STRIKING the right balance between decision making and maintaining robust scrutiny and accountability is a constant conversation at the best of times, and is ever more important during a crisis. This played out strongly at the Scottish Parliament this week, and raises important questions for our own council too.

As part of her regular briefings on Covid-19 the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday, alongside her cabinet colleague Mike Russell MSP, outlined proposals for a piece of emergency legislation on coronavirus. Both were clear that had been developed with cross-party consensus, would not be renewed in six months unless necessary.

All encouraging signs. The First Minister has also given previous positive statements around the need for reflection and scrutiny to improve decision making.

Jump ahead to Wednesday and the debate in the Scottish Parliament. During an often confusing session, the withdrawal for reconsideration of the Government proposal for halting jury trials was welcomed.

As were other victories such as Andy Wightman MSP securing a ban on muirburn, and, thanks to pressure from Green MSPs, greater support for tenants faced with eviction, though we will continue to push for this to go further.

At the start of the session the Presiding Officer made it clear that any MSP present could vote but, for various reasons, only 82 MSPs were in attendance. Exactly half of these were members of the SNP, meaning they were proportionally over-represented. As is convention, in the event of a tie the Presiding Officer voted in favour of the status quo, effectively ensuring a block on opposition amendments.

This meant that all but one of our Green amendments to roll back unnecessary Freedom of Information measures were voted down by the SNP. Similarly, Andy Wightman’s amendments to provide further security for tenants, and Ross Greer’s amendment to allow students to cancel their contracts with private student halls were voted down.

The fairest way to maintain the political balance in a Parliament is a proxy voting system and getting that in place should be a shared priority, for this emergency and beyond.

At Glasgow City Council, we welcomed the expansion of the Emergency Committee to include ourselves and the Conservatives, alongside the ruling administration and the Labour opposition. So far we have had one teleconference meeting of the Emergency City Administration Committee, at which the only controversial paper – proposing to introduce a Voluntary Redundancy Scheme – was withdrawn before discussion. As such this mechanism for ensuring robust scrutiny and accountability has not been properly tested.

My Green colleague Cllr Tanya Wisely has pushed for the Integrated Joint Board to report on what it is doing and Glasgow Greens are pressing for the same for the rest of the council.

Whole swathes of council departments are being redeployed. The SEC, which is 90% owned by the council, is being taken over by the MOD. And all councillor casework has been suspended. At this time it is vital that all councillors not only keep up to date with all develop-ments as best they can, but that we can effectively scrutinise to ensure the best decisions are made.