Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Holyrood, msps & their queasy feelings about regulation reform : Eight petitions against Scottish Public Services Ombudsman closed in minutes

LGC Committee HolyroodScottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee closed eight petitions asking for an independent review of the SPSO. As readers will now be well aware, EIGHT PUBLIC PETITIONS calling for an independent review of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) which received the backing of the Scottish Government’s Housing Minister Alex Neil in his capacity as a constituency MSP to the petitioners were closed in under three minutes by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government & Communities Committee on Wednesday of last week.

The closure of all eight petitions, calling for a review of the independent regulator which investigates complaints against public services in Scotland, maintains the Scottish Parliament’s noticeably almost perfect record of refusing to consider any public petition which calls for an independent investigation into, or reform of any regulator, self-regulator, or ‘Ombudsman’ position in Scotland.

For those who were following the progress of the eight petitions calling for a review of the SPSO, along with one additional petition with similar aims which was closed by the Petitions Committee at an earlier hearing, I reported on these matters in earlier coverage which includes video testimony from Alex Neil MSP, here : Holyrood considers nine petitions against Scottish Public Services Ombudsman as Housing Minister dubbed ‘out of touch’ over accusations

The Petitions Committee then sent all eight of the remaining petitions to the Local Government & Communities Committee, reported here : Petitions calling for review of Scottish Public Services Ombudsman over complaints remit sent to Holyrood’s Local Government Committee

The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government & Communities Committee did indeed consider the petitions, for around three minutes, although as observers to the committee’s deliberations noted, it took the Convener longer to read out the details of the petitions themselves than it actually took members to debate their content in front of the cameras. The Committee subsequently closed all eight petitions involving the SPSO.

Holyrood’s Local Government & Communities Committee ‘discuss’ public petitions calling for a review of the SPSO (click image below to view video)

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (Review) (PE1342, PE1343, PE1344, PE1345, PE1346, PE1347, PE1348 and PE1349)

The Convener: Item 5 is consideration of eight petitions that call on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to commission an independent review of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to make it more accountable for its performance, including the extent to which its investigations are fair and robust, and to widen its remit so that it can enforce its recommendations following investigations into actions of public bodies. The petitions are PE1342, by Phyllis and Robert French; PE1343, by Sandra Smith; PE1344, by Philip Hawthorne; PE1345, by James Smith; PE1346, by William Whiteside; PE1347, by Christina Cumming; PE1348, by Mr and Mrs Corbett; and PE1349, by Iris Innes. I invite members to discuss the petitions and to consider options 1, 2 and 3, as outlined in paper LGC/S3/11/5/5.

Alex Johnstone: Before the discussion begins, given some of the correspondence that we have had on the subject, I draw to my colleagues' attention the fact that I am an elected member of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.

The Convener: Do you want to add anything further on the proposals in the paper?

Alex Johnstone: No.

John Wilson: I point out to members that, as a member of the Public Petitions Committee, I sat in consideration of these petitions.

The Convener: Okay. Do you have any comments to add to that?

John Wilson: No.

Alasdair Morgan: In view of what we have heard from the SPCB in Paul Grice's letter and, more particularly, from the ombudsman the last time he appeared before us, we should take no further action on the petitions and close them.

The Convener: Do members agree to Alasdair Morgan's suggestion, which is option 1, which is that we should close the petitions under rule 15.7 of the standing orders and take no further action?
Members indicated agreement.

The next day, February 10, the Scottish Parliament voted on the reappointment of Jim Martin as Scottish Public Services Ombudsman for a further six year term, with msps voting 98 in favour, 8 voting against, and 9 abstaining.

The reappointment of Mr Martin was announced HERE

Mike Pringle, MSP, who proposed the motion on behalf of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), said : “It is the unanimous view of the SPCB that Jim Martin is the right person for the role of Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. We consider that he has brought about visible and sustained improvements to the case load management of the office. His regular commentaries demonstrate recommendations for public authorities to make improvements to their processes where that is appropriate. He has also introduced a quality assurance process that we believe will continue to drive up the standards that he wants.”

Mr Pringle continued : “Of course, the SPCB is aware that some members have not always agreed with the ombudsman‘s decisions, and we received some unsolicited representations about the reappointment of Jim Martin. The Parliament has given the ombudsman the independence to make decisions, and in doing so he is not under our direction or control at all. As with ombudsmen around the world, not all parties will be satisfied all the time. That is simply not possible, given the nature of the job. However, we believe that Mr Martin is the right person and that during his next six-year term in office he will continue to build on the considerable improvements that he has already made in his office.”

Integrity4scotland is a campaign which has been set up to “campaign for the highest ethical standards, transparency & public accountability within Scottish public service bodies. Readers who may have encountered difficulties with the Scottish Public;ic Services Ombudsman or have issues with the accountability of Scottish public service bodies may wish to visit their website HERE

As I was busy with other reports last week and some upcoming investigations, this article is published today to complete my reporting on the progress of the petitions against the SPSO in the duty of keeping readers aware of how the Scottish Parliament handles petitions involving ‘touchy subjects’ such as regulation of, well … anything.


Anonymous said...

Again we have politicians driven to crush any move to transparency. What a corrupt parliament and MSP's we have, and Salmond talks about independence.

The Law Society, ICAS,SLCC, Ombudsman, General Medical Council, Medical and Dental Defence Union (MDDUS) to name a few are all corrupt supported by these corrups MSP scumbags.

Scotland is an unjust country indeed.

Anonymous said...

MSPs have no appetite for reforming any ombudsmen or any of these so-called regulators of public services because they all keep each other in their highly paid jobs and meet up at the weekend for a jolly good laugh at the rest of us

Anonymous said...

You could hear a pin drop in that meeting!

Looks like they were all under orders

Anonymous said...

Evil MSP's supporting evil lawyers and neglecting their constituents. These people are more like the Nazi SS.

Anonymous said...

An absolute disgrace, so much for Parliaments duty to represent the public interest.

Jim Martin is only there because he won't rock the boat, hence his re-appointment.

Anonymous said...

Well if there's a debate at that parliament which offers proof msps are no friends of the public this must be it

When are people in Scotland going to wake up to the fact this lot are doing nothing for the rest of us just for themselves ?

Anonymous said...

I read about this last week although I have to admit actually seeing the video of the Committee deliberations puts a different view on it.

The authors of the petitions should be asking themselves if they had a fair hearing from the Parliament.I for one certainly don't think they did.

Anonymous said...

"The closure of all eight petitions, calling for a review of the independent regulator which investigates complaints against public services in Scotland, maintains the Scottish Parliament’s noticeably almost perfect record of refusing to consider any public petition which calls for an independent investigation into, or reform of any regulator, self-regulator, or ‘Ombudsman’ position in Scotland."

Peter you hit it right on the button there - these msps will never allow anything through to challenge regulation of anything in Scotland

Nothing short of total corruption going on here and they all know it

Anonymous said...

Disgusting and they dont care one bit

Anonymous said...

Where can we see the letter from Paul Grice to the committee?

Anonymous said...

Just another day in our 500million++ quid parly.As someone else said they will all be having a ball at the weekend laughing about it (and probably claim expenses too)

Anonymous said...

The parliament has certainly shut the door firmly in the petitioners faces with this episode so campaigning for a review of the spso is now just a waste of time.Maybe with the publicity it has given his team a good shake to do better in future complaints.

Anonymous said...

Well let this be a lesson to all you lot up there who wanted your own Parliament!
They have turned their back on you full stop!

Anonymous said...

I think the lesson here is if anyone has a petition going they should not agree to it being transferred out of the petitions system to another committee or the same will happen again.

I am really shocked at the lack of debate on this and the apparent lack of willingness of any of those msps present to make points for a discussion.

Anonymous said...

Hmm not a nice bunch of politicians
good thing there are no protests in Scotland over your crap democracy because this lot might order you all shot to death!

Anonymous said...

Powers of the Parliament

Devolution is the delegation of power from a central government to local bodies. Scotland was granted devolution by the passing of the Scotland Act in 1998 which means that Scotland has a parliament with ‘devolved’ powers within the United Kingdom. Any powers which remain with the UK Parliament at Westminster are reserved. Reserved matters were set out in Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act. A basic breakdown is given below. Essentially the powers of the Scottish Parliament are set out by what it does not have legislative competence in rather than in what it can do.

Devolved powers: Matters such as education, health and prisons, which used to be dealt with by the Parliament at Westminster, are now decided in Scotland.

Reserved powers: Decisions (mostly about matters with a UK or international impact) are reserved and dealt with at Westminster.



Kenny MacAskill, Alex Salmond and the SNP OUT said...

As a very interested observer of this and other cases on this excellent injustice blog, it never fails to amaze me the dogged determination of those who have suffered from blatant miscarriages of justice and who have to tenaciously fight to get answers to their wholly justified questions and the truth and justice they seek for their loved ones who have died under very suspicious and mysterious circumstances - which is what a lot of the formal complaints made to the SPSO over the past 8½ years have been about after all.

Sadly, after four years of an SNP "Government" that has miserably failed its 5,200,000 citizens (and the wider world - remember Lockerbie / Megrahi?!) when it comes to justice issues, I cannot see much changing whoever gains power on Friday 6 May.

Methinks a "peaceful revolution" is required on the streets of downtown Edinburgh (at Scotland's main legal and political power bases) for us ever to see any radical reforms and changes to our justice system in Scotland now - but the apathy and indifference amongst ordinary Scots is just far too great for such an Egyptian-style peaceful revolution I fear.

Is this really the kind of "democracy", openness, fairness, public accountability, "Wisdom, Compassion, Integrity and Justice" (the four words inscribed on the Mace at the Scottish Parliament) that the people of Scotland wanted and expected when the Scottish Parliament was founded 12 years ago – and over the past 4 years under the SNP?

I think not.

Anonymous said...

Victims of the Scottish Legal profession are seen as bodies meaning not human beings, therefore rightless. The comment at 20.33 about the scottish Parlaiment criminals is spot on. These elected MSP's are spokespersons for the Law Society.

We fight to warn others because justice in Scotland is not egalitarian, it is not available to those robbed murdered or ruined by a lawyer.

Kant said "from the crooked timber of humanity nothing straight was was ever made". Lawyers rights are infinite even when they are wrong, and clients, murder victims families, well rights do not apply to them.

A Justice of the Peace has resigned in Aryshire in protest against knife crime, she cannot servce in a system that is unfit to deal with this, what about you MacAskill so call Justice Minister.

Anonymous said...

An Ayrshire Justice of the Peace has resigned her post to campaign against knife crime following the murder of a teenager who was stabbed to death.

Reamonn Gormley, 19, died in hospital after being attacked in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, on 1 February. A SHOCKING WASTE OF A YOUNG MANS LIFE. IF IT WERE AN MSP's SON THE LAWS WOULD CHANGE OVERNIGHT.

Caroline Johnstone said his murder was the tipping point in her decision to resign.

She said she could not work for a justice system that was "flawed".

Caroline Johnstone further said

"There is legislation on the books that says somebody can get up to four years [for carrying a knife], but I would like somebody to show me where that has actually happened. For me, it is a zero tolerance policy with knives that we need to have.

"What is it going to take for people who can make a difference to listen?

"Is it going to take a politician's son or daughter to get murdered or a judge's son or daughter to get murdered?" YES EXACTLY. THEY DO NOT CARE BECAUSE IT IS NOT PERSONAL.





Anonymous said...

I'm a little curious Mr Cherbi about who you might recommend we vote for now you've featured the result of this petitions camnpaign against the SPSO.
It looks to me the whole lot of them no matter which party they are are just in it for themselves or to protect the status quo.Is there any one of them worth a vote would you say ?

Anonymous said...

The Petitions has demonstrated, once again, that it is not fit for purpose.

Anonymous said...

Thats the best thing I have heard yet a "peaceful revolution" and I also think it is more than they deserve.

Anonymous said...

Comment at 19 February 2011 20:33.

I totally agree with you . Your comment sums up the reality in Scotland today.

Anonymous said...

Revolutionaries do not make revolutions. The revolutionaries are those who know when power is lying in the street and then they can pick it up.
Hannah Arendt

This is the precept by which I have lived: Prepare for the worst; expect the best; and take what comes.
Hannah Arendt

Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power's disappearance.
Hannah Arendt

Wherever the relevance of speech is at stake, matters become political by definition, for speech is what makes man a political being.
Hannah Arendt

Anonymous said...

Tory MSP Bill Aitken is facing demands to step down as convener of Holyrood's justice committee, following comments he was said to have made about rape.

The call, made in a Green Party parliamentary motion, came after the recent gang rape of a woman in Glasgow.

The Sunday Herald newspaper subsequently reported comments apparently made to it by Mr Aitken that the victim may have been a prostitute.

The Greens said the reported remarks were "unacceptable".

Meanwhile, police are continuing to investigate the rape, which happened in the early hours of 11 February.

Anonymous said...

So another 'cover-up' then.

Anonymous said...

Yes Peter I agree this committee shows off exactly what Holyrood think of the rest of us.why anyonne bothers voting for this bunch of wasters i have no idea as this proves they are against the people all along

Anonymous said...

Scottish Labour's policy on knife crime has been described as "silly" by a lawyer who hopes to represent the party at Holyrood.

Ian Smart, a former President of the Law Society of Scotland, is one of six candidates for the seat to be vacated by Wendy Alexander, who last week announced her decision to stand down as an MSP before the election in May.

Labour go into the election promising a law to impose a mandatory six month jail term on anyone caught carrying a knife. Mr Smart however said: "No government is ever going to do that. We should stop being silly about it."

He recognised however that Scotland had a serious problem with knife crime and a second or subsequent conviction might be a different matter.

Mr Smart also went against the party leadership by saying that he personally would have made the same decision as Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to free convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds, on the medical evidence put to Mr MacAskill at the time.
The law would change overnight Mr Smart if an MSP, lawyer, doctor, sheriff or high court judges family were victims of the knife culture.

You people do not care, but that would change if the victim was one of your own.