Kezia Dugdale MSP calls for web use approval to lift parliament debates

HOLYROOD politicians should be allowed to log on to the internet during debates in the Scottish Parliament chamber, an MSP said today.

Labour’s Kezia Dugdale claimed having access to e-mails and being able to download briefing documents while debates are taking place would help MSPs get their facts right and raise the level of discussion.

She called for the parliament to change its policy and allow the chamber to be wi-fi enabled.

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At present, politicians can read material from iPads, like a document, but they can’t actively surf the internet.

Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick has banned the internet inside the chamber because she believes members are there to listen and take part in debates.

Ms Dugdale recently got a telling-off from Ms Marwick after she revealed in the Evening News that she had accessed an e-mail – using her own iPad and 3G mobile signal – to obtain figures on college funding to rebut a point made by another MSP.

But today the Lothians MSP said she was writing to the parliament’s standards committee to ask for a review of the policy.

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She said: “If I had printed out the briefing and taken it into the chamber, I would have done nothing wrong. But the fact I accessed it through my e-mail was a breach of the rules.” The parliament recently offered all MSPs the option of tablet devices such as iPads, which are allowed in the chamber so long as they are used as an alternative to paper notes for speaking.

Ms Dugdale said: “We have got this amazing technology, the parliament is spending a lot of money on it, but for what purpose – just to have an electronic version of your speech when there is so much more these devices can bring?

“I’ve always said I think it would be wrong to tweet from the chamber, or be accessing Facebook, because you should be focusing on the debate.

“I want to use technology to enhance the debate. If MSPs are able to access their facts and use them in free-flowing debate, that will raise the standard of the parliament.”

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She said other parliaments, including the Welsh Assembly, allowed unrestricted use of technology.

Holyrood bosses recently announced they were extending wi-fi availability to more parts of the parliament, but the chamber is not included.

A parliament spokesman said: “The Presiding Officer has made clear she does not want members using iPads in the chamber other than as an electronic equivalent of a briefing folder.

“She does not believe members should be using the internet in the chamber for any purpose.”