Three Days in the Scottish Parliament

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon flashing postcard sent before election in heated exchange with a Conservative MSP during Wednesday’s debate. Credit: Getty Images.

The weather has been quite dreary this week, but luckily it coincided with the three days I scheduled to spend in the Scottish Parliament. As I mentioned in the previous post, I toured the Scottish Parliament Building on Monday. Just celebrating its 20th anniversary, this parliament is one of the youngest in the world.

An Anticlimactic Start

On Tuesday, I managed to reserve a seat in a parliamentary committee meeting. The Scottish Parliament is unicameral, made up of only one chamber, and relies on separate committees of members to propose and consider new legislation, lead inquiries, and consider petitions from the public.

I chose to sit in on the Devolved Powers and Law Reform Committee, as it was set to discuss the European Union Withdrawal Act. Little did I know that the committee would vote to discuss the matter in private, just minutes after I arrived. After hearing the agenda and some chatter, I was escorted out for the remainder of the meeting. This was disappointing, but I am still impressed by their attempt at transparency, making room for a foreign college student to stop by.

Perfect Timing

Today’s visit to the Debating Chamber made up for yesterday’s lack of excitement. After clearing security and collecting my ticket, I entered a packed public viewing area. Usually the space is sparsely occupied, but today the Scottish National Party’s government announced the framework bill for a second independence referendum, the topic I came all this way to study! Cabinet Secretary Michael Russell delivered a speech, titled “Next Steps on Scotland’s Future,” outlining their plan to give Scottish people the choice to leave the UK. In reference to his party’s overwhelming victory in the recent EU election, Russell declared, “Last Thursday, Scotland said loudly and clearly that it is a European nation and that it intends to remain one.” Throughout the speech, members of the Conservative Party, which is opposed to independence, moaned, taunted, and laughed at Russell.

Afterwards, in a question for Russell, Conservative Adam Tomkins attacked the Cabinet Secretary and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (who was in attendance). He asked why the speech focused on independence rather than more pressing matters such as recent failures in the nation’s healthcare system. He called the proposed bill evidence of “Nicola Sturgeon’s pet obsession with independence.” During the debate, there was also a good deal of nervous talk of a “No-Deal Brexit,” a situation in which no trade partnership with the EU is agreed upon by the time of Brexit. This would likely be disastrous for the Scottish economy, and the SNP government made assurances that it is taking measures to lessen the potential blow of such a situation (for example, by stockpiling certain imported medications). There were a number of illuminating questions and arguments made during the session, but I will leave it at this for now. Here is a link to the debate if you are interested in watching.

I also witnessed a much longer debate on the topic of keeping manufacturing jobs in Scotland and ensuring a just transition away from fossil fuels to wind energy, but I will discuss this in a later entry. I should note that I am also exploring the city as a tourist, but I just haven’t had time to mention all of my explorations in these posts. Yesterday, on my way to the Scottish National Gallery, I ran into an older gentleman with a Duke hat. He introduced me to his daughter who is a Duke alumna and current employee, and I shared the details of my summer and why I decided to spend it in their home country. We live in a small world. Below, I will leave you with a few photos of other discoveries from the last several days.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s