My Work in Parliament


The Scottish Parliament sits three days a week so I’m through in Holyrood from Tuesday to Thursday every week. Two of those mornings are taken up with Committee business and the rest of the time I’m largely either in the Chamber, meeting organisations and groups or undertaking work on behalf of constituents – e.g. drafting letters to Ministers or composing parliamentary motions and questions. I see my role as being here to serve my constituents and make a difference.

As MSPs, we have a selection of Parliamentary mechanisms at our disposal to use in campaigning on specific issues or helping constituents with a problem. These range from the excellent research services offered by the Parliament to ensure we are fully informed and armed with the facts, to the potential to introduce legislation, and a lot of others in between. I’m making use of all of these in the various campaigns I have underway (see Campaigns).

Most publicly, the theme based Portfolio Questions, where we have the opportunity to quiz the Cabinet Secretary or Minster directly in the Chamber, come round in a cycle – e.g. Health and Sport one week, Justice the next – and there’s a random draw to get to ask a question. I do seem to get drawn a fair amount of times and have asked questions on issues as diverse as blood contamination, health expenditure, homelessness, public transport and Brexit. In addition MSPs can ask a written question at any time and the relevant Minister is obliged to answer.

I also bid to speak in the Chamber debates when there’s a topic I’m particularly interested in and have spoken on a range of subjects including many times on the economy and financial matters, Lightburn Hospital, small businesses, refugees and credit unions. In September 2016 I brought a Members’ Business Debate to Parliament – which means I led a discussion on the desirability of including reusable nappies in the Scottish Baby Box – a campaign that succeeded with the pilots containing cloth nappies – kinder on the environment and the pockets of hard-pressed parents.

You can see some of my Parliamentary performances below, though most of the work is really done behind the scenes.

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What does the Scottish Parliament do?

Since the Scottish Parliament reconvened in 1999, decision making power has been split between the UK Parliament at Westminster, in London and the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, in Edinburgh. Scotland elects MPs to the UK Parliament and MSPs to the Scottish Parliament.

The UK Parliament devolves some powers to the Scottish Parliament and reserves a range of issues to itself. Thus the Scottish Parliament can make laws on devolved matters whilst reserved matters remain the responsibility of the UK Government at Westminster.

Since 1999 a limited level of further devolution has taken place, or is in the process of being considered for implementation, following the Scotland Acts of 2012 and 2016. 

The following table broadly outlines the current situation regarding devolved and reserved powers. It's also a quick guide to the areas I can help you with – the issues devolved to the Scottish Parliament (e.g. housing and health) - and the issues relating to powers reserved to Westminster where you need to go to your MP (e.g. most welfare benefits, immigration). But don't be afraid to ask us first, we can easily refer you to the right place.

Devolved to the Scottish Parliament

  • Agriculture, forestry and fisheries
  • Culture and the arts
  • Economic development
  • Education and training
  • Environment
  • Health and social care
  • Housing
  • Law and order
  • Local government
  • Planning
  • Social Work
  • Sport
  • Taxation (some, limited)
  • Tourism 
  • Transport (some, limited)
  • Welfare benefits and employment schemes (some, limited, currently being introduced)

Reserved by the UK Parliament

  • Welfare benefits and social security (most)
  • Immigration
  • Defence
  • Foreign policy
  • Employment
  • Broadcasting
  • Trade and industry
  • Nuclear energy, oil, coal, gas and electricity
  • Consumer rights
  • Data protection
  • The Constitution

Committees and Groups

There's a lot more to the Scottish Parliament than the debating chamber! MSPs sit on a range of committees and groups designed to ensure that they get the best possible evidence and information from the widest range of expert sources. Some of the key groups/roles are:


I'm a member of the Finance Committee and the Health & Sport Committee

Committees of the Scottish Parliament are established by the Parliament as a whole and have a formal set of roles. They are empowered to scrutinise legislation and also to initiate it. The job of the committee is to consider matters within its remit and report on them to the Parliament. This includes: conducting inquiries scrutinising the policy and administration of the Scottish Government scrutinising Bills, statutory instruments, proposals for European Communities legislation or other proposals to change the law initiating a Committee Bill or considering the need for reform of the law considering the financial proposals and financial administration of the Scottish Government. Committees meet every week when Parliament is sitting. They meet and take evidence from external agencies and individuals, consider issues and produce reports to Parliament.

Cross-Party Groups

I'm a member of a number of CPGs

Less formal are Cross-Party Groups (CPGs) which, as their name suggests, comprise at least three (currently) different political parties represented in the Parliament. Individuals and external organisations with an interest in the topic can also join. They are initiated by an MSP with a particular interest in an issue and all MSPs are eligible to join. Only those Groups approved by the Parliament’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee are permitted to use the title ‘Cross-Party Group in the Scottish Parliament’. Whilst CPGs don’t have the power to take decisions that affect the law, they provide an opportunity for MPs of all parties, outside organisations and members of the public to meet and discuss a shared interest in a particular cause or subject.

Parliamentary Liaison Officers

I'm Parliamentary Liaison Officer (PLO) to Keith Brown the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work.

Parliamentary Liaison Officers (PLOs) are MSPs appointed by the First Minister on the recommendation of Government Ministers whom they assist in carrying out their work. PLOs are unpaid and are not part of the Scottish Government.



24/05/18 10:00 - 15:00

01/06/18 10:00 - 11:00

01/06/18 11:00 - 12:00

01/06/18 12:00 - 13:00

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