Public Petitions Briefing
Petitioning has an important symbolic value for the new Scottish
Parliament. It promotes accountability, access, transparency,
pluralism and democratic participation in Scotland. This was in
reaction to the lack of scrutiny of, and interest in, the petitions
system in Westminster. The Scottish Parliament is open to petitioning
by ordinary members of the public and supported organisations
like UNISON. The Public Petitions Committee (PPC) is a mandatory
committee written into the Standing Orders. Anyone can petition,
but there are conditions for a petition to be admissible.
What is a petition?
A petition is little more than a political statement, however
the Scottish Parliament's Standing Orders (or rules) commit it
to considering any petition that meets certain rules on admissibility.
Unlike the normal procedure of holding rallies, marches etc.
and collecting thousands of signatures, the Scottish Parliament
allows individuals to petition it directly. There are no restrictions
on who can submit a petition. However it is necessary to follow
a procedure when submitting a petition to the Parliament.
A petition can make a request for the Parliament to:
- take a view on a matter of public interest or concern; or
- amend existing legislation or introduce new legislation.
The Parliament can only amend or introduce legislation in relation
to those matters which are devolved. It cannot legislate on any
matter which is reserved to the UK Parliament.
The Parliament does not have any remit to
interfere with or overturn the executive decisions of other public
bodies in Scotland.
It is not the role of the Public Petitions Committee (PPC) to
recommend further action in respect of petitions which relate
to cases which are or have been subject to legal or court proceedings,
industrial tribunals, appeals procedures and the like. The PPC
could however consider proposals to change laws, procedures or
rules which are prompted by such cases, where there is clear justification
for such a change.
- Petitions should be in the public interest.
- They should not ask the Parliament to do something which may
- The wording of a petition should not disclose any information
which is protected by an interdict or court order (e.g. the
identities of children in custody disputes) or which is commercially
sensitive, confidential or the publication of which may cause
personal distress or loss.
- Particular care should be taken over petitions that give the
names of individuals in relation to criminal accusations or
issues of national security.
- Petitions should not relate to matters that are subjudice
( matters which are the subject of any court proceedings).
- The information contained in petitions must be submitted in
Form and Content of Petitions
Your petition should include a brief title and a short, clear
and concise statement covering the subject matter of the petition.
The petition should make it clear what action the petitioner wishes
the Parliament to take.
It may also be possible in appropriate circumstances for
petitions to be submitted in other formats by those with special
needs. For practical reasons, petitions submitted in Braille or
other formats should be accompanied by a copy of the petition
in printed form.
Submission of petitions
When your petition is ready it should be submitted to the Clerk
to the Public Petitions Committee.
If you choose to submit your petition in electronic form, you
can use the pro-forma which can be found on the Scottish Parliament's
Internet site - http://www.scottish.parliament.uk
Full details can be found on the e-petitioner website (http://www.e-petitioner.org.uk/).
Consideration of Petitions
The PPC will consider each admissible petition and make a decision
on the action to be taken in each case.
The PPC has several courses of action it may take. It can:
(a) consider and agree to take no further action;
(b) consider and forward to another committee of the
Parliament or to another body or person within the Parliament
such as the Presiding Officer, the Parliamentary Bureau or the
Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body for its consideration;
(c) consider and forward to another body or organisation
(outwith Parliament) e.g. the Scottish Executive, for consideration
(d) consider and recommend to the Parliamentary
Bureau that the petition be debated at a meeting of the Parliament;
(e) invite the petitioner(s) to appear before it;
(f) invite the petitioner(s) to provide additional information
to assist it in reaching a decision on the action to be taken
in relation to the petition; or
(g) take any other action it considers appropriate.
The PPC will select one of the above options on a case by case
basis. It will then respond formally to the petitioner following
this consideration stating clearly the action which is to be taken
or to give notice in cases where no action is to be taken.
The PPC will monitor the action taken in respect of all petitions
submitted to the Parliament. It will also publish an annual report
which will provide a summary of its activities.
Action for Branches
- Identify issue for petition, it is important that petitions
are used prudently for major campaigns, not trivial issues
- Discuss with members/ Regional Officer
- Satisfy that the correct procedure for submission is followed.