Thursday, 4 February 2010

Unionist MSPs Accused of Trickery

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.


Fitaloon said...

Politicians playing Politics, who would of thunk it.

Mr. Mxyzptlk said...

Investigation launched into auction of lunch date with First Minister

£9,000 at a party fundraising event earlier this week.

A similar lunch with Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon raised £2,000 at the auction on Tuesday.

snp cash for access scandal....

Anonymous said...

You would think that there would come a time when the stink of corruption would become so offensive to the general population that they would simply, as one, demand its cessation, or else. How can we not come to that place?

Strathturret said...

What's currupt about a wealthy SNP supporter bidding up a lunch at a fund raising auction?
Salmond/guests will pay for lunch. Who loses out?

Caron said...

I've yet to post on Margo's bill, but I would just point out that the Referendum Bill never, ever had a hope of passing and every single person in Scotland knows that. Even if the Committee were chaired by Alex Salmond himself, it wouldn't get through the Parliament.

Now, I am not necessarily opposed to a referendum - I think the one on offer is just not on, but I'm very open minded, to say the least, on the idea.

On the other hand, Jeremy Purvis, a known Lib Dem, is known to be a keen advocate of the right for someone to end their life when they choose.

Which of these bills would be more useful and end more misery, I ask myself.

subrosa said...

It's such a shame Margo's Bill has been sidelined FL. The Independence one is not so important because the SNP now have what they want "The Unionists wouldn't allow you to have a choice".

So really their politics is more of an insult to Margo than the SNP because they knew their Bill wasn't going anywhere.

subrosa said...

Don't Gordon and Dave do this all the time Niko?

It's not as if they're having lunch in Bute House is it.

Anyway they'd be better off in some comfy pub rather than the food hall in the SP.

Strathturret said...

I don't think Margo's bill will get through.

I'm not sure if it matters where the referendum issue at the GE. If its killed in committeee then SNP will rightly condemn the other parties. Ditto if its voted down in the parliament.

subrosa said...

Caron I should have read your comment before I replied to Fitaloon.

The unionists aren't being so smart because we, like you say, all know the Referendum Bill isn't going anywhere. The SNP have achieved their goal with it.

Sadly Margo's won't go anywhere either and a much needed debate in this country will be lost.

subrosa said...

Edgar, I still think too many people vote for the individual without looking at their party politics.

That's why we're stuck where we are.

subrosa said...

Labour loses out I think Strathturret. As you said would anyone bid £9,000 to have lunch with Iain Gray? It's just pure and simple jealousy.

Anonymous said...

For the life of me I cannot understand why the idiot Labour Party cannot see this.

With the current make up of the Chamber there is no way the Bill would pass. If, by some amazing chance they all got flu at one time and it did, the current feeling in the country suggests the referendum would fail.

This way we win and win and win.

The unionists have said that they think we are too stupid to have a referendum because we might put our X in the wrong place because we are all as thick as mince...

OK. if that's what you think, carry on.... Ya muppets.

subrosa said...

It all plays into the SNP's hands right enough tris. And of course their behaviour has upset Margo. That will have repercussions.

Anonymous said...

I'd probably try to avoid upsetting Mrgo myself.

Imagine Margo versus Iain Gray in an argument!

subrosa said...

I don't think he's brave enough Tris. :)

Strathturret said...

I think Margo would eat Ian Gray for breakfast!

Anonymous said...

Strathturret: She'd need a pile of ketchup. He's hardly what you'd call tasty, is he?

SR: You bet he's no brave enough... you can see him shiver at teh thought of Big Eck... Lord knows what Margo would do to him...

Lord, how Labour needs a leader.

subrosa said...

I thought Johann Lamont did quite a good job at times Tris. She doesn't get a chance to say much.

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