Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday 26 November 2009

FMQs in the "wee pretendie Parliament"

I rarely watch Thursday's First Minister's Questions from Holyrood (shown on BBC2 in Scotland), but there isn't an episode of 'Poirot' on ITV3 rights now (a joke, or perhaps a revealing glimpse of how exciting my life is!), I thought I'd give it a whirl. What strikes me though it that I am not alone in paying this make-believe 'tribune of the people' little heed - for the chamber seems to be pretty empty of MSPs, you know those folks we pay to be there! There seem to be as many (or more) spectators in the public gallery as in the chamber! Mind you, flicking across to the BBC Parliament Channel to see what's happening in the House of Commons shows a similar almost deserted chamber - but usually the folks at Westminster can be bothered to turn up for PMQs on a Wednesday.


  1. Hi Bill,

    I don't know what you were watching, but the Holyrood chamber looked full to me today for FMQs, just as it always is. And given that there's 129 MSPs, it's quite possible that those in the public gallery would outnumber a full compliment of parliamentarians.

    Maybe it's because each MSP has a seat and space around them, rather than having them crammed in like cattle like at Westminster, that attendance looks sparse in comparison?

  2. Hi Richard

    Welcome again!

    Indeed we must have been watching very different programmes - lol! ;)

    Most of the camera shots were close-in, and its true that those speaking (whether Salmond, Gray, Goldie and whatever the LibDem is called - Tavish something or other Scott[?]]) seemed to have quite a few supporters around them in those close camera shots.

    However, every so often there was a general shot of the whole chamber (well - 2/3 to 3/4 of it at a time as the camera can't take in the whole 'amphitheatre' in one) and after about row two or three the chamber was mostly empty with just a few lonely souls dotted around.

    I doubt very much there were more than 30-40 MSPs in the chamber. Is there a way of checking? If more were elsewhere in the building, perhaps they'll have signed-in just like everyone else(?) so it may be impossible to check from the records (you'll know more about this than me, perhaps) unless one had recorded the programme and could view it again.

    I'll maybe put my DVR on auto-record for FMQs in future (I already do this with 'The Daily Politics' and 'PMQs') so I can check again next week - and have evidence to back it up, lol ;)

  3. Hi again Richard

    I've just checked the schedule for the BBC Parliament channel and see that FMQs are repeated there tonight at 23.30 GMT so I have programmed my DVR to record it and I will be able to re-view in in the morning (I'll be watching QT and 'This Week' tonight - recording them too of course). I'll report tomorrow evening on my findings after a second viewing as I shall be out for most of the afternoon tomorrow.


  4. Great stuff, Bill. I look forward to your findings :-)

    FMQ's goes up on the BBC iPlayer, but not until the following day, which is a bit of a nuisance if you want to get a transcript of something quickly. Unlike Westminster, where Hansard goes up with a 3 hour delay, you have to wait until the next day for Holyrood's 'near verbatim' Official Report.

    There isn't any reliable way to check attendence during Holyrood debates - signing in being for such chambers as the European Parliament and House of Lords, and even then primarily for the purpose of claiming an allowance for having managed to turn up...

    The only way for an MSP to ensure that their attendance on any given day can be verified is to get themselves mentioned (whether through fair means or foul) in the Official Report, or to cast a vote at decision time. In that regard, Holyrood is identical to Westminster.


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