A Contemporary Parliament
The Scottish Parliament was designed and planned to be as modern as possible. The Scottish Parliament is more up-to-date than the House of Commons in terms of
- Seating Arrangements
- Working Hours
- Methods of Address in the Chamber
- Electronic Voting
- Representation of Women
In the Parliament the seating arrangements are arranged in a semi-circle to encourage open and honest debate or discussion and therefore discourage confrontation and shouting. This means that MSPs sit together rather than facing each other on opposing sides.
In an attempt to make the Scottish Parliament more accessible to a wider range of people, the Scottish Parliament has normal sitting hours, from 0900 until 1700 each weekday. The Parliament at Westminster sits from 1400 until 2200 and therefore increases the likelihood of late night debates.
Methods of address in the Parliament
In the Scottish Parliament MSPs call each other by their names when either talking to each other or about them - they do not refer to the constituency that they represent as they do at Westminster. For example Patrick Harvie Regional MSP for Glasgow is simply referred to as Mr Patrick Harvie rather than 'The Member for Glasgow'. This means that the atmosphere in the Parliament can be more relaxed and less formal.
MSPs in the Parliament vote using electronic keypads, which ensures that the Presiding Officer quickly knows the results, as it is a simple and easy way to vote. In comparison the voting process in the London Parliament is lengthy and much more time consuming as there are 659 MPs. MPs in Westminster vote by dividing into two lobbies - the "Ayes" and the "No" Lobbies and the MPs are counted as they walk through two doors on either side of the chamber of the House of Commons. This process can be repeated several times in one day.
Representation of women
The Scottish parliament prides itself on being a modern Parliament that seeks to represent all sections of society. At the very first elections in 1999 a precedent was set as more women were elected than ever before at a UK Parliamentary election. In 1999, 48 of the 129 elected MSPs were women, this represented 37.2% of the total. In 2003 of the 129 MSPs elected 51 are women - this represents 39.5% of the total.