A Longitudinal Assessment of the Use of ICTs by Members of the Scottish Parliament
Publisher:European Group of Public Administration (EGPA) Annual Conference 2011
Publication date:August 2011
The Internet, specifically web-based technologies, are now central to some of the information flows associated with the operation of core components of the polity, including its democratic institutions. Such technologies have been widely characterised in the literature as offering the potential for democratic renewal and reinvigoration. This paper takes as its focus the use of new technologies, mostly web-based, by members of the devolved parliamentary legislature in Scotland. Members of Scotland’s devolved parliament make a novel case for analysis for two reasons. The first is that the parliament is comparatively young, being (re-)established in 1999 almost three hundred years after abrogation. The second is that, from before its inception, the modern Scottish Parliament was envisaged as a parliament of the modern age, free of the ritual and tradition of the UK parliament at Westminster, and which would adopt modern procedures and up-to-date technology in order to carry out its work.
The aim of this paper is to explore the extent to which new technologies, which we will refer to using the common term ICTs (short for information and communication technologies), relate to the work of Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), and to the tasks and activities comprising this work. Our aim is not to argue that ICTs have ‘transformed’ or ‘reinvigorated’ practice. Rather, it is to explore the extent to which the activities of MSPs rely upon, and are intertwined with, the technologies at their disposal, and those used by their constituents and others. We do this against the established body of knowledge on the roles and activities of parliamentarians, including their roles as legislators and as representatives. Focussing on different tasks and activities carried out by MSPs, we seek to identify the contribution of ICTs to the pursuance of these. Through this, we aim to clarify a question that is rarely asked in the literature; this is, what parts of the work of parliamentarians are most clearly being supported by ICTs? And, conversely, what parts of this work may be being hindered?