Nigel’s Notes - Busy with unsung business of Scottish Parliament

Warm November days are a rarity, and they may trick us into forgetting that winter is on the way.

Is the central heating working properly, has it been serviced, have the radiators been bled - and have we topped up the water afterwards to avoid a low pressure cut out? Is the de-icer in the car, and will I ever get the car back into the garage or am I going to have to scrape the ice off every morning? All very modern questions; gone are the days of sooty open fires, a weekly jug of hot water for the bath tub, and the annual cutting of the ponds to generate the ice for the ice house.

But winter will arrive sometime - and beyond it is a Scottish Parliament election. We are all busy sharpening our pencils to write party manifestos, printing leaflets to introduce candidates, and furiously developing connections on the social media.

Meanwhile down in Edinburgh we are extraordinarily busy with the basic but largely unsung business of Parliament, namely legislation. Most of the heavy lifting is done in the Parliament’s committees. Typically these have about seven members and are politically balanced, but most of what we do in legislative scrutiny is not really politically divisive.

Whether or not we are all agreed on the policy objectives every Bill gets a thorough examination not just by our lawyers but also by the many organisations and individuals within our society who care about the subject being legislated on.

We receive a great deal of written material and witnesses are subsequently called to give the committees oral evidence. Our job as MSPs is not to be experts but to listen and learn, and become sufficiently knowledgeable that we can come up with sensible answers; and these won’t always be what the government has originally proposed!

And it’s not all about changing policy either. My Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee is looking at a Bill which simply restates the law on bankruptcy. This is because the law has been revised sufficiently often that it is very hard to follow, and the subject is difficult enough without having to find your way around a verbal labyrinth. As amended the sections of the Bankruptcy Act (Scotland) 1985 are currently numbered 1 to 78, but there are 170 of them!

More details of what we are doing is available on the Parliament’s website. You might be surprised by the very wide range of things we are dealing with.