Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Holyrood Accused of Dirty Tricks

The week before last MSP Margo MacDonald presented her End of Life Assistance Bill to the Scottish Parliament.

The normal procedure for such a Bill would be for it to be sent to one of the experienced existing committees such as health or justice.

The Parliament's hierarchy (Bruce Crawford SNP, Paul Martin Labour, David McLetchie Tory, Mike Rumbles Libdem), have sidestepped the normal procedure and now insist instead it should go to a one-off committee with a new membership - designated by party leaders. This action has never been taken before in the lifetime of the Parliament.

Ms MacDonald said she was "mystified and disappointed" by the decision of the business bureau to appoint a new committee to consider her Bill.

"This seems to stink to high heaven because the health committee which everyone expected would handle this Bill is fortunately and randomly better placed than any other committee could be.

"It has two experienced doctors on each side in party terms and a chair who is a qualified lawyer who has agreed she does not know where she stands on the issue but is a good convenor."

It does indeed stink. Robbie Dunwoodie didn't manage to get anyone other than Christine Grahame to make a comment and Ms Grahame stated "it was an attack on Holyrood democracy as a whole".

Time for the hierarchy to explain their reasons or many will be thinking it is indeed a dirty trick.

Editors Note: I'm told by my reader Hythlodaeus that this has occurred before and it's common for Bills which are either highly controversial or require more time than the standing committees can give, to be spun off to a dedicated committee. It appears it has happened 7 times in the life of the Parliament. It's at times like this that I wish I had an inside informant!

Update: Blether with Brian has an interesting PS on his latest post.


Hythlodaeus said...

I'm sorry to contradict you Subrosa, but this has happened before. It's common for Bills which are either highly controversial or require more time then the standing committees can give to be spun off to a dedicated committee.

In the past this has included: The Robin Rigg Windfarm Committee, five committees relating to various railway projects and one committee relating to the Baird Trust.

This is probably far better for the future of the bill, because hopefully the committee composition will be more balanced towards the bill then the standing committee would have been.

Strathturret said...

Its interesting that the Scots Parliament is able to discuss and legislate on euthanasia but not abortion, areas where health and justice overlap, when both areas are devolved? And Northern Ireland is allowed to have a different position on abortion to the rump UK. Illogical?

subrosa said...

Hythlodaeus, don't be sorry to contradict me. I did try to find evidence of a one-off committee but couldn't.

I appreciate your knowledge. It's at times like this that I need an insider isn't it.

Such a shame the Parliament didn't give an explanation to Robbie Dunwoodie. That in itself would have clarified the position for those of us who have an interest in the Bill.

subrosa said...

The more you dig the more you see anomalies like that Strathturret, particularly concerning N Ireland.

If we Scots are to take charge of our health care then we ought to have control of it all.

That won't happen until we have independence of course. The unionists need to have some form of control.

I wonder, would the Scots have a different opinion on abortion than the English and Welsh?

Strathturret said...

I would doubt it. One suspects that someone thought it might be controversial so leave it with Westminster? Lets be honest maybe Donald Dewar feared the catholic church pressuring Labour MSPs?

subrosa said...

My thought entirely Strathturret. He needed to protect the labour strongholds in the west.

I do hesitate to think that religion still plays such a strong card in Scottish politics (possibly because in the east it is not so) but more and more it seems to do in the west. Or is it the fact that the MSM runs 24x7 these days and therefore more prominence is given to such matters.

Hythlodaeus said...

Sorry Subrosa, I would have thrown in some useful links, but I was on my way out the door when you posted. I'm on my phone now otherwise I would post direct links.

My information regarding the committees actually comes from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre reports on committee meetings outside parliament. I wasn't aware of them until quite recently. No doubt more robust records are avaliable.

The CalMerc is reporting that the reason this was given a committee was so the SNP couldn't chair the forth-coming committee on the Referendum Bill, which will now be chaired by Labour due to a rotating chair system. Very cynical of the involved parties. Alex Salmond and Christine Graham (chair of the health committee) are apparently livid.

Hythlodaeus said...

Strathturret, you are nearly spot on with why Scotland can't legislate on abortion. There are still quite wide religious divides on abortion in parts of Scotland, so it was deemed too contraversial to be tackled by the SP.

However, Stormont can't pass abortion law either. While it's a dangerous issue here, it's still a powderkeg in NI. Westminster generally supports the disparity between UK and NI abortion law because it helps the peace process and it does reflect the sensibities of NI, although I'm sure a number of women who have to cross the channel for abortions disagree.

subrosa said...

Hythlodaeus, thank you so much for taking the trouble to comment, especially from your phone.

I did look in the SPIC but, in my ignorance, I did not relate that title to my query. Must remember to do better next time!

Ah so that's the reason. I did quote Christine Grahame from Robbie's article.

Livid? I hope they're spitting tacks and some land on target.

subrosa said...

Hythlodaeus, I think it's not only women who have to cross the channel who disagree.

Abortion is a very emotive issue and most people have a firm yes/no opinion.

Over the years I've listened to some ridiculous arguments from men about this matter but now I only respect those of the medical profession and women's opinions.

I sympathise with N Irish women not having a choice.

Related Posts with Thumbnails