It was all a bit low key really. Indeed, the Scotsman didn’t even bother reporting it on their website until a couple of hours ago. Thank goodness for the BBC though eh? Where would we be without it and its live blog.
Actually, you know what, don’t answer that.
The bills shall number a hefty fifteen for the 2012/13 parliamentary term, quantity rather than quality some have muttered, but let’s have a look at them shall we and decide for ourselves:
1. Referendum Bill
2. Budget Bill
3. Procurement Reform Bill
4. Bankruptcy Bill
5. Better Regulation Bill
6. Land and Buildings Transaction Tax Bill
7. Landfill Tax Bill
8. Adult Health & Social Care Integration Bill
9. Children and Young People Bill
10. Post-16 Education Reform Bill
11. Forth Estuary Transport Authority Bill
12. Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill
13. Victims and Witnesses Bill
14. Tribunals Bill
There is of course one in that mix that stands out in the eyes of the SNP, and most of the party’s detractors, against all others. Yes, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority Bill, I never thought I’d see the day *wipes a tear from the eye*
No, the coming year will be all about the referendum and bill number 1 above. I rather fear that progress towards an agreed format will be slow in forthcoming, to the point that this time next year questions over questions shall remain unanswered, though Salmond did promise to publish the consultation results “next month”. So we’ll leave that bill to one side.
Highlights therefore are really as follows:
- Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill – Probably historic and possibly hugely inconvenient for Alex Salmond as he seeks to step softly towards 2014 without annoying too many people. However, the right thing to do is the right thing to do and within the Parliament this Bill will glide serenely towards becoming law, even if there’ll be a right old religious rumpus outside
- Children and Young People Bill – A very welcome commitment to delivering a minimum of 600 hours free early learning and childcare provision was included, particularly notable for me because (no, not for that reason!) a colleague returned to work after extended paternity leave this week and casually mentioned the £1350 he forks out a month for childcare. Ouch. Scotland can and must do better than that.
- Forth Estuary Transport Authority Bill – I jested before, but this is serious business. Billions of pounds of our money will be spent on a new bridge that potentially may not be necessary. If dehumidification of the cables in the Forth Road Bridge is a viable option, I’d have no problem with the number of bills dropping from 15 to 14 this year. Time will tell but I rather fear most MSPs have set their face to the wind on this one.
- Bankruptcy Bill – Pictured
- My personal favourite is the Procurement Reform Bill which will aim to “deliver community benefits, support innovation, consider environmental requirements and promote public procurement processes and systems which are transparent, streamlined, standardised, proportionate, fair and business-friendly”.
This bill used to be called the ‘Sustainable Procurement Bill’, so perhaps as an out Green, I shouldn’t be getting too excited, but it’s definitely one to find more detail about.
Reactions were predictable. Johann Lamont bemoaned the lack of substance while ironically not coming up with any tangible suggestions herself. I wonder if Kezia Dugdale on Newsnight Scotland this evening will pick up from where her leader left off.
Johann also likened the announcement to “a 1970s ladder ‘fine as far as it goes’”. I have no earthly idea what she is getting at. But I’m an 80s lad, so what do I know.
Willie Rennie had an interesting, if I personally think unworthy, point to make regarding Scottish Water and the missed opportunity to take the £1.5bn windfall from the public body to pay for new shiny things. After the past couple of decades of household greed, PFI and sovereign debt crises, how anyone thinks heaping more debt upon the public purse is the answer is beyond me. Perhaps Willie should heed Ed Miliband’s warning about our ‘fast buck’ society.
Ruth Davidson chose not say anything but instead jumped up and down and occasionally pointed. (She actually said “run out of steam, run out of ideas and fails to live up to the ambitions of Scotland’s people”. Run out of steam and ideas? More irony then)
The Greens strongly backed the referendum and equal marriage bills, but also urged that a progressive vision be coupled with the pursuit of economic recovery making me, not for the first nor the last time, wistfully lament the lack of a formal SNP-Green coalition at Holyrood and the near-perfect balance it would bring.
No, the most drama this afternoon came from Labour MSP Neil Finlay who accused Alex Salmond of tweeting inside the Chamber, seemingly unaware that it is well known that the First Minister’s staff update his account and Alex always signs his ‘own’ tweets off with “AS”. Sharp as ever, Mike Russell raised his own standing order – how did Neil Findlay know, while inside the Chamber, that the First Minister’s account had been updated?
Quite. And so the tone was set for the coming year.