Last weekend, Richard Baker resigned as a member of the Scottish Parliament with immediate effect. The Parliament had approximately 24 hours to prepare for the arrival of Lesley Brennan, the new regional member for North East Scotland, so we barely had time to be startled. Almost every office in the Parliament is involved with the arrival of a new MSP and colleagues were kept pretty busy making arrangements. I expect that Mrs Brennan was even busier.
In the official report, we had to be ready to report Mrs Brennan taking the oath. In the old days, as long ago as 2015, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) would add the new member’s information to their database and send it to the official report and other offices by email. Each office would manually enter the data into their own system. Our editorial support team was responsible for entering the data into our production system, known as editOR. It was time consuming and, as with any manual task, had the potential for error as well as some swearing of our own.
Now, in 2016, SPICe receives notification of a new member and updates the primary database. It synchronises with our production system overnight and the following day all the data that we need for the new member is available in our system, and in others, such as the motions, questions and answers database. This is a live example of how successful the digital Parliament programme has been in delivering the capability to access and share core parliamentary data between systems, as well as to re-use publications and to open up our data sets externally. There is still a bit of technical work going on but you should expect to see the Official Report released in an open data format around summer 2016.
In the meantime, we’re looking forward to May’s election and to seeing 129 names appear in editOR as if by magic.