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Wednesday, June 9, 1999 Published at 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK

UK Politics

MSPs' time for a place in the sun

MSPS will have a two-month break

The Scottish Parliament's decision to take a two-month break over the summer has been criticised as a "chancer's charter".

The 129 MSPs will start their recess on Friday 2 July, the day after the Queen formally opens the parliament.

The break was agreed without debate and without going to a vote.

The decision to take a long break so soon after the election on 6 May was criticised by Scottish National Party regional list member Dorothy-Grace Elder.

[ image: Dorothy Grace-Elder: Critical of break]
Dorothy Grace-Elder: Critical of break
She called the two-month break "outrageous" and said her own party had tried in vain behind the scenes to have it shortened.

"I think it's awful, ministers become legal on July 1 - and then hop it on July 2, which means they won't have to answer very important questions."

Ms Elder said the SNP had wanted the start of the break to be put back to 9 July and criticised the Liberal-Labour coalition.

"It's obvious that the Liberals every single time will vote with the government and just shut down any pretence at democracy, and that is possibly the reason there wasn't any discussion."

She said some parliamentarians would work hard in the recess on constituency matters but the break offered others the opportunity of a "chancer's charter".

Plans for the recess were laid out in the Constitutional Steering Group report, the blueprint for the parliament's operation.

Constituency affairs

MSPs are expected to use the time to catch up on constituency affairs with the break expected to be particularly useful for those based far from Edinburgh who are not able to keep in constant touch while the parliament is sitting.

Bill Thomson, head of the parliament's chamber office, which helps run the institution, said: "One of the key principles is that this is a family-friendly Parliament, and the recess is designed to cover the school holidays in Scotland."

He said it was up to MSPs to decide how long their holidays should be during the recess, but most would spend the majority of the recess working.

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