In his petition Ian Thow calls for an independent examinations regulatory body, to ensure a quick and effective resolution to complaints about the quality, accuracy and validity of SQA examinations and also raises concerns about limitations of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsmans Act to appropriately adjudicate complaints about the SQA as made by teaching professionals.

Ian was not called during the extremely brief proceedings of the committee on this matter, nor was the evidence presented in support of the petition discussed. The following details Ians request for clarification as to how the petition was handled and an associated parliamentary response.

Request for Clarification:

Dear Chris,

Thank you for your email informing me of the decision of the Petitions’ Committee regarding my petition 1484.

I would be grateful if you could provide me with further details regarding this decision in relation to the following questions:

  1. Could you please explain the details of Rule 15.7 which is referred to in the extract of the minutes of the meeting on 12 November? 
  1. In relation to the first point in my petition i.e. to consider the establishment of an independent regulatory body to ensure a quick and effective resolution to complaints about the quality, accuracy and validity of  SQA examinations, what were the specific reasons given by the Petitions’ Committee for not proceeding with these issues given the fact that there were clear and unequivocal errors in SQA examinations in at least three subjects between academic sessions 2009/10 and 2012/13 which resulted in candidates having  to answer invalid questions which were not consistent with the criteria set out by the SQA? 
  1. In the very brief discussions of the petition by the Petitions’ Committee on 3 September and 12 November respectively, no reference was made to the detailed evidence which was submitted by myself in relation to initial complaints and also to the responses of the Ombudsman and the SQA. At what point in the petitions’ process were these submissions discussed and are there minutes available which record discussions and also reasons for the decisions made?  
  1. The second aspect of my petition i.e. to consider the limitations of the 2002 SPSO Act to appropriately adjudicate on complaints made by individual teachers or schools concerning alleged maladministration and service failure in the provision of national examinations by the Scottish Qualifications Authority relates to the SPSO’s inability under current legislation to properly investigate and adjudicate on these issues. As this point was clearly made by the Ombudsman in his submission, it appears that the Petitions’ Committee has neither referred to this nor given any reasons for refusing to pursue this matter. I am therefore asking for details of this decision and an indication from any minutes as to why this has not been commented upon by the Petitions’ Committee


  1. My final question relates to the fact that, at no point in the whole correspondence between myself and the Scottish Government have Government members actually considered the very detailed evidence I submitted. The Minister with responsibility for the SQA and the Scottish Government Learning Directorate have not requested this information despite it being offered to them. 

Is it normal practice for the Scottish Government to make such important decisions in the absence of the very detailed evidence which was available to substantiate the reasons for the petition? 

 [D1]I would simplify this. e.g. Why did the PC content to take no action when presented with evidence of  a  gap in the governance of the SQA as clearly stated by the Ombudsman, namely that neither a local council nor a school can complain about the SQA to the SPSO under existing legislation? This leaves the SQA, a public service organisation effectively unaccountable.  Surely this is a public interest concern.

Parlliamentary response:

Dear Mr Thow

Your email has been passed to me to respond.

You ask for the detail of Rule 15.7 of the Parliament’s standing orders.  I have extracted the relevant rules below:

Rule 15.6 Action on petitions

1. If a petition is admissible, the Committee shall take such action as it considers appropriate in relation to that petition.

1A. [deleted]

2. The Committee may— 
(a) refer the petition to the Scottish Ministers, any other committee of the Parliament or any other person or body for them to take such action as they consider appropriate; 
(b) report to the Parliamentary Bureau or to the Parliament; 
(c) take any other action which the Committee considers appropriate; or 
(d) close the petition under Rule 15.7.

3. The Committee shall notify the petitioner of any action taken under paragraph 2.

Rule 15.7 Closing petitions

1. The Committee, or any other committee to which a petition has been referred, may close a petition at any time.

2. Where a committee closes a petition it shall notify the petitioner that the petition is closed and of the reasons for closing it.

Rule 15.8 Notification

1. Any notification to a petitioner under Rule 15.5.2, 15.6.3 or 15.7.2 shall be made as soon as practicable after the action or decision to which the notification relates and may, at the discretion of the Committee, be given in the language of the petition (if that language is not English).

Re the specific reasons given by the Committee I am afraid I can only refer you to the official reports (transcripts) of the meetings at which your petition was discussed.  There was no other discussion of the petition by the Committee.  I attach a link to the Committee meeting papers, the official reports and the minutes below:

On request to, advised by Parliament on 26th February 2018 that this link has been replaced with:

In response to your other questions I am afraid that I am not really in a position to provide the answers you seek other than to say that the Committee considered your petition, agreed whose views it would seek and on the basis of the responses received, decided that it did not intend to take any further action on it and to close your petition.  As you will see from the Rules, the Committee may close a petition at any time.

Anne Peat 


Public Petitions Committee 
Scottish Parliament 
EH99 1SP 
Direct Dial: 0131 348 5186