so. For the 10s of people who follow this blog, here you are. A wee update on all things petitions.
The Parliament of course in in recess - back to Parliament business next week. However, petitions continue to come in and we have been working with petitioners on some possible new petitions that might be coming forward over the coming days and weeks. Some of the new petitions yet to go to the committee you can access via the e-petition site
We are also busy here pulling papers together for the committee's next meeting on 3 November. These will go out early next week (Tuesday?) so keep an eye on the website for the agenda and papers. One of the issues which the committee will discuss at the meeting is its work programme for 2010. At the meeting, it will consider and agree (I hope!) the dates for all of its meetings in 2010 and also the locations for the external meetings which it will hold. So the committee could be coming to a town near you next year!
There are four meetings between now and Christmas - 3 and 17 November, 1 and 15 December but we reckon the committee will look at around 80 petitions across these meetings. Now that I have typed that, roll on Christmas! So a heavy workload in the weeks ahead.
There are a few other issues floating around the committee just now in terms of delegations to the Parliament, issues arising from its inquiry report so watch this space for breaking news.
Promise to get back to more regular updates next week.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Meeting of 6 October 2009

The Committee yesterday took oral evidence from Julie Love and Dr Kenneth Faulds on petition PE1280 which calls for a Fatal Accident Inquiry to be held when a person from Scotland dies abroad. Julie's own son Colin died while swimming on holiday in Venezuela. The way it is at the moment, if an English civilian has a sudden or unexpected death abroad, this will automatically trigger a coroner's inquiry upon the return of the corpse (this is in addition to any inquiry that may have taken place in the country in which the person died). This is very important to determine the cause of the death, the circumstances and to make recommendations to try to prevent future similar accidents. However, the same does not apply if a person from Scotland dies abroad even if there are suspicious circumstances. Here are some pictures from the petitioners taken during the meeting.
The Committee also heard from Kenny MacAskill (Cabinet Secretary for Justice) and Tam Baillie (new Commissioner for Children and Young People)on petition PE1169 on the display of magazines with sexual content. Again, here are a few pics.
Remember,this blog is primarily for you so do let us know what you think about any of the posts.

PPC clerks


Well, lengthy and detailed meeting yesterday afternoon (apologies for not posting earlier). First up was the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP, and Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, Tam Baillie, answering questions about PE1169 on the display of sexually graphic magazines and newspapers. At the end of this, the Committee agreed to look at the scope for research into this issue eg non-compliance with the voluntary code which exists. We are now taking this forward for this committee and a paper will go back to it at its next meeting on 3 November to consider how to move forward.

Next up were two further discussions this time with the petitioners on PE1276 (age of retirement for judicial office holders) and PE1280 (requirement for fatal accident inquiry). Check out the Official Report when published next Tuesday for a record of the discussion.
There was also a batch of current petitions to get through and with 10 MSPs (not members of the committee) there to speak to various petitions, it was a lengthy one, finishing at 5.27 pm.
Anyway, the committee doesnt have another meeting until 3 November but there is a lot to get through between now and Christmas with around 70 petitions down for discussion (and this number will go up!). One petition back before the committee is PE1108 on access to cancer treatment drugs (as a wee aside, well done to Tina McGeever who won the Scottish Woman of the Year award the other night for her campaign). The committee agreed to invite the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, back to discuss progress being made in taking forward the conclusions of its inquiry report published last year.
As ever, we'll keep you posted as things pan out with arrangements for these meetings and other work of the committee including its work programme for 2010 - dates of meetings and locations for external meetings!
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Here I go again!

I typed in the heading for this post and then immediately thought of the classic Archie Bell & The Drells hit . After the Convener's reference last week to the Tony Hancock Magna Carta sketch, we are getting all showbizzy here!
Well, the committee moves on from its Alness meeting and returns to the familiar setting of committee room 2 for next Tuesday's committee meeting. The agenda and papers were issued yesterday and are available on the committee's webpage
As you can see, a big agenda with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP, and Scotland's Childrens Commissioner, Tam Baillie, both giving oral evidence on petition PE1169 about the display of 'lads mags' in newsagents. The committee will also take oral presentations on petitions PE1276 about the age of retirement for judicial office holders and PE1280 on the requirements for fatal accident inquiries which has been lodged by Kenneth Faulds and Julie Love.
There are also a number of ongoing petitions coming back before the committee for further discussion including PE1108 on access to cancer treatment drugs on the NHS which was of course the subject of the committee's inquiry last year. Committee has been looking at the improvements made to the system since it reported.
As always, you can watch the meeting live on your PC via the Holyrood TV feed. Meeting starts at usual 2.00 pm.
Fergus. Clerk to the PPC

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Even more Alness meeting news!

Some further bits of information for you about the committee's meeting in Alness on Monday. First, the Official Report of the meeting has been published (this is the transcript of what was said). Second, you can watch a wee video (below) of the meeting at the school. This includes an interview with the Academy's head teacher. Three, this week's Holyrood Highlights programme also featured the Alness meeting.Phew!

Watch the Public Petitions Committee Archive

What happens now?

Well, a really interesting 2 hour debate yesterday in the Chamber on the committee's petitions inquiry report. A lot of the positive aspects of the petitions process came out and members across the Chamber reflected on how the process really has evolved over the last 10 years and will continue to do so. This was a key point made be several committee members who referred to work they will be doing over the coming months to ensure the process continues to move forward.
Michael McMahon MSP, who was the PPC convener in session 2, in his opening speech referred back to petitioning and the Magna Carta. He set up the current convener (Frank McAveety MSP) nicely who, in the debate closing speech referred to the Tony Hancock sketch. Yes he did!
You can read the transcript of what was said or watch the archive film of the meeting.
So what happens now? Well, quite a few things have already been rolled out since the committee reported back in June. This blog for a start. Several other ideas are being taken forward internally eg revamp of the e-petition site, providing a facility to allow for the texting of support to petitions, improving publicity material (leaflets etc) These were all mentioned yesterday. The committee will also consider in the next few weeks its work programme for 2010. This will cover meeting dates, possible venues for further external meetings, how to take forward a dedicated young persons petitions meeting, how to build on last Monday's external meeting in Alness and the work done by our education outreach team here. We also want to reflect on some of the comments made at the Alness meeting, in particular, how to better publicise these external meetings so that more folk come along. We did arrange for posters to go up in local libraries and the convener wrote an article for the local newspapers but what else can we do?
So a lot going on the next few weeks and we will use the blog to provide regular updates on how all of this is going forward.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The big day has arrived!

Well, big day for committee with a debate in the Chamber this afternoon (3.05-5.00 pm) on the report of its inquiry into the petitions process. This is a good opportunity for the committee to talk about the key issues which people raised with it during its inquiry such as how to raise the profile of the petitions process, how to improve the scrutiny by the committee of petitions.
I know that a few members of the committee are hoping to speak. The Deputy Convener, John Farquhar Munro MSP, will open for the committee and the Convener, Frank McAveety MSP, will close the debate. The Minister for Parliamentary Business in the Scottish Government, Bruce Crawford MSP, will also be taking part.
You can tune in to this and watch it live via Holyrood TV (or watch the archive from tomorrow morning).
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Well done Alness!

“Fantastic!”, “Great response!”, “Really interesting!”. These were some of the comments made by committee members after its meeting in Alness Academy yesterday. The meeting went well from the moment we arrived and were piped into the school by pupil Martin Wunder (what a brilliant welcome!) to when we left. The committee MSPs were very enthusiastic about the meeting and appreciative of all the arrangements and hard work made by the Academy. They were also very grateful to those who came along and took part.

Can we thank everyone who contributed yesterday. All the primary and secondary school pupils who came along, the staff at Alness Academy, and members of the public who turned up.
The committee has asked us to have a wee think about what worked well (and not so well yesterday from our side) and see what we can do better next time round. We really want to build on this and see how we can encourage higher turnouts at future meetings (wherever these may be) and other ideas to get folk involved. We had a look at the comment sheets that were handed in. Some good points made which I will follow up (apologies to those of you distracted by the photographer – we will make sure that doesn’t happen again). Remember, if you were at yesterday’s meeting and would like to let us know what you thought (good or bad) then please post a comment up on to the blog.
The committee is committed to getting out and about round Scotland and will shortly consider its work programme for 2010. This will include ideas for dates and venues for further external meetings.
We have posted a few photos on to our blog photo page. Click here to view. There is also a link below to the piece on STV news last night. There was also coverage of the meeting on Moray Firth Radio and BBC Radio Scotland, Inverness and Aberdeen.
Again, our thanks to everyone for yesterday.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Friday, 18 September 2009

Alness Academy pupil's blood donation petition

In case you are following the petition which we are considering on Monday at our Alness Academy meeting, you may want to have a listen to a couple of radio interviews with Andrew Danet, the pupil there who has brought this petition forward. Very impressive Andrew!
BBC Radio 5 Live (interview is 56 mins in)
BBC Radio Ulster (interview is 4 mins in)
Frank McAveety MSP, PPC Convener

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Revised date and time for petitions debate

The Parliament will debate the report of the committee's inquiry into petitioning on Wednesday 23 September, 3.05-5.00 pm. This will take place in the Parliament Chamber.
If you would like to come along to the Parliament and watch this debate then you should book a ticket through our visitor services team. If you cannot get along to watch this in person, then you can watch the entire debate live over your PC via Holyrood TV
or, if you miss, then watch the archive via the link below
The Deputy Convener, John Farquhar Munro MSP will open the debate for the committee and the Convener will close. Other committee members will speak when the debate goes into open session (after the opening speeches).
Hope you are able to tune.
Fergus, PPC Clerk

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Videoconference with Australia

We held a videoconference with the Petitions Committee of the Australian House of Representatives this morning - well, 8.45 am here, 5.45 pm in Canberra. Not long after breakfast here and members there heading off for evening meal. Weird! The wonders of modern technology.
Anyway, a really interesting discussion as always. A videoconference was held last November so this was a good opportunity to follow-up on some of the things we spoke about then. They are conducting an inquiry into e-petitioning and were interested in the Scottish experience of this. The e-petition system here was launched in 2000 and since has attracted over 100,000 e-signatures and 3,000 discussion comments. Pretty good don't you think.
We'll be looking forward to reading their inquiry report when it comes out.
One of the other areas touched on was about using IT to provide information. For example, we use this blog to get news about the work of the committee 'out there'. We are still finding our feet with this but we are hopeful people will find it useful. Other areas we are looking at are using pod casting more to set out what the committee is doing and the potential for mobile phone technology. We need to give people options for how they access information about what we do.
I am meeting the Speaker and Clerk of the Victoria Legislative Assembly next week so the Australian connection continues.
Frank McAveety MSP, Convener of the PPC

Ryan McLaughlin wins Child of the Year Award

Earlier this year the Committee considered a petition calling for a review of the guidelines on vitamin D supplementation for children and pregnant women. The petitioner, Ryan McLaughlin, launched his Shine on Scotland website and a video on YouTube to support his campaign to raise awareness of MS. On the day the Committee considered his petition, Ryan led a march of over 500 people down the Royal Mile to the Parliament. The Committee members were really impressed with the work which Ryan had done through his campaign, but what made this work even more impressive was that Ryan was only 14 years old!

That is why I, and the other members of the Committee, were delighted to hear that Ryan had won Child of the Year at the Bighearted Scotland Awards ceremony. On behalf of the members of the Public Petitions Committee, well done Ryan on your award. You've certainly done a great job so far.

Frank McAveety MSP, Convener Public Petitions Committee

Alness meeting good to go!

Well, the arrangements for the committee's meeting in Alness on Monday are nearing completion. The agenda and committee papers were issued yesterday afternoon
and this morning the committee issued its news release

The committee is really looking forward to this meeting. More so given the big turnout from local schools. Well done to the teachers and pupils for making the effort to come along on Monday. The committee will travel up on Sunday and stay overnight locally. We will head off to the Academy on Monday morning for a 9.45 am meeting start. To those of you who are coming along on Monday, we all look forward to seeing you there and hope you find the meeting interesting and worthwhile.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Petitions committee goes international!

There will be an international dimension to the committee's work over the next couple of weeks.

The Clerk of the Malawi National Assembly is visiting the Scottish Parliament this week for discussions about our procedures. This is the latest in a series of meetings and exchanges between the two legislatures. I'm meeting the Clerk tomorrow afternoon to discuss the ability, through petitions, of people to influence change be that in legislation or others areas. I've met with colleagues from Malawi a couple of times before so I'm looking forward to this.

Next week the Committee will be holding a further videoconference with the Petitions Committee of the Australian House of Representatives in Canberra.
They are conducting an inquiry into e-petitions and this will provide an opportunity to share experiences. A videoconference was held last December following a visit to the Parliament by Julia Irwin MP, the Chair of the committee a couple of months before.

The Australia connection continues when at the end of the month the Convener meets the Speaker and Clerk of the Victoria Legislative Assembly to discuss petitions during their visit to the SP

I'll keep you posted of the outcomes from these various meetings.
Fergus, Clerk to PPC

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Committee meeting 8 September outcomes

Well, that's the committee's first meeting after the summer recess over with. It was a full agenda as you could see but they got through everything. The Convener Frank McAveety said afterwards "We discussed 28 petitions this afternoon on 26 different topics. We also heard from seven non-committee members on a number of these petitions. I think this a pretty good demonstration of how the committee works and its commitment to scrutinise petitions and move them through the parliamentary process."

You can watch the archive footage of the meeting on Holyrood TV

We turn now to getting letters out to all the organisations the committee agreed to write to and these will be e-mailed our tomorrow. All the petitioners are notified of the decisions the committee took. Then attention turns to the next meeting in Alness on 21st.

Important news about petitions committee debate 9 September

In case you were planning to watch the debate planned for tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday 9th) in the Parliament on the Committee's petitions inquiry report, this is now expected to be rescheduled to another date. Business for tomorrow is expected to be rearranged (this will be agreed by the Parliament tomorrow).
Sorry for lateness of this but sometimes these things happen. Anyway, as soon as we know when the debate will, and it is hoped to be very soon, we will post up details.
Fergus, PPC Clerk

Back to it!

Committee has its first meeting this afternoon after the summer recess. A bumper agenda as you would expect. Hope I can remember what it is I do after 10 weeks of not clerking meetings!
You can watch the meeting live via Holyrood TV. Committee Room 1, 2.00 pm

I'll post a wee update after the meeting ends.
All the best,
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Monday, 7 September 2009

Debate in Parliament on petitions report

This Wednesday (9th), there will be a debate in the Chamber on the report of the Committee's petitions inquiry report. This will run from 2.05-3.30 pm. You can watch the debate live via Holyrood TV

or watch the archive via this link

Hope you are able to tune in,

Thursday, 3 September 2009

New e-petitions

Quite a few new e-petitions on our website. Why not go in and have a look

One just posted up about the requirement for fatal accident inquiry when a person from Scotland dies abroad. You can view this at

Back to work

Well, recess is over and the Parliament is back to work. The next petitions committee meeting in on Tuesday 8th. You can see the agenda and papers for this on the website

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Festival of Politics event

The programme for this year's Festival of Politics was launched a few weeks ago. Why not visit the webpage.
On Tuesday 18 August, there will be a discussion organised by the Cross Party Group on Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse about the issues raised through their petition in 2000 (PE279). Its members successfully lobbied government to produce the National Strategy for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse – SurvivorScotland. The discussion will centre on the journey since then, how the public can influence the political process in Scotland and improve the lives of its citizens. Taking part are the Cross Party Group’s former Vice Convener, Kenneth Gibson MSP, Vice Convener and Petitioner, Anne Macdonald and Fergus Cochrane, Clerk to the Public Petitions Committee. Chaired by Margaret Mitchell MSP, Vice Convener. Click here for details about this free event.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

New e-petitions

The Parliament may be in recess but petitions continue to come in. Why not visit our e-petition site to see some of these new petitions which are hosted online.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Radio 4 piece on public petitions

Good piece on BBC Radio 4World Tonight on Wed 24 June which discussed Scottish Parliament's public petitions process. You can listen again through BBC i-player
Any thoughts on this?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Scottish Parliament annual report

Scottish Parliament published its annual report today. Several references to the input public petitions have had over last year and a few photos. The PPC has an entry on p21 of the report

Monday, 22 June 2009

Committee to meet in Alness

The Public Petitions Committee will meet on Monday 21 September at Alness Academy, Alness (about 20 miles north of Inverness). No time yet for when mtg will start but we will post up more details on to the blog.
This will be a 'proper' committee mtg and will give people from the local area the opportunity to come along and watch the committee at work. The meeting will be in public.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Future committee meetings

The Public Petitions Committee had its final mtg on 16 June before the Parliament goes into summer recess at the end of this month. Future mtg dates are 8 and 21 September, 6 October, 3 and 17 November and 1 and 15 December. All mtgs at Holyrood except 21 September which will be at Alness Academy, Alness (north of Inverness).

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Public Petitions Committee archive footage

Watch the archive of the meeting (16 June) of the Public Petitions Committee on the video player below.

Watch the Public Petitions Committee Archive

Monday, 15 June 2009

Watch petitions committee media launch!!

On Tuesday 16 June at 12.15 pm the Public Petitions Committee launched this blog, its new public petition video: Petitioning the Scottish Parliament: Making your voice heard (a great feature if we say so ourselves!) and the report of its year long inquiry into the petitions process.

The live programme is now finished, however you can watch an archive of the event on the media player below.

Watch the Public Petitions Committee archive

Let us know your thoughts by posting a comment.

Launch of the Public Petitions Committee's blog and video

On Tuesday 16 June the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament launched this new blog page. Gulp! It also launched its new video about the public petitions process.

Petitioning the Scottish Parliament: Making your voice heard.

Watch the Public Petitions Committee Film

Why not gives us your thoughts on our blog page. What info would you like to see? What about the layout, the language we use? Did you find the blog OK and did you find it useful?

We are also publishing the report of our year long inquiry into the public petitions process. A very good read if we say so! You can get a copy below

We are very proud of the public petitions process here in the Parliament. But let us know what you think.

Ryan's McLaughlin's petition on vitamin D and MS

The Committee will consider a petition from Ryan McLaughlin at its meeting on 16 June (2.00 pm). Ryan, who is 14 and from Drumchapel in Glasgow has brought this petition to his Parliament on the back of his campaign to raise awareness of MS. His petition is about the provision of Vitamin D for children and pregnant women.

You can see Ryan's petition on the Public Petitions Committee webpage.

Why not have a look at Ryan's Shine on Scotland website or watch his video below.

John Muir - Petition PE1171 on knife crime

John Muir, West of Scotland, submitted a petition on tackling knife crime.

You can see John's petition on the Public Petitions Committee webpage.

John said: “I think that the public in Greenock and surrounding areas did recognise that the situation that Damian found himself in could have been their son or their daughter…something’s got to change.”

Tina McGeever - Petition PE1108 on process for accessing cancer treatment drugs on NHS

Tina McGeever, Highlands and Islands, submitted a petition on the process for accessing cancer treatment drugs on the NHS. You can see this petition on the Public Petitions Committee webpage.

“We decided that we were going to start a campaign, although the word campaign didn’t really come into it at the time. Michael wote a letter and I fired it off to everyone on my email and asked them to send it to their MSPs, so that was the start.”

Through the petition page above you can read the report of the inquiry held into her petition and the government's response.

Walter Baxter - Petition PE1084 on merging neurology units

Walter Baxter, North East Scotland, organised a petition objecting to the merging of specialist care for people suffering a brain haemorrhage.

You can see Walter’s petition on the Public Petitions Committee webpage.

Walter said: “Having a brain injury is a very difficult scenario to go through, not only for yourself, but for the people who are looking after you. There is very little aftercare for people with brain injuries.”

Bob Reid - Petition PE1100 on provision of motorcycle facilities

Bob Reid, South of Scotland, submitted a petition to establish off-road motorbike facilities. You can see Bob's petition on the Public Petitions Committee webpage.

Bob said: “I am a great believer that there is a key to every young person, no matter what their problems are… give them a new challenge, something they can relate to, something they can belong to.”