Charlotte Street Partners



Fear of committee

Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate 
Edited by Iain Gibson, associate partner
9 June 2021

Good morning,

“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” That couplet by writer GK Chesterton goes some way to explain why a blockage in Scotland’s parliamentary system is going virtually unnoticed. Over a month since the election, no new parliamentary committees have been formed and, until they are, Scotland will have a legislative body with little power to scrutinise or legislate.

The Scottish parliament can want for glamour: no-one’s about to write a West Wing adaptation called “Members’ Block”. Within this lack of lustre, committees can appear even duller. Yet if the debating chamber is the heart of parliament, the committees are the kidneys: no-one pays them much attention but if they’re not working, it’s bad news for the rest of the system.

MSPs on committees are – or at least should be – the details people. Committee members go through legislation line-by-line, conduct enquiries into policy issues, and scrutinise the government.

Committees are not always formed immediately after MSPs take their seats. It is, however, unusual to go so long after an election with no indication of what each new committee will cover, let alone who will comprise its membership. Yet discussions between the party whips are still going on.

Creating committees should be quite simple: each ought to shadow a cabinet secretary. Their membership should be relative to the overall number of each party’s MSPs. The number of cabinet secretaries has, however, reduced and – I am told – the SNP administration aims to reduce the number of MSPs on each committee too. This, opposition members fear, could reduce the parliament’s scrutiny of government and, with it, opportunities for them to shape legislation.

Holyrood insiders also believe committee membership is being delayed by the ongoing negotiations on co-operation between the Greens and the SNP. The Greens, as a smaller bloc, have tended to benefit from the platform a committee affords. A co-operation agreement may change that dynamic. There is neither a clear timescale for these negotiations, nor any sign of a breakthrough. The talks and, with them, committee formation, could rumble into recess at the end of this month, only reaching a form of resolution when parliament returns in the autumn.

Just as a country needs legislation, it needs committees to ensure that legislation is fit for purpose. While the glisten of a new parliament may currently be distracting us from this fact, the legislative process is presently as still as a statue.


Paul Girvan has been designated first minister of Northern Ireland. The Lagan Valley member of the legislative assembly is close to the Democratic Unionists Party’s new leader Edwin Poots. Poots’ appointment of Girvan could accelerate the number of defections the party has experienced over Poots’ increasingly hard-line approach.

Yesterday morning, websites such as, Amazon, and Reddit were unavailable due to a massive internet “outage”. The issue was caused by problems with cloud computing provider Fastly. It is not believed to be result of a cyber-attack.

A survey by Ofcom has found the pandemic accelerated the UK’s move online. UK adults spent an average of three hours and 47 minutes online each day during the pandemic. Sites seeing massive increases in use include Zoom and TikTok.

Business and economy

An official close to G7 talks on global tax has claimed the UK is seeking an exemption on financial services. While the UK supports the deal overall, chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak is understood to believe that the deal could lead banks to leave the City of London if financial services are not exempted. (£)

Flexible work campaigners Timewise have claimed part-time workers will bear the brunt of job losses when the UK’s furlough scheme is cut back next month. Timewise’s research shows that 44% of part-time workers on furlough during the first lockdown continued to be away from their jobs between July and September 2020, compared to about a third of full-time workers.

UK Cabinet Office minister Lord Frost has warned the EU against a trade war over Northern Ireland. Frost’s warning comes as French MEP Nathalie Loiseau claimed the EU could impose quotas on UK goods if the country continued to take unilateral decisions on the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Columns of note

In a US Democratic party defined by big government spending and social justice, the Democratic right has never seemed so far from the mainstream. Yet, Janan Ganesh shows in the Financial Times, a few right-wing Democrats hold the deciding vote in the US Senate, which gives this faction disproportionate influence over President Biden’s plans. (£)

The pandemic has created massive uncertainty in the employment opportunities of young people across the world. On the BBC website, Esyllt Carr speaks to young people and business experts in the UK and Spain to shine a light on young people’s opportunities and concerns.

Cartoon source: The Times


What happened yesterday?

Wall Street saw little change: the S&P 500 index closed flat, just below its high achieved in early May. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.3%. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 index also saw a marginal rise 0.2%, following the high it reached on Monday. In the City, the FTSE closed up 0.3%.

This calmness comes as investors balance increase in US government bonds and “meme stocks” with increasing US-China tensions. In currencies, sterling declined 0.2% against the dollar, to $1.4156. The euro fell 0.1% against the dollar, to $1.217. The dollar index, however, gained 0.2%.

In company news:

Google will scrap fees for other default search engines on Android devices.

Biogen shares have soared after the US approved its new Alzheimer’s drug.

What’s happening today?

B.p Marsh
Card Factory
Intermediate Capital
Tinybuild Inc S

Advanced Medical Solutions Group
Dp Eurasia
Honeycomb Inv.
Pharos Energy
Phoenix Spree D
Ra Internation.
Rm Secured
Trident Royal.
Trufin Plc
Xpediator Plc

UK economic announcements
(00:01) Retail Sales

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Industrial Production (GER)
(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) – Current Situation
(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) – Economic Sentiment
(10:00) Gross Domestic Product (EU)
(10:00) ZEW Survey (EU) – Economic Sentiment

Source: Financial Times

did you know

Tor Beg Rock, the northernmost point of the Republic of Ireland, is further north than the northernmost point of Northern Ireland, Skerriagh.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions

Prime minister’s question time

Opposition day debates
Investing in children and young people
Protecting the public and ensuring justice for victims

House of Lords 

Oral questions

What progress is being made on the Ajax programme
British Council closures

Professional Qualifications Bill [HL] – committee stage (day 1)

Scottish parliament 

Portfolio questions

Ministerial Statement
Seventh Report on the Coronavirus Acts

Scottish Government Debate
Addressing the Climate Emergency

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