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Summary Report Detailed Findings 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. Background Buildings Visitors Security Research and Information Zabalik Broadcasting The IT4ALL initiative Staff Exchanges Follow up actions Contacts Delegation

p. 2 p.4 p. 4 p. 5 p. 7 p. 9 p. 9 p. 10 p. 13 p. 17 p. 18 p. 19 p. 20 p. 21


VISIT TO THE BASQUE AND CATALAN PARLIAMENTS 13–16 JANUARY 2004 Summary Report Basque Parliament A delegation consisting of Alan Smart, Alan Balharrie, Ian Perry and Janet Seaton visited the Basque Parliament from 13 – 15 January 2004. Our objective was to meet our counterparts on the parliamentary staff and specifically to learn more about their ‘Zabalik’ web service of engaging the public in the business of the Parliament by means of email alerts. We also had some specific questions about visitor management, research and information services and education services. On behalf of the Presiding Officer we also sought specific information about the economic impact of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Our visit was made at the invitation of the President of the Basque Parliament, Mr Atutxa, and was the first ever official delegation from the Scottish Parliament to visit the Basque Parliament. On arrival we were taken on an official tour of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the architecture of which bears a striking conceptual similarity to the Holyrood building. Coincidentally that very morning they had launched the publication of their annual review of the economic impact of the museum on the Basque Country’s economy. We were therefore able to obtain copies of relevant documentation for our Presiding Officer and to talk to our guide about various aspects of the museum’s activities. This will inform both our visitor management and our media strategy for the Holyrood building. On 14 January 2004 we began our visit to the Parliament building itself, which is not in Bilbao, but in Vitoria-Gasteiz. We were greeted officially by the Parliament’s President, Mr Atutxa, and formally presented him with a gift from the Presiding Officer. We then showed him a video message from the Presiding Officer, which was interpreted for him into Basque. He welcomed us to the Parliament and wished us a fruitful and enjoyable visit. We were then given an extensive presentation of how their Zabalik service operates. Between eight and ten staff from the relevant support departments were made available to us and we were, as a result, able to ask detailed questions on operational matters which would not have been open to us in any other forum. Zabalik is in fact only a small part of the Parliament’s corporate information architecture which encompasses all of their parliamentary data. Its structure is very similar to the Canadian PRISM system, which is also one that we have investigated with some interest. We made a presentation to an open meeting at the Parliament about the ways in which the Scottish Parliament engages the public in its business and


activities. The presentation was attended by around 20 – 25 people, four of whom were Members of the Basque Parliament. We showed the ‘Working for you’ video and demonstrated some of the interactive aspects of the website. We also showed them the latest educational resources, including our snakes and ladders game, which greatly intrigued them. On 15 January 2004 we attended a presentation about the ‘IT4all regions’ programme, which is part of their e-government initiative. The Basque Parliament is taking part in this by collaborating on the e-democracy strand of this initiative. We shared some of our thinking in relation to ‘Digital Scotland’ and e-democracy. Catalan Parliament Alan Smart and Janet Seaton then travelled from Bilbao to Barcelona to visit the Catalan Parliament from 15-16 January. Both Members and officials from the Scottish Parliament have had frequent contact with the Catalan Parliament and we were following up some earlier contacts that had been made by colleagues. In particular we wanted to find out about a new parliamentary broadcasting channel for the Catalan Parliament and to explore ways of cooperating between our two Research services. We were able to meet our counterparts and to have an extensive discussion with them on matters of mutual interest. The Catalan Parliament had not yet met since its elections last November and many of the staff that we might otherwise have met were undergoing pre-session training courses. However, we were able to meet relevant colleagues who gave us a great deal of help and information in the areas about which we were asking. We were able to have a tour of the building and to ask questions about visitor management, tours, security, their Education service and visitor information. Overall our visits were very productive. Their success was largely due to the fact that we were able to meet and talk with our counterparts in both formal and informal settings. This facilitated an exchange of views, not only on technical issues but also on broadcasting, research and information and visitor management issues, which will be incorporated into our thinking in the forthcoming year. Both institutions will soon celebrate their 25th anniversaries, and as forerunners of devolution, our visits offered us some valuable insights ahead of our own 5th birthday and our move to Holyrood. A detailed report on our observations and discussions on operational matters is given in the attached Annex.



1. 1.1

Background Basque Parliament The Basque Parliament has 75 Members of Parliament, 25 from each of the 3 autonomous Basque communities. This gives a significant electoral advantage to the less populated province, Alava, the most rural and least Basque of the three provinces. The Parliament is not in Bilbao, the largest city in the Basque country, but in Vitoria-Gasteiz, in Alava Province, and is not the historic capital of the Basque Country. This is broadly the equivalent of having the Scottish Parliament in Perth, and was the result of a conscious political decision in 1978 to devolve decision making and share out the economic benefits of autonomy throughout the Basque country. The Parliament’s committees sit throughout the week but plenary sessions are normally only on Fridays. The Parliament is bilingual but the staff converse with each other mainly in Spanish. At the time of our arrival the Parliament was in the middle of a major political crisis revolving around the legal status of the Herri Batasuna (HB) group within the parliament. HB, the political wing of the paramilitary faction ETA, had been banned by the Spanish State , and the Spanish Supreme Court has ordered the de-recognition of the HB parliamentary group within the Basque parliament. This the moderate nationalist (PNV) led Basque Parliament had so far refused to do, and had amongst other things led to the resignation of the parliament’s Clerk, principally to see the crisis polarised between the Spanish Supreme Court and the President of the Basque Parliament, President Atutxa, who had assumed all the legal responsibilities of the Clerk. Also causing considerable political interest at the time of our visit was the “Ibarretxe” Plan recently launched by President Ibarretxe of the Basque government, (effectively the Basques’ First Minister). This aims at revising the Spanish “Statute of Autonomy” for the Basque Country, (broadly the equivalent of our Scotland Act and Wales Act), with a view to increasing the autonomy of the region. All of this was taking place within the context of Spanish general elections, due to take place on 14 March 2004, after which, conceivably, nationalist parties could hold the balance of power.


Catalan Parliament


The Catalan Parliament has 135 Members elected on a party list system from the whole of the region Catalonia, and is in Barcelona, far and away the largest place in Catalonia. Elections to the Catalan Parliament had taken place in November 2003, at which there was an unexpected change of Government, from a Convergencia i Unio (CiU) led gradualist nationalist coalition to a Catalan Socialist (PSU)/Republican Left (Esquerra) coalition. This meant that the moderate nationalist party CiU, the party of retiring President Pujol, was out of power for the first time since autonomy had re-established 1979. It had also seen the election of a Socialist President of the Catalan Government, and a Republican Left President of the Catalan Parliament. At the time of our visit, staff anticipated that there would be changes to previous procedures. In particular they anticipated that the Parliament would move from a sitting pattern of 2-3 continuous plenary days in every two weeks, to a pattern of sitting for 1 or 1½ days every week. They are also a bilingual Parliament but staff conduct their day to day business entirely in Catalan. 2. 2.1 Buildings Basque Parliament The Basque Parliament building is a former high school(!) which has been entirely refurbished inside and is quite grand. The chamber is on the site of the former playground area, now roofed. The building displays examples of Basque art and craft including sculpture, tapestry etc. An intriguing facility was a machine just inside the main entrance door, which encased your wet umbrella in a plastic sheath, which stopped it dripping. Could be useful in our weather! Their President does not leave the chair at all. The previous President did allow Deputies to chair some proceedings, but this one prefers to do it all himself. The Chamber is a very square shape with raked seating. Their Bureau members sit at the top table flanking the President. Each Chamber seat has its own desk, microphone and telephone. There is a podium in front of the President’s table where people can choose to address the Parliament, although they can also speak from their places. There is no IT allowed in the Chamber. The President can see the broadcast TV feed on screens in front of him in addition to having a touch-screen for choosing speakers. There are display boards on either side of the wall behind the President’s table which show how people are voting by lighting up lights in their seat positions. There is presumably also something that adds up the numbers.


They were surprised that we allowed our Chamber to be used for events other than parliamentary business. They have a policy of only using their chamber for plenary debates. The only exception to this was a Youth Parliament debate which took place once a year. They did not allow it to be used for anything else, not even for sittings of Committees. They have four Committee rooms, three of which are televised. They also have a press conference room which can be used by all Members on a largely unregulated basis, including the ability of individual members to make spontaneous speeches and interviews in this area. The Parliament had had no difficulties with the open and unregulated approach to the management of their press conference room, which was also popular and convenient for journalists at the Parliament. They all had a direct Parliament-provided TV and audio feed of all press conferences to their work area in the Parliament. In the corner of the press conference room there also was a large piece of commissioned art which acted as a backdrop for ‘photo-opportunities’. The Basque Parliament logo is a wooden symbol with seven arms. The symbol represents the tree under which the original Basque communities gathered to make decisions. This was an oak tree near Guernica and the logo in the Chamber (which is on the wall behind the President’s (Presiding Officer) chair) has inserted into it segments of the original oak tree. The significance of the logo, as explained to us, was that the three arms on the left represent the three communities which currently make up the Basque Autonomous Region; the arm at the top represents Navarra, which is another Spanish Autonomous Region with historical links to the Basques, and the three arms on the right represent the Basque communities in France. 2.2 Catalan Parliament The Catalan Parliament building is a much bigger and grander affair. The parliament building is in a 19th century palace, in LaCuitadella Park, surrounded by a host of other impressive public buildings and the city’s zoo. The building also hosted the short lived Catalan Parliament set up in years immediately preceding the Spanish Civil War and shut down by Franco in 1939. This gives the 19th century building an emotive and more recent 20th century resonance with Catalans. The parliamentary chamber was literally bricked up by the fascist regime in 1939 and re-opened unaltered, like a “time capsule”, in 1978 when the Catalan Parliament was re-established. Part of it is still occupied by a museum that was the function the whole building originally had. The Parliament’s logo is based on the Catalan flag and the same logo is used for both the Parliament and the Government of Catalunya. They told us that they sometimes used the building outline in conjunction with the logo to make it clear that the document or item was from the Parliament and not from the Government.


The Chamber of the Catalan Parliament is a grand setting with marble and columns and heavy red velvet curtains. The Chamber is semicircular shaped and it also has a podium at the front for people to speak from if they wish. Their Bureau also sits at the top table with the President. Their seats are in rows with a lift-up shelf for putting papers on. They can speak from their seats but, apart from their electronic voting system, there is no IT allowed in the Chamber. 3. 3.1 Visitors Basque Parliament The Protocol department deals with group visits. Over the course of a year the Basque Parliament gets 12,000 visitors in sitting time and 6,000 in recesses. 60% of the group visits are from schools, 15% are from community groups and 11% from University students. They find that more and more people are coming as individuals. Each group comprises of 30 – 40 people at a time. All tours are guided by their own staff. 65% of their tours are conducted in Spanish and 35% in Basque. There is a growing demand for tours in the Basque language. All visits to the Parliament have to be by prior appointment, whether by an individual or in a group. Visits last from 1 – 1½ hours and they spend that time explaining what a Parliament is and what the Basque Parliament does. They were firmly of the view that the building itself held no architectural interest for anybody. They have 4 members of staff working on visits but they are planning to train what they call their ‘ushers’ to be guides as well. They insisted that guides must be from the Parliament staff so that they are up to date with parliamentary developments. Their public gallery seats 60-70 people. Their education work is done in close collaboration with the relevant government departments. For example they recently jointly produced a CD game on the theme of eradicating racism. They also have an interactive game to explain how a law is passed. In developing this they involved all offices within the Parliament and they are now working on an updated list and additional resources for schools. The protocol department dealt with school visits and the main interest point of the visit was to see parliamentary business. 3.2 Catalan Parliament The Protocol department, which also included functions relating to the President’s Office and international relations, was in charge of group visits including school visits, and external communications other than the press office. They have three levels of group visits – primary school students, secondary school students and what they called ‘older


people’. The education unit has six staff – one head of unit, two middle level people and three visit leaders. On Mondays – Fridays they have group visits of a maximum of 30 people with one visit every 45 minutes. Their visits start at 9.30am and they send letters of invitation (from the President) to the participants beforehand. Most visits are from schools. They allow individuals to come on the first Friday of each month but they still have to book in advance and are taken round as a group at 4pm. Although the group visit limit is 30, if more than 30 people come they have an activity guide for outside the building (which is in a park), so they split the group in two and give half of them the activity guide to keep them busy outside while the other half take the tour inside. Then they swap the groups over. All materials for the groups are in Catalan and the visiting school students get a free Parliament branded clipboard and pencil. This had the added advantage of making group members easily identifiable – the clipboards were bright yellow. The secondary school level visit concentrates more on the citizenship curriculum with materials being available on the web, and they sometimes give them a brochure. The ‘older visitor’ tour participants get a brochure in the relevant language, which is quite an extensive explanation of the Parliament. This brochure is available in Spanish, English, French, German and Catalan. Some guided tours are done in other languages but only because they are fortunate enough that their staff already happen to speak these languages. They are beginning to develop new resources for the secondary level visits (14 years old and over). They don’t send anything out on paper to the schools because everything is on the web. The presentation they do for primary schools is about how to construct (compose) a Bill to be passed by the Parliament and includes a mock debate. For the secondary schools they do the same exercise but they have to propose amendments, debate them and agree a final text. Their public gallery seats only 42 people altogether. Only eight seats are available for group visits with the rest being shared out for MPs to give tickets to their constituents. The visits to the plenary sitting are therefore conducted in groups of eight. On plenary session days they use their Main Committee Room, which has a capacity in excess of 100, as a video room where most visitors watch a live TV feed of proceedings on a giant screen to maximise the number who can actually see the chamber itself in session. They only allow groups of eight to stay in the public gallery for 10 minutes and then they have to go into the video room to let another eight in. We asked about the tourist market but they had a strong objections to encouraging tour operators. They actively did not want to be included in tourist brochures because they did not want to give the impression of charging for visits. They want to stop travel agents taking advantage of


a free tour and charging for it. They only want people who are interested in the Parliament to come to visit it. They have an ‘open doors day’ over a two day period, once a year. This always covers 11th September, the Catalan national day, which is also a public holiday. Over the course of a year they average 30,000 visitors, 2,000 of which have been accommodated in the public gallery. 4. 4.1 Security Basque Parliament Perimeter security is provided by the Basque police, wearing very fetching bright red jumpers. They staff a security post outside the main building. The Rapiscan scanners are inside the main building and are operated by Parliament staff, as is the adjacent reception desk. There is no internal security force and we saw no evidence of individual security passes. Given the continuing paramilitary campaign of ETA, which had seen the assassination of a member of the Basque parliament in 2000, we were struck by the apparent “light touch” of their security service compared with our own. 4.2 Catalan Parliament Catalan police provide perimeter security. The Parliament’s own staff operates security within the building. The police are in charge of operating the Rapiscan equipment but staff perform a reception function. As visitors, we were given a sticker with two different colours on it. The colours corresponded to the areas of the building to which we were allowed to go. The internal security consisted of ushers who escorted visitors from one place to another. They seem to have permanent ‘stations’ in the corridors. Again we saw no evidence of personal security passes. Indeed, they told us that there are no internal security checks. Once someone is in the building they can go anywhere. They also suggested that there was staff resistance to introducing personal security passes. ‘Security is the enemy of openness’ – was the opinion of the head of the Protocol Department. 5. 5.1 Research and Information Basque Parliament The Head of Research has two researchers working with him (they call them documentalists). He reports to someone who is also a Committee Clerk. They have adopted what they called ‘the French and German model’, which means that Clerks are the Heads of all the other administrative departments, in other words there is no separate Clerking Department.


They have a reference service which is based on access to a large collection. The political parties take information either from the government or from their own party group and this information is not available to the Parliament. They have an online catalogue and issue recent acquisitions lists periodically. They have good cooperation with Universities. They produce what they call a dossier for all Bills. When a Bill is introduced they open a dossier and allocated different subjects within the Bill to their researchers. The dossier output is a reference sheet containing links to relevant legislation elsewhere, including links to full text data where this is available. It includes jurisprudence (court cases), a bibliography, and any other relevant links. There was no discussion or explanation involved at all. They have a second series of outputs which they called ‘documentary notes’. These are on more specific subjects, for example, in response to an individual enquiry, and they would be primarily guides to resources with references and links. They would divide the resources by geographical area – 1. Basque sources; 2. state or national sources (i.e. Spain); 3. EU sources 4. EU and international organisations; 5. other subjects of interest. They maintained what they called a ‘legislative collection’ of all the Laws passed by the Basque Country. This seemed to be like the statute law database in that it was legislation as amended and showed new and repealed text. 5.2 Catalan Parliament The Head of Research and Information was in charge of a total of 7 staff – both research and library. He was also a Committee Clerk. He has three teams – research (documentation); information; and archives. The archives team answers enquiries about comparative law and indexes parliamentary business using the Eurovoc thesaurus. They expand the Eurovoc thesaurus by adding their own descriptors. They currently have two databases – one a library catalogue and the other covering parliamentary activity. They have a programme to integrate the two databases into one. The OPAQ of their parliamentary activity database only shows certain fields to outsiders. There is much more detail on their intranet. They had had some contact with a group called ELVIL – a group of European librarians? 6. Zabalik (Basque Parliament) We were given a demonstration of the Basque Parliament’s Zabalik email alerting system. The presentation was a joint effort between their IT and their research and information staff who had obviously worked closely together in order to deliver the final product.


Zabalik means ‘open’ in the Basque language. We had suspected that the system that they used relied on an underlying database and indeed Zabalik was just the tip of what was effectively their corporate information system. Interestingly the Zabalik information system was similar to the Canadian PRISM system which we have also looked at with envy. They demonstrated the email alert side of the system, and we asked them how they had marketed it. They target relevant groups and invite them to register. For example when there is a Bill going through about Universities they would target students. They also follow up all public enquires with an invitation to subscribe or if the enquiry was not received by email, by asking them if they are capable of getting an email alert. In addition to the email message containing details of business in the previous week, it includes a note of planned business in the chosen subject areas in the forthcoming week. The link takes you to a record of an item rather than directly to the item itself. There is then a further link to any relevant document. Interestingly these documents were held as ‘PDF’. Their official report format was, like Canada’s, a two column format with both Basque and Spanish side by side. Text can also be accessed in ASCII format. They have had the databases for 13 or 14 years. Data was always captured at origin. Amendments to Bills were shown as scanned original documents rather than as text entered by staff. This may have been to do with the procedure by which the Bureau agreed amendments. It was not clear whether only selected amendments were entered and that’s why they presented the scanned original documents. It takes them six to eight weeks to produce the final version of their Official Report. In the meantime there is a draft version available together with a video and a file of the debate. The draft official text of debates reproduced the languages as they were spoken without translation. These are on the website and you can access individual speeches through the video clips. They index the video files 48 hours after they take place and put them on the web. They then went on to show us the database of parliamentary initiatives. As soon as an initiative is tabled, i.e. goes to their Bureau for a decision on whether it should be given parliamentary time, staff in the documentation centre index each initiative from its title alone. This concept of indexing in advance of seeing the document was what enabled them to make their subject searching available so soon after the parliamentary debate or activity. They have modified the Eurovoc thesaurus to add local terms for geographical areas and local issues. They tended to use only three to four terms to index the initiatives. They volunteered the information that the Catalans typically use 15 – 20 index terms as opposed to their three to four, but they felt that this was excessive and led to less


precise searching. Without knowing what level of terms each was using it was impossible to judge whether this was the case. They said that they usually got 48 hours notice of an initiative going to the Bureau. They have one person who indexes their initiatives, of which there are between 50 and 60 a week. They revisit the indexing once the documents are available. The underlying database has two levels, one was an entry for administration level and the other was a searchable interface. The first part of the database was where the parliamentary registry created a record for each incoming document. At this point it became clear that they have a full document management system. If documents are not received electronically they are scanned and are assigned to the relevant parliamentary initiative. Data is entered wherever in the Parliament access and permission levels are granted for this to be done. It appears that these documents are only ones which relate to parliamentary business. It was not clear whether this also covered other data that we would think of as being covered by an electronic records management system. The second part of the database was the initiatives database which looked rather like the POLIS database in the UK Parliament. In other words it was essentially a reference record about an initiative. The early information in this database is only available in ASCII format. They then described some of the Parliament data which could be accessed via their web site and the Zabalik information service. 1. recent initiatives 2. pending initiatives i.e. ones still in progress 3. initiatives dealt with i.e. business which has been completed 4. a calendar of dates and deadlines (this was quite an interesting application which brought together all the dates of when consultations ended or responses were due, when questions were due for answer and what the deadline date for amendments to Bills were). 5. statistics (again this looked very useful. It contained a table showing numbers of debates, numbers of speeches, and numbers of WPQs with links back to the database. You could search this by Member’s name and then get links to the actual lists or to a party breakdown of PQs. It also included speeches which were categorised as either speeches in favour of the motion or speeches against the motion. 6. a complete list of all Members of Parliament ever, with a link to their parliamentary history. This history included their positions, initiatives that they had introduced, interventions they had made etc. We then were given some more technical detail about their underpinning technologies. The parliamentary register was a searchable database using BASIS, which is, they said, the most widely used computer language in Spain. Their initiatives database is called Izaro and has references only, but these references have satellite tables which link to full text documents using the date and the number


that is assigned to each initiative. They showed us the template in the main table which creates a new record. These new records are transferred to the searchable database in batches. They showed us the table for plenary sessions where data is entered by Committee staff. They showed us the table for the agenda (bulletin). This can be searched by parliamentary body or non parliamentary body. Very few people (about two) have editorial control of this table. This allows the auto creation of static html pages and the editors check everything before it goes live to the web. They told us that Zabalik has 1,115 subscribers. When it was first launched the website attracted 3,000 – 4,000 visitor sessions a month and now it is attracting 23,000 a month. 7. 7.1 Broadcasting General The most striking thing in terms of broadcasting in both the Basque and Catalan Autonomous Regions is that both Parliaments, through the Governments they had elected, had under the terms of their Statues of Autonomy, established free to air TV channels on universally available frequencies. In the case of the Basque autonomous Region there were two channels, EB1, broadcasting in Basque, and EB2, broadcasting in Spanish. In the case of Catalonia, there were three channels, all in Catalan, the most recent of which, TV3/24, had just launched, Canal Parlament, a dedicated parliamentary channel under the direct editorial control of the Catalan Parliament. Whilst TV3/24/Canal Parlament in Catalonia is a special case (more of which later in section 7.4), the other 4 channels, all funded by and managed by the autonomous regions, offered mainstream schedules, and were amongst the most popular channels in terms of audience share. All had played vital roles in term of post autonomy “nation building” according to the officials we met, and had also been seen as vital in the spectacular post autonomy revival of the Basque and Catalan languages, particularly amongst young people. This certainly put the debates in Scotland on issues like Gaelic on TV, a “Scottish 6” news programme on the BBC, and the timing of First Minister’s Questions into sharp perspective. 7.2 Basque Parliament On the more specific issue of the televising of proceedings of the Basque Parliament, we were struck by the similarities in the approach of the Basque Parliament to our own. All main chamber and commission (committee) proceedings were televised by the Parliament using a mix of in house staff and contractors, This footage was in turn made available free of charge to broadcasters, exactly as we intend to do at Holyrood. The Parliament had no “Rules of Coverage”, and how


the Parliament was televised was left to the discretion of the TV director, constrained only by conventions that had grown up over time. These conventions included generous use of cutaway and reaction shots, plus pictures of the public gallery, including demonstrations. In addition to this, TV companies could put their own single camera news crews into chamber and committee sessions to take additional shots, including very specific ones of MPs. Proceedings were recorded by the Parliament on to DV Cam tapes. In the summer of 2004, exactly as we are but for reasons of technical upgrade alone, the Basque Parliament will be moving from an analogue based TV system to a digital one. The Basques have even bought the exact same model of camera as we will be installing at Holyrood, Thomson model 1707. This is not just quite a co-incidence it offers us a degree of reassurance to know that a parliament with a near identical approach to the broadcasting its proceedings has reached exactly the same conclusions in terms of the procurement process. Already in place at the Basque Parliament is a sound and electronic voting system, which has been operating satisfactorily for several years. The system is a Phillips Digital Congress Network (DCN) one, an older but in most respect identical system to the one we have purchased for Holyrood. (Note: our system is branded as a Tyco system, but Tyco recently bought the DCN system from Phillips as part of a strategic divisional sell off) The Basque Parliament also webcasts all its main chamber proceedings, but only one of its committees live. The Parliament streams using Realplayer, whereas we use Windows Mediaplayer, and we had a useful discussion on the relative merits of these two platforms. Where the Basques are definitely ahead of us is in the cataloguing of their webcast archive which, fully integrated into the Zabalik initiative, offers instant access to specific speeches rather than our own approach which at present offers only limited cataloguing of entire committee sittings or debates. Useful information was exchanged on how best the Scottish Parliament might emulate this approach to video archiving, and we plan to do something close to this at Holyood using some of the lessons learned in Vitoria-Gastiez . Also of interest on the web streaming front was the extent to which the Basque Parliament relied upon its online video archive as an alternative to its written Official Report. This was because it took the Parliament 5-6 weeks and sometimes longer to produce the dual language Official Reports it was obliged to do. In the interim, the webcast archive, available within two days, acted as the principal, indeed only, means through which people, including staff, MPs and journalists, accessed the record of proceedings. There was also a


political dimension to this, as there occasionally were politically significant disputes over the accuracy of a translation. Via the online video archive, people could check for themselves precisely what was said. This may indicate that they have a verbatim, rather than a ‘substantially verbatim’ Official Report. One other practice the Basque Parliament adopts which might be worth considering is that they automatically give all committee witnesses a VHS tape of their evidence sessions. It may be low tech, but it was appreciated, we were told. 7.3 Catalan Parliament The televising of its own proceedings is a very recent development for the Catalan Parliament. Until 2001, if parliamentary sessions were televised at all, it was by TV companies. This normally involved TV news crews televising only high profile chamber debates at their own expense, and hence on a very selective basis. Until late 2003 no cameras at all were allowed into committee meetings. Only when the Parliament itself started to televise proceedings were members persuaded that the televising on committees would be done well and comprehensively enough to do committee business justice. So the broadcasting service has changed significantly over the past few years and now the Catalan Parliament’s service is not dissimilar to our own, with the Parliament providing a common feed to all broadcasters of all its public business, chamber and main committees. Like the Basque Parliament, which has a much longer tradition of televising its own proceedings, these pictures are provided free of charge to broadcasters. There are no rules of coverage, and essentially anything within reason goes, at the discretion of the Parliament’s TV director. TV companies can still bring their own cameras into the chamber as they do in the case of high profile debates, and these can film anything they see, including very specific focussing on members in the chamber. Being so new, the Catalan Parliament’s broadcasting systems are already fully digital, again using Thomson cameras, though not the 1707 models to be shared by ourselves and the Basques. Like the Basques, the Catalans use the Philips DCN sound and electronic voting system, an improved version of which we will have at Holyrood. Indeed, given the shape of the Catalan chamber and the size of its membership the graphic display monitors which control the system are near identical to the ones we will have at Holyrood. At first glance it could be mistaken for Holyrood! The Catalans do not at present use the DCN system to generate invision captions, using it exclusively for sound control and electronic voting purposes. With Holyrood in mind, what was highly reassuring


was that, like the Basques, the Catalans reported that the system was very reliable and near fault free. In addition to televising proceedings, the broadcasting service has it own TV studio located in the main public courtyard within the Parliament building. This robotically controlled 4 camera set up was a highly impressive on site facility, used for all major receptions, press conferences, interviews and other set piece events. Main chamber proceedings were webcast live using Realplayer, though not archived. 7.4 Canal Parlament Of all the things we saw in our 4 days in the Iberian peninsula, Canal Parlament was both the most innovative and potentially most significant. It was something the Basques certainly talked about with a mixture of envy, admiration, and interest. When we arrived in Barcelona Canal Parlament had only just been launched, going on air for the first time in November 2003, immediately after the Catalan general elections. But the Parliament had then gone into recess until early February, so since November the station had only been broadcasting a series of educational films on the parliament, largely on a test signal basis. The Channel has it genesis in the decision in 2002 by the Catalan Parliament to fund a 3rd Catalan TV station to complement the two already in existence, both of which were general channels broadcasting in Catalan, one very mainstream and the other orientated more at younger people, a bit like Channels 4 and 5 in the UK. The new channel; TV3/24, is however a 24 hour news channel in Catalan, not dissimilar to BBC News 24, but based in Barcelona and funded by the autonomous region’s state broadcaster Televisio de Catalunya, not the Madrid based BBC equivalent, TVE. We have no equivalent to Televisio de Catalunya, essentially the “Scottish Broadcasting Corporation” of Catalonia. Canal Parliament is not a channel in its own right but rather a channel within the channel TV3/24. Through a formal agreement between Televisio de Catalunya and the Catalan Parliament, set hours within the TV3/24 schedule are guaranteed to Canal Parlament. Canal Parlament, though, has a separate identity with it own branding and its own editorial mechanisms, all of which are directly controlled by the Catalan Parliament. It is hence the Parliament’s own station with guaranteed, if limited airtime. The agreement guarantees that all plenary sessions are broadcast live and in full, under the Canal Parlament umbrella, meaning almost the entire Friday daytime output of the TV3/24 signal is handed over to


Canal Parlament during sitting weeks. In addition to this, every day for two separate half hour slots, one in the afternoon, the other in the early evening Canal Parlament comes on air to provide a summary of the main event in parliament that day, chamber and committee business together with other aspects of parliamentary life. This is the vision of Canal Parlament but, as explained, at the time of our visit it had not yet materialised. It has to be said that Canal Parlament has been established on a shoestring budget and, despite its editorial independence and separate branding, would simply not be possible without extensive help in kind from Televisio de Catalunya. Canal Parlament itself has only one dedicated employee, an ex TV reporter. Under the protocol agreement he has access to Televisio de Catalunya editing facilities, camera crews and archive, without which the half hour daily programmes would not be possible. Televisio de Catalunya also captions the live proceedings and accesses the live pictures from an already available transmission signal between the parliament and the Catalan Broadcasting Authority’s HQ, from, where Canal Parlament is broadcast. Canal Parlament also pays Televisio de Catalunya no transmission fees, a large part of most low budget stations’ costs. And technical facilities aside, one also has to be sceptical about sustaining such a project with only one journalist, who presumably will have to script, film, edit, present, produce and direct, two half hour programmes a day, every day! This could of course change and extra staff could be made available by the Parliament as its very own station proves its value. Canal Parlament is a free to air channel for viewers, though at present its signal does not reach many rural areas in Catalonia due to TV3/24’s limited reach. It can though reach some 75% of homes, giving it a much bigger reach than BBC Parliament, which at present is no higher than 50% reach, as it is only available on satellite, cable and Freeview. And “who will watch?” , is the key litmus test. Here the link with TV3/24 may well prove to be a big advantage. If this takes off – and the idea of a Barcelona based 24 hour news station may well prove a popular one – Canal Parlament, by being part of that station’s signal, may well benefit, and avoid the ghettoisation that has befallen many dedicated parliamentary channels elsewhere. Given the deal the Catalan Parliament has struck with Televisio de Catalunya and the limited amount of resources it has to date committed, even with small audiences, Canal Parlament many well be judged a parliamentary success. A short and slick promotional film was given to us that encapsulated the vision of Canal Parlament. This is available for viewing via our own Broadcasting Office. 8. The IT4ALL Initiative


We met representatives from the CIFAL-Bilbao organisation, based in an impressive IT business park just outside Bilbao. CIFAL is a subsidiary of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). We learned specifically about a major project CIFAL-Bilbao was involved in, aimed at preparing a major report on e-democracy to be presented to the UN World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis in November 2005. The purpose of this report, carried out under the umbrella of an IT4All Regions initiative endorsed by last October’s CALRE conference attended by our own Presiding Officer, was to identify best practice in terms of the use of new technology amongst sub-nation state parliaments with legislative powers. CIFAL Bilbao, with the active backing of the Basque parliament, will coordinate the European input to this global project. CIFAL-Bilbao specifically asked if the Scottish Parliament would be willing to act as their partner in the UK to distribute questionnaires on this area. In essence this meant, would we co-ordinate a UK wide questionnaire involving the Welsh Assembly and, if re-established, the Northern Ireland Assembly, as the remit of CIFAL included only sub national institutions with legislative powers. It clearly was strategically important for the Basque Parliament that the CIFAL e-democracy strand succeeded, and the Basque Parliament’s representatives at the CIFAL meeting, particularly the Head of the President Office, Jon Goikolea, saw the Scottish Parliament’s involvement as a co-partner as important to them. This was essentially because they saw the Scottish Parliament and the Basque Parliament as leaders in this area. After 2 days open information sharing, the Scottish Parliament’s involvement as a UK co-ordinator in the CIFAL edemocracy project was the one direct thing the Basque Parliament asked of us. We could not give any commitments and said that we would take the idea back and discuss it with colleagues in Scotland. They informed us that the Welsh Presiding Officer will be visiting Basque Country shortly and that the Basque Parliamentary Bureau was going to Wales later in the year to organise a working day on edemocracy. They seemed to suggest that if we were not willing to act as their agents in the UK then they would ask the Welsh Assembly. 9. 9.1 Staff Exchanges Basque Parliament We discussed the possibility of staff exchanges with their Research and Information team, but it was not clear how practical this would be for either side. From their point of view they are a very small service and would find it difficult to get away. From our point of view somebody would have to be fluent in Spanish to get the most out of it.


We did, however, think there might be scope for short term attachments. We discussed various ways of cooperating at a distance, i.e. by their participation in the Inter-Parliamentary Researchers Network (IPRN). At the moment this network extends only to the Parliaments and Assemblies within the British Isles but if we can achieve a private website where discussions and postings could be made, without it being transparent to everybody, this would enable contributions to be made from participating services irrespective of location. These might take the form of contributions to published briefings but could also include requests for information and advice on an ad-hoc basis. This would be of great benefit to small services such as theirs but would also help to enhance our comparative information, which is in great demand. 9.2 Catalan Parliament The Catalan Parliament had already discussed staff exchanges, in general terms, in the context of Clerking and the European Committees. They were interested to explore the possibilities in relation to cooperation or exchanges between Research and Information staff. They seemed concerned that a framework agreement was needed and indeed discussions are taking place, on the Clerking side, along these lines, which include our Personnel Office. They were keen to explore the possibilities of working visits rather than exchanges. They thought that one of the objectives that they might set their staff in coming on such a visit was specifically to improve their English. The language barrier from our point of view is that they transact their day to day business dealings in Catalan. Although this is similar to Castilian Spanish that we learn, it is not as easy to find people are fluent in it. They did say, however, that most of their researchers spoke good English. Like the Basques they were very interested in cooperating over the web. I discussed our proposals for a private website and they were keen to see how that might work. Like us they feel excluded from some of the main sources of research and information in Europe and had many reasons to use Scotland as a comparator. They also used databases very similar to Zabalik and PRISM and seemed to keep in step to some extent, with what the Basque Parliament were doing. Since this is an area of interest for us, it may be that a staff exchange or attachment concentrating on the development of databases for parliamentary business might be more useful to us than a research exchange. Like the Basques we will continue to discuss opportunities in this area and keep an open mind for future developments. 10. Follow up Actions


We will make a presentation to AID and our own office staff about what we learned on the two visits. 10.1 Basque Parliament We were treated with great courtesy, respect and interest. They are clearly keen to continue good relations, and in particular would like a meeting between their President and our Presiding Officer. We will discuss this with ELU and the PO’s office. They gave us a disk demonstrating Zabalik and their other databases and we need to do some follow-up work ourselves on understanding more about these and how they might work for us. The integration of Scottish Parliamentary data within an overall schema that allows the public to search for any type of such data through a series of straightforward links is under discussion as a potential strategy. If this concept of Parliamentary information were to be determined as appropriate then detailed consideration of the Zabalik system, as an already implemented model of good practice in this regard, will be undertaken, along with examples from other Parliaments who have adopted a similar direction. We ought also to consider what we do about the proposals that were put to us under the heading of ‘IT4ALL’. This is potentially a high-profile political initiative in the field of “e-democracy” where the Scottish Parliament could make an important contribution if it was felt appropriate and resources were available. Our research staff are developing their proposals for a specification for a private website which we will discuss with BIT colleagues when they are better developed. I will circulate the draft interchange policy to my counterparts in the Parliament. 10.2 Catalan Parliament We will circulate the draft interchange policy and further details for the private website to my counterparts in the Parliament. We will need to keep in touch with Personnel and Clerking about the progress of further discussions with the Catalans about interchange framework arrangements. We need to continue to monitor the progress of the Canal Parlament initiative, and what we can learn from it with a view towards establishing our own dedicated TV channel. 11. 11.1 Contacts Basque Parliament


Mr Jon Gurutz Gómez Goikolea, Head of the President’s Cabinet Ms Rut Martinez Muñoz, Basque Parliament’s President’s Advisor on European Policy Ms María Isabel Prieto Egiluz, President’s Cabinet Ms Elena López de Aretxabaleta, Head of Protocol, Press and Auxiliary Services Section Mr Andoni Iturbe, Head of Research Department Mr Juan Luis Mazmela, Head of the Information Systems Department Mr Andoni Aia, Head of Applications Development Section Mr Javier Montón, Head of Maintenance Section Ms Arantza Andueza, Researcher 11.2 Catalan Parliament Lluís Pibernat I Riera, Inter-parliamentary Relations Office Vicenç M Santaló I Burrull, Head of Inter-parliamentary Relations Office/European Committee Eduard Triay I Moll, Inter-parliamentary Relations Office Francesc Pau I Vall, Head of Research and Information Eugènia Pigem I Palmés, Inter-parliamentary Relations Office Anna Formesa, Head of Public Relations and External Communications Andres, Journalist 12. Delegation Alan Balharrie, Head of Business Information Technology Ian Perry, Head of Strategy, Business Information Technology Janet Seaton, Head of Research and Information Services Alan Smart, Head of Broadcasting

March 2004


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