Parliament and Accountability in Scotland
The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament has replied to
the complaint by Professor Hughes Hallet and Scott cited in my
blog for 17th Jjanuary. It is remarkable. Short though it is,
I had to read the letter more than once to make sure that I had
read it properly. If you take out padding it essentially reduces
to the following.
"the conduct of committee meetings is the responsibility of
conveners alone, I have therefore forwarded your letter to the convener
of the Scotland Bill Committee so that your specific concerns can
be considered in the appropriate forum
The complaint by Scott and Hughes Hallett was essentially about
the conduct of the meeting by the convener and Scott and Hughes
Hallett are being told the only authority who can deal with and
resolve this complaint is the convener herself .
If Scotland was a Third World country such behavior would cause
amusement in some quarters, concern in others, and would be generally
cited as an example of failure to absorb and adopt democratic traditions
of fairness, transparency and accountability. But this is not a
Third World country this is Scotland in the Twenty-First Century.
And we still invite parliamentarians from emerging nations to Holyrood
to show them how things should be done?
However, the reputations and credibility of all academics giving
evidence to this committee have been tarnished, not just that of
Scott and Hughes Hallett. The evidence of other academics to the
committee whose views find more favour with the convener is already
being used second-hand by political proxies (including some MSPs)
to attack the reputations and credibility of Scott and Hughes Hallett.
The reputations of this other group of academics are already also
collateral damage since they are being seen in some quarters - unfairly
- as being the stooges of the committee and its convener. No-one
with a reputation to defend would be advised to be a witness to
this committee. That is how much things have degraded.
The Scottish Bill Committee is utterly discredited and no-one who
has a passing knowledge of the issues and what has happened will
take its conclusions seriously. The cumulative damage to the reputation
and credibility of the Parliament from such affairs (of which this
is only the latest and most widely reported) is wider and will be
longer lasting. But perhaps the most damaging element in all this
is the short letter from the Presiding Officer which makes it clear
that Parliament is unable (or unwilling) to repair itself or any
damage it causes to the democratic process in such contexts.
I have yet to receive the Presiding Officer's answer to my own
complaint, I expect it soon because I do not expect it to take him
long to write, indeed I believe I pretty well know what it will
Neil Kay 19th January 2010