The Scottish Parliament: 6th Form Debate Club Of the Year

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

By Oliver James Pike

You would think that the Scottish parliament would be very busy based on the problems it has on its plate. Violent assaults are on the rise, sectarian violence still plagues areas of Scotland, the country has a pathetic literacy rate of 73.3% (lower than it was hundreds of years ago), The country holds the title of having the highest drugs deaths in Europe, Everything from hospitals to police stations are falling apart and the SNP government continues to increase the deficit year on year (now 7x higher than that of the whole UK).

However, The Scottish Parliament has failed to hold meaningful debates on these issues and relies solely on moribund first minister questions to level criticisms that no one outside the building is likely to hear, at a government that refuses to listen. Debates on these issues are few and far between and when they are held those debating are unengaging, dispassionate, and as far as I can tell, out of their depth. Those with any talent or ambition appear to have fled Scottish politics and set their sights on Westminster leaving behind a collection of profoundly boring individuals. Many parties put forward people in their early 20s with no life experience which is obvious when you view their comical performances. Those who are older just blend into the monolithic wall of bald old men, accountants looking for a bigger pension and butch primary teachers and social workers. The quality of debate Is akin to a school debate club and the issues it chooses to "debate" bring shame on an institution that calls itself a parliament.

Beyond being the most lacklustre parliament in the world the issues it chooses to spend its time on are a disgrace. A debate was once held on the gender of the gingerbread men in the parliament cafe. It was decided that the parliament would rename the gingerbread men in its café to gingerbread people. Rather than focus on sorting out the mess caused by the SNPs abysmal term in government or working on Brexit, it is apparently appropriate to waste parliamentary attention to decide the genders of biscuits. It has done so apparently in the wake of an influx of sexual harassment claims from women working in the parliament. The question is how will renaming cakes and biscuits curb workplace sexism and assault? It won't of course. Like all "progressive" responses to problems, this is simply void of any progress. It reflects a political establishment in Scotland that would rather pander, signal and posture than govern. Having realised it cannot simply tax sexual assault into oblivion (As they believe possible with everything else), progressive parties have decided to ignore it and talk about gingerbread men instead.

The Scottish Parliament also held a debate on what flags should fly outside the Scottish Parliament once the UK had left the EU. Instead of discussing how the Scottish parliament could forward Scotlands interests in trade deals or prepare for the likelihood that fishing powers will return post-Brexit, the parliament discussed the aesthetics of the building that houses this over-funded debate club. The parliament has been doing the equivalent of watering the houseplants while the living room is on fire. The SNP also holds periodic debates on Scottish independence even though it knows that such debates achieve nothing but the creation of a political statement. Only the UK parliament can authorise such a referendum and clogging up the Scottish parliament with empty debates will not change this fact.

More recently, in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the BLM protests the Scottish Parliament held a wide-reaching debate on racism. Contributions included the discussion around statues and Justice Secretary Hamza Yusuf listing all the positions that were held by white people and noted that the fact that all such positions were occupied by whites proved that racism was rife in Scottish political life. Of course, he ignored the fact that Scotland is 96.02% white and thus it is unsurprising the majority of positions are held by white people. Regardless the parliament allowed for MSP after MSP to have their say. There was nothing original said nor any real solutions offered. During the middle of a worldwide pandemic that is set to undermine the countries already suffering economy and kill countless elderly and vulnerable people in care homes, the Scottish Parliament decided to put on a theatrical debate to virtue signal to the country.

When debates are held to determine actual policy they seldom target the areas that are in dire need of attention. Instead of introducing new measures to tackle drug deaths such as forced rehabilitation, higher sentencing for dealers and tightening security in prisons the parliament wastes its time providing token gestures such as free tampons or baby boxes. Or It considers draconian measures to stop Scots eating pies or drinking too much beer many of which (like the minimum alcohol pricing) are abject failures and actually increase the behaviour the policies aim to stop. The country is at crisis point yet the government sees it fit to fill parliament business with ephemeral nonsense. The opposition fails to call them out on this either because they have no real policies of their own or are afraid to appear opposed to all this expensive virtuous posturing.

There are also countless examples of bills passed by the parliament being challenged by the courts. The named person scheme was scrapped after being deemed contrary to the ECHR and the offensive behavior at Football act was wholly unenforceable and criticised heavily by the courts as being some of the worst drafted legislation from the parliament. Laws appear to be rushed through this parliament with poor legislative review. The lack of a second chamber leaves this parliament constitutionally ill-equipped to do its job and is likely to undermine any respect or confidence people have in the institution.

It is time for a party (potentially a new one) to prove itself up to the task of governing the country. It needs energetic, ambitious and experienced people to stand up and demand debates on the issues eating away at the foundations of this country. It needs to refocus the priorities of Scottish politics away from endless debates on the Union and towards fixing the economy, making the streets safe again and reversing the social decline that has taken place under the watch of the political parties sitting in parliament. If it does Scotland will be doomed to an eternity of useless governance and idle politicians.