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