Scottish Parliament committee reports and research briefings – the brave new world of XML and self-publishing

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—Impact-on-Scotland

For more information, contact: Stephen Imrie,



The public and Parliament: more engaged, less satisfied – Hansard Society audit

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.

The test
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.

Picture credit: The British Parliament and Big Ben by MauriceCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)


Wash-up: What Happens to Bills before Parliament is Dissolved

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

A short guide to what this snap election means for parliament – via Second Reading

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)



Europe Direct Information Centre (EDIC) Edinburgh

EuropeDirectEdin CIRCLE Logoworld image with flags

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 @EuropeDirectEDI on Twitter or

CILIP Government Information Group e-bulletin

GIG e-Bulletin March 2017

GKIM Conference

Preparations are now well underway for the annual Government KIM Conference being held at the BEIS Conference Centre in London on 30th March 2017.

The agenda has been designed to include a mix of short presentations on key KIM topics and opportunities to network and discuss experience and best practice with KIM colleagues from other Government organisations.  There will be presentations on the new General Data Protection Regulations, the cross-government Records Management project and copyright. There will be breakout sessions exploring what it means to work in one of the key KIM roles in government.

In addition, the GIG Awards for 2016 are being presented at the conference – with the winners of the Annual Award, a team from the National Library of Scotland, talking about the House of Lords digitisation project that lead to them being crowned this year’s winners.

The conference is open to those working in central government departments and Arms’ Length Bodies and applications to attend should be made via your departmental Head of KIM Profession as soon as possible.


New professional opportunity to become a CILIP Board Member

CILIP are currently looking to recruit a new professional to the CILIP Board of Trustees to bring a fresh perspective and to ensure that the voice of this vital part of our membership is present in CILIP decision making at the highest level.  This will be a great opportunity for a new professional to contribute to the leadership of their professional body and it will also give them the chance to engage with members from across the profession and to broaden their skills and experience.

CILIP are looking for someone who has been working in information, knowledge management or library services for 5 years or less and who may or may not hold a professional qualification or be professionally registered.  Experience in this type of role is not necessary as you will receive a full induction and will also have an experienced Board Member to act as mentor. 

Applications are welcome from those working in every sector of the profession, including public, private and third sector – and it would be wonderful to have a new member of the Government KIM profession taking up this opportunity.

Further details, including how to apply, can be found at or contact Nick Poole – for an informal discussion.  The recruitment panel will be three Board Members and interviews will be held in London on Wednesday 19 April 2017.

GIG Events

We have another varied UK wide visits programme set up for 2017. Visits this month include the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and the Weiner Library. To book a place on these visits or to check out other forthcoming events go to the GIG Events section on the CILIP website


NetiKX Event – free GIG places

GIG now has corporate membership of NetIKX and can therefore offer free attendance for 3 of our members. 

The next event is being held on Thursday 16th March 2017

NetIKX seminar: David Gurteen Knowledge Café

David Gurteen, whose network and knowledge cafés are widely known in the knowledge and information management communities (see, will be running a knowledge café especially for NetIKX. The topic and further details will be announced shortly.

Provisional Timetable

14:00 – 14:30 Registration (and refreshments)
14:30 – 15:30 Speakers’ presentations
15:30 – 16:00 Tea and Networking
16:00 – 17:00 Syndicate session and feedback
17:00 – 18:00 Refreshments and a glass of wine

The British Dental Association, 64 Wimpole Street, London W1G 8YS (The nearest London Underground Station is Bond Street)

Please email Nikki Myall ( if you would like to attend.

Supporting the information seeking needs of colleagues in Government

Friday 31 March 2:00 – 4.30pm (registration from 1:45pm) at the Welsh Government London Office, 25 Victoria Street, London. SW1H 0EX

An interactive session discussing the benefits of measuring information literacy and how departments can use the evidence to increase awareness of library services. Discussion will include barriers to effective information seeking, how to raise information literacy, how to increase awareness of the full range of services available to colleagues, and how to deliver all this in time of budgetary restraints.

Delegates will have the opportunity to share knowledge and discuss potential solutions to aid others in supporting the information seeking requirements of those in their respective departments.

This session is jointly hosted by Catty Bennett (Head of Knowledge and Information Management, Office for National Statistics) and Stephen Gregory (Legal Librarian, Welsh Government).

For security reasons advanced registration for this event is required. Registration will close at 5pm on Friday 24 March 2017. This session is limited to 14 delegates.

Places can be booked at the following link 


Travelling Librarian Award

The Travelling Librarian Award is an exciting award jointly sponsored by the English Speaking Union (ESU) and CILIP.  Each year it offers the opportunity to an adventurous UK library and information professional who is a CILIP personal member to explore a professional theme or challenge by a study tour of library and related institutions in the USA or a Commonwealth country. Normally the study tour will take place over 2-3 weeks in the Autumn but some have gone at different times of the year by agreement with the sponsors.  The successful applicant will receive an award of £3000 to undertake their proposed study tour with other practical help in regard to accommodation and introductions being available as well. The successful applicant will be expected to share the outcomes of their study tour with the profession more broadly.

The 2017 award is now open with a deadline for applications of Wednesday 26 April 2017. The full details of the award can be found on the CILIP website at:

You will also find reports from previous winners.  Most recently they have come from university libraries, government libraries and public libraries but they are open to CILIP members in all sectors. So please do spread the word about this award which can so enrich professional knowledge and experience and be a truly defining moment in a professional career.

GIG e-Bulletin March 2017

New data shows why parliamentary scrutiny is not fit for purpose as the Great Repeal Bill looms


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.

IFLA Statement on Government Provision of Public Legal Information in the Digital Age (2016)

IFLA Statement

“In the digital age, many governments now provide online versions of primary sources of law, including statutes, case law, and regulations, directly to citizens. This can make it possible for the public to have equitable and continuous access to these resources, assuming wide and affordable Internet access.
Nonetheless, simply posting legal information online is not enough. Government providers also need to take responsibility for ensuring that the content they post is available to all1, at no fee2, that the content is authentic and trustworthy”

Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and agreements.

70 countries have signed the Open Government Declaration, which commits them to upholding the principles of open and transparent government, while the 2002 Montreal Declaration set out that freely accessible legal information is “part of the common heritage of humanity” and is essential to the rights and obligations of members of a just society. Access to public legal information “promotes justice and the rule of law.”

As these agreements indicate, no-fee online access to legal information benefits both public users and the government by enhancing engagement and facilitating citizen participation in policy-making.