|If you are resident in Scotland you can apply for a reader’s card online to gain access to this digital manuscript database covering 200 years of British history, from the reign of Henry VIII to the end of the reign of Queen Anne, describing both domestic and overseas activity and events. This resource contains over 3 million manuscript pages and over 500,000 fully searchable calendar and catalogue entries, with links between the two types of document when they are related. The resource also includes introductory essays, research tools, and an image library.
The United Nations Digital Library (UNDL) is now available and can be accessed globally free of charge. A result of the successful collaboration between the Dag Hammarskjöld Library (DHL) at UN Headquarters and the United Nations Office at Geneva Library, the platform uses innovative open source technology to provide access to UN-produced materials in digital format. Content will be added continuously and enhancements to the system will be rolled out on a regular basis.
The new system, which offers easy access to UN documents, maps, speeches, voting data, as well as non-sales publications, will help global researchers find the UN information they need, quickly and accurately. It provides one point of access to UN information – current and historical.
Phase 1 of the UNDL incorporates digital content from the databases in UNBISnet and the Official Document System (ODS) – mainly official UN documents, speech and voting records, as well as some maps. The UNDL will also link to open access UN content.
What can I find in the United Nations Digital Library?
– UN documents and open access publications
– UN voting data, maps and speeches
– Content in 6+ languages
Which system features are there?
– Linked data between related documents such as resolutions, meeting records and voting
– Refine searches by UN body, agency or type of document
Sharron Wilson recently chatted with her Advocates Library colleague David Brown about the role of Professional Groups. David is a Committee Member from the Scottish Law Librarians Group (SLLG). This is what David had to say…….
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR ROLE?
I am the Senior Bibliographic Services Assistant. I’ve worked for the Faculty of Advocates for 14 years: beginning as a book cleaner, then as a support assistant (loose-leaf updating and shelving) in my first year. I really enjoy my current post and working in the library.
My main responsibilities are:
- Cataloguing accessions and maintaining the records of the library catalogue
- Managing the space and physical stock in the library
- Administering conservation and preservation of the rare materials
- Project managing an annual book cleaning programme
Like most law librarians I find myself involved in various functions of the library: from regular covering of the enquiry service through to helping move cabinets and setting up exhibitions. The work of a law librarian involves a surprising amount of physicality and screwdrivers. ‘101 uses for library pliers’ would be a very handy module on the post-graduate course.
I am also a member of the Scottish Law Librarians Group and have been a committee member since 2011.
WHAT IS THE SCOTTISH LAW LIBRARIANS GROUP?
The Scottish Law Librarians Group, commonly known by the abbreviation SLLG, is a group which represents the interests of Scots law library and information professionals and anyone who handles Scots law information.
The group is self-funding through a modest membership subscription. It delivers a vocational platform for members to interact, have access to training opportunities and to be, most importantly, peer-supported in their professional sector and wider career.
The SLLG has embraced Twitter (@scotlawlibs), blogging (https://sllgblog.wordpress.com/) and has a website (www.sllg.org.uk) with a members’ section for discussions. It’s not got with the Instagram kids quite yet, though.
The SLLG traditionally tries to put on a minimum of 3 events a year (often there are more) as a mix of training, current awareness networking and visits.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE AHEAD FOR THE SLLG?
The main challenge for the SLLG is always the same: to continue. Law information professionals need specialist groups such as the SLLG to exist for them.
As a community group, the SLLG is only worth how much its members find it worthwhile. It is the membership that moulds the group into their own image. It is in our nature, if we are fortunate enough, to help others. The SLLG has the perfect attributes within it to accomplish this.
In the early 2000s, the SLLG was made up of around 100 members. Sadly there is no getting away from the law information professional sector as one under a number of pressures right now. This has been reflected by the SLLG in reduced membership and related topics raised at recent networking events. The committee, also, has faced a harder role in these times to provide value for money events.
In the past year the SLLG has successfully adapted in many respects to the new climate where everyone’s resources are precious.
The introduction of Short Skills, Networking and Presentation events (called, cutely, SSNaP Chats) have been revelatory. The idea came from enabling the extremely capable skillset of the membership to be shared as a form of in-house knowledge.
SSNaPs allow members to freely share, workshop and explore services and particular skills with other members with little formality and lots of flexibility. The committee becomes a conduit rather than organiser for these events to go ahead. SSNaP chats have proved very popular to both attend and run.
Of course, there are still the social aspects of the group and library visits to enjoy.
I see the main challenge for law information professionals to be in promoting themselves as professionally equal to their service users. It is vital to get across the continued professional development, experience and, above all, expertise of the law librarian.
It’s all very well for law information professionals saying lawyers will miss their qualities if they are removed. Unless lawyers know what was there in the first place, how will they know where to look for what’s missing?
I am a true believer that our little corner of the information profession requires an engaged SLLG. Our sector is a small world; capable of cruelty, no doubt about it, and having an organisation which brings us together positively is essential.
CAN SWOP AND THE SLLG COLLABORATE?
SWOP and SLLG can learn a lot from one another.
Ultimately it’s up to those with interests to connect with the potential held within these groups. I think this is something SWOP is very good at and the SLLG can take note of.
I was fortunate to be invited to attend a SWOP meeting because I was interested in the very positive developments of SWOP. SWOP is a great open networking group. I was impressed at the wide spectrum of backgrounds of those with an interest in what can be arguably seen as the niche workings of Official Publications. SWOP has done really well to harness this asset and find momentum from it.
SWOP and SLLG have a cross-over of members, which makes occasionally working together for a mutual benefit easy to consider.
I feel there is scope for both memberships to think where SWOP or the SLLG would be best placed to offer the other learning, blog posting or interest opportunities. Those dual members are crucial to charting this.
I’ve noticed recently that SWOP have run a few events based around law subjects and have visited law libraries. Last year SLLG hosted a talk about the parliamentary legislative process.
SWOP members might well see the worth in learning more about the law information sector. The SLLG would be ideally placed to facilitate this for SWOP whilst still benefiting SLLG members not in SWOP. Likewise, SLLG members could very much benefit from discussing official publications and projects with SWOP members.
Groups like ours can make such a constructive impact to their members’ work life it makes sense to support one another when there is an opportunity.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE THINKING ABOUT JOINING THE SLLG?
You won’t be disappointed – just sign here!
Or the long answer: if our interests match some of your own, look around the website, get in touch with someone on the committee or ask to come to one of our events and see what you think of us. I’m confident you’ll find us a lovely group.
In now 5 sessions of the Scottish Parliament, parliamentary committees and our research service – SPICe – have published hundreds of reports and briefings as part of their consideration of legislation, inquiries, petitions and the myriad of different issues that make up a modern Parliament.
But we’ve never sought to improve the look and utility of our documents. We’ve always published them online, but given little thought to what the reader wants. With the explosion in the growth of PCs, tablets and smartphones, providing documents designed for the digital age is key. So is thinking about what the reader wants to read – 200 pages of closely typed text with a beginning, middle and the conclusions right at the end, or bite-sized chunks of information with the main messages and conclusions upfront?
As part of the Parliament’s overall Digital Programme, committee reports and SPICe briefings have been overhauled and modernised. This has involved a move towards an XML editing tool to enable us to write in HTML for direct publishing to the web. Whilst the PDF is not quite dead – it still forms our historic record for archival purposes – the aim is to focus on the online versions to make them more readable, with a higher content of infographics and multi-media, and with the purpose of allowing the reader to read as much or as little and s/he wants.
Before and After
For more information, contact: Stephen Imrie, email@example.com
One of the most positive findings for Parliament is that a clear majority believes that it is essential “to our democracy” (73% – equaling 2016’s record score).
However, people do not think that parliament is doing a good job for them. Fewer than a third of people were satisfied with the way that parliament works, and not many more think parliament is doing a good job of representing their interests (38%).
Knowledge of parliament fell in the latest study; 45% claimed to know a great deal or a fair amount about parliament, down from 52% last year. This is similar to the level of knowledge about politics in general (49%) and the European Union (43%).
Increasing engagement with parliament
There were positive indicators around engagement with Parliament: overall just over half the public say they have engaged with Parliament in some way in the last year – a ten point increase from 2015. Also:
- The proportion of the public who report watching or listening to a parliamentary debate or committee meeting (online, on TV or on radio) has increased from 31% to 39%
- The number saying they have signed an e-petition is up from 15% to 22%
- 12% contacted an MP or Peer with their views.
Some if this could be down to the seismic political events of the past year – public interest in Brexit and high-profile e-petitions on topics like Donald Trump’s proposed state visit will have increased people’s appetite to engage.
Arguably the most positive indicator in the study is the score on certainty to vote. 59% of respondents said that they would be certain to vote in an immediate general election. This is the highest recorded score in the 14 years of the Audit (joint with 2016). We won’t have to wait long to see if this is borne out.
Engagement by age
The overall message of this year’s report could be “increasingly engaged, but not satisfied”. However, looking at the data for younger people, the picture is bleaker. Variables on engagement, knowledge and effectiveness all show lower scores for younger age groups.
Other data used within chapter 2 of our briefing on political engagement shows a similar pattern – in December 2015, 67% of 20-24 year olds were registered to vote, compared with 93% of 55-64 year olds. IPSOS-Mori estimate that turnout of 18-24 year olds was 43% at the 2015 General Election, compared with 77% for 55-64 year olds.
Arguably, the key indicator for engagement with politics and parliament is turnout at a general election. In 2015, turnout across the UK was 66%, slightly up on 2010, but still well below levels seen in the 20th Century.
The Audit provides some grounds for optimism; a record percentage were certain to vote. But again, this score varies significantly by age, from around two in five for 18-24 year olds, to four in five for over 65s. There are also large variations by social grade (ABs are most certain to vote), by qualification level and by income.
There will be many groups working to encourage participation in June’s general election; the challenge for them is not just whether they can increase overall turnout, but also whether they can increase participation among the young and other less politically engaged groups. If we accept that politics and Parliament are more effective when they represent the views of all constituents, Parliament too has a job to do encouraging everyone to register to vote. It is likely that if you are reading a Commons Library blog post you’re probably already going to vote in June, but perhaps someone you know isn’t. The deadline to register is 22nd May – please motivate someone you know to register and use their vote.
- Founded in 1944, the Hansard Society is a non-partisan research and education charity working in the UK and around the world to promote democracy and strengthen parliaments.
- The information in this year’s Audit of Political Engagement is based on a Political Engagement Poll undertaken by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Hansard Society. The findings are based on a total of 1,771 face-to-face interviews with adults aged 18+ conducted between 2 December 2016 and 15 January 2017, which have then been weighted to the national population profile of Great Britain. This is the 14th year of the Audit, which began in 2004.
- During the general election campaign, the Commons Library will not be publishing new briefings; Parliament’s Participation team will be encouraging people to register, to cast their vote on the 8 June and to continue to engage with Parliament following the election.
This House of Lords Library briefing provides information about what happens to public bills before the dissolution of Parliament in the period known as ‘wash-up’.
Public bills cannot be carried over from one parliament to the next in the same way that they can be carried over from one session to the next within the lifetime of a parliament. The period of the last few days of a parliament, during which unfinished business must be agreed by both Houses or lost at dissolution, is known as ‘wash-up’. During this period, because there is not enough time to complete parliamentary consideration in the usual way, the Government is reliant on the cooperation of the Opposition to secure its legislation. The Government and the Opposition reach agreements on the bills—or parts of bills—that should be hurried through their remaining parliamentary stages to reach the statute book before dissolution. Sometimes the Government is willing to drop certain bills, or certain provisions, to secure the passage of others. Sometimes parliamentary time is also provided during the wash-up for private member’s bills.
Following the House of Commons’ vote on 19 April 2017 by 522 votes to 13 in favour of the Prime Minister’s motion that there should be an early general election, Parliament is now in a wash-up period. Parliament must be dissolved 25 days before the proposed date of the general election, meaning that for the election to take place on 8 June 2017, Parliament will be dissolved at one minute past midnight on 3 May 2017. All outstanding public bills must be dealt with before then (or before prorogation if that takes place earlier than dissolution) or they will fall at dissolution.
This Lords Library briefing provides background information on what happened during the wash-up periods before the 1987, 1992, 1997, 2005, 2010 and 2015 elections. (A more detailed analysis of the 1987–2010 period, prior to the passage of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, is available in the joint House of Lords and House of Commons Library note on Wash-up 2010
It also gives details of bills to be dealt with in the 2017 wash-up, including:
- Government bills that are still before Parliament, the stage they had reached as at 21 April 2017, and the latest schedule for completing their remaining parliamentary stages.
- Private member’s bills which have completed their passage through the House in which they were first introduced and are currently before the other House; and
- Bills which have completed their passage through both Houses and are currently awaiting royal assent.
General Election 2017: a short guide
The Government intends to seek an early election. Here is our short guide to what it all means for Parliament.
How are early elections called?
There will be a motion in the House of Commons tomorrow to trigger an early election using the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. The Act set the date of the last general election on 7 May 2015 and set all future general elections for the first Thursday in May in every fifth year. The next election was therefore scheduled to take place on 7 May 2020.
The Act states that an early election can be held if a motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two-thirds of the whole House (including vacant seats) or without division (i.e. if it is agreed unanimously.) So tomorrow’s motion will need 434 MPs to agree it to pass. Our Fixed-term Parliaments 2011 paper has more detail on the Act.
When will Parliament be dissolved for the election?
Parliament has to be dissolved 25 working days before Polling Day. The Prime Minister has announced an 8 June election. This means that Parliament will be dissolved on Wednesday 3 May.
The House may Prorogue (suspend but not dissolve) before then. The Leader of the House has indicated today (18 April) that talks regarding prorogation will follow if the motion is passed tomorrow.
What will happen to Bills currently before Parliament?
Bills can’t be carried over through a dissolution. Any Bill before Parliament that has not received Royal Assent by dissolution will fall. To ensure that essential or non-controversial legislation is passed a ‘wash-up’ period takes place – when the Government and the Opposition reach agreements on the bills or parts of bills that should be hurried through their remaining parliamentary scrutiny. The wash-up procedure is enabled by motions, agreed by the House, which allow for the expedited progress of certain Bills.
How long does this take?
Normally the House of Commons will spend most of a day (or more) on a stage of a bill. However, during the wash-up, when several bills need to be considered in two or three days this is not possible. After consultation with the Official Opposition, the Leader of the House makes a statement indicating how the Government wishes wash-up to proceed. However, the House has to agree to this timetable.
Our briefing Wash-up – Election 2010 explains what happened before the 2010 election. There was no substantial wash-up period before the 2015 general election as the date of the election was known in advance.
What is purdah?
The term ‘purdah’ means the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on the activity of civil servants and Ministers are in place. The preface to the General Election 2015 guidance for civil servants, issued on 30 March 2015, sets out the general principles:
- During an election campaign the Government retains its responsibility to govern and Ministers remain in charge of their Departments.
- Essential business must be carried on. In particular Cabinet Committees can continue to meet and consider correspondence if necessary, although in practice this may not be practical. If something requires urgent collective consideration, the Cabinet Secretary should be consulted.
- It is customary for Ministers to observe discretion in initiating any action of a continuing or long-term character.
- Decisions on matters of policy, and other issues such as large and/or contentious procurement contracts, on which a new Government might be expected to want the opportunity to take a different view from the present Government should be postponed until after the Election, provided that such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest or wasteful of public money.
When will purdah start and how long will it last?
Purdah is likely to start on the day that Parliament is dissolved until after Polling Day on 8 June 2017.
The purdah period before general elections is not regulated by law, but governed by conventions based largely on the Civil Service Code. Guidance is issued to civil servants ahead of the election. For the 2015 general election it was issued and took effect on 30 March 2015 – the day that Parliament was dissolved.
Conversely, there is statutory guidance for local authorities about publicity during the period just before local elections, whilst the purdah period before referendums is regulated by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
Our briefing ‘Purdah’ before elections and referendums (13 April 2017) provides further details.
What about select committees?
A 2017 election means that those select committee chairs who were elected on 10 June 2010 (a list is here) must, if still holding that position, cease to be chair of their select committee on 10 June 2018, unless the House orders otherwise.
An early election and shorter 2015 Parliament means that some select committee chairs will have shorter terms than expected. Standing Order 122A states that: ‘no select committee may have as its chair a Member who has served as chair of that Committee for the two previous parliaments (of whatever length) or a continuous period of 8 years, whichever is the greater’.
A 2015-2020 Parliament would have allowed those chairs elected in 2010 to have a 10 year term.
Will the Manchester Gorton by-election go ahead?
David Lidington MP, Leader of the House, said today in the Commons that he expected that the Returning Officer would cancel the by-election. As it was due on 4 May and Parliament is likely to be dissolved on 3 May, the new MP would be elected to a Parliament which no longer existed.
Erskine May, the guide to Parliamentary procedure, indicates that there is “no statutory provision for cancelling a by-election when a general election is in progress”
The procedure for a by-election starts with a Writ being sent from the Clerk of the Crown (triggered by a Warrant from the Speaker) to the relevant Returning Officer. It is presumed that an acting Returning Officer would consider the Writ to have been superseded if the by-election were due to take place at a date when Parliament had been dissolved, since the MP could not be elected to a Parliament which no longer existed.
Commons Library Briefing Election Timetables, March 2015 (p.16-17) provides more detail.
Will the local elections go ahead as planned?
Yes, the local elections are on a statutory timetable (see our Election Timetables briefing for more info).
Will new constituency boundaries apply?
No. The four boundary commissions (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) are still working through the set cycles of consultation and analysis for their respective boundary reviews. They must complete their reviews and hand their reports to the Government by 1 October 2018.
This process is explained in Commons Library Briefing Parliamentary Boundary Reviews: Public Consultation (November 2016)
With Brexit looming on the horizon, it is increasingly important that Scotland and its businesses look at the international community and recognize the opportunities to forge positive relationships in this volatile time. More than ever it is essential to take advantage of the resources available on how to navigate the widespread uncertainty ahead. The Europe Direct Information Centre (EDIC) Edinburgh is hosted at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and informs citizens and businesses about their rights and assists in finding practical tips to help people move and work around the EU. EDIC Edinburgh is part of a network of 16 centres in the UK, 500 across Europe which act as an interface between the EU and its citizens at a local level. They display and hold materials on a variety of topics on the European Union, and can help with questions and issues. They host a number of local events providing networking and business contacts. EDIC Edinburgh is an excellent resource which is available to all.
For further information visit their office at 40 George Street, Edinburgh, Call 0131 221 2999 (option 5) or check out https://www.edinburghchamber.co.uk/europe-direct @EuropeDirectEDI on Twitter or www.facebook.com/Europe-Direct-Information-Centre-Edinburgh-632037513489361/
This hub is intended to be useful to those seeking information on the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, the process for leaving and the negotiations of a new relationship between the UK and the EU.
Material has been selected by impartial researchers within the Scottish Parliament Information Centre.
It sits on the Scottish Parliament Information Centre Blog
The Scottish Centre on European Relations is a new independent and unaligned EU think tank, based in Edinburgh. It aims to inform, debate, and provide up-to-the-minute, high quality research and analysis of European Union developments and challenges. It focuses on pan-EU issues as well as having a particular focus on Scotland’s EU interests and policies.
GIG e-Bulletin March 2017
Promises to ‘take back control’ and ‘reclaim parliamentary sovereignty’ have dominated the Brexit debate. But as the Great Repeal Bill looms, new data published today shows why scrutiny procedures for delegated legislation are not fit for purpose and why, if they are not reformed, the Brexit process will enhance the power of the government rather than Parliament. Launching our Westminster Lens data project, this report examines the delegated legislation process in the 2015-16 session – including new data on controversial Henry VIII powers – and challenges a number of assertions made about the process by Ministers and Members of both Houses alike.