My request for an explanation of the Parliament's decision to send Margo MacDonald's End of Life Assistance Bill to an ad hoc committee has been fully explained in the press today.
Possibly the best account is in the Caledonian Mercury. It would appear it's a ploy from unionists parties to derail the SNP's Referendum Bill.
Under Holyrood rules, each party gets the chance, in turn, to chair an ad hoc committee. Before the business bureau's decision to send Margo's Bill to one of these committees, the libdems were to provide the convener of an ad hoc committee overseeing a minor bill on Scottish charity law reform and the Nationalists would have had the convenership of the ad hoc Referendum Bill committee.
But now, because the Assisted Dying Bill will come first in the queue, the libdems will chair that ad hoc committee, leaving the SNP, who are next in line, chairing the Charity Bill committee and a Labour MSP chairing the Referendum Bill committee.
It means that a Unionist party convener will have the casting vote on the committee and will be able, along with the committee clerk, to set the timetable of meetings. Crucially, he or she will also have the biggest say in deciding on the amount of consideration the committee should give to the Bill.
That means that the committee, with a Unionist party majority, could decide to curtail committee debate and send the Bill to Parliament at an early stage, where, because of the Unionist majority among MSPs, it is certain to be voted down within weeks. It has been widely thought that Mr Salmond wanted to keep the Referendum Bill alive for as long as possible and certainly until the General Election campaign got underway.
The wrangle has led to unprecedented divisions in the business bureau which became public when a spokesman for Bruce Crawford, the SNP's Minister for Parliament, said: "This decision (on the Assisted Dying Bill) was the wrong decision. It sets an unfortunate precedent.
"This Bill deals with matters of conscience and should be dealt with by the normal subject committee."
Margo MacDonald wrote to the Presiding Officer saying she was "surprised and puzzled" by the business bureau's decision on her Bill. She also asked for assurance that the bureau has good reason for this unexpected decision.
"The Bill has become enmeshed in the politics of how and when the government's Referendum Bill would be presented and the convenership of its ad hoc committee decided..."
"If we are to determine such matters as the processing of Bills according to the personal beliefs of business managers, then as a Parliament, I fear we have moved too far from the words on the Parliament's mace for us to claim to speak for all of the people who trust us to govern fairly and transparently."
Margo's Bill deserves to be considered by the Health Committee, not because ex-GPs sit on it, but because it's the proper committee to deal with it. They will also be handling proposed legislation concerning palliative care and the two subjects are very much inter-related. This is an important Bill and very obviously falls under the health remit. It requires wide debate.