We are in a new situation. COVID-19 has forced most of us to have to sit down and come to terms with time. But this is an opportunity of a strange kind, only in that it affords us the chance to reassess life. Are things working well in society? Are things working well in our lives?
Well let’s isolate out Scottish politics at Holyrood for a moment.
What’s been working? What could be changed?
- One of the hallmarks of the genesis of the Scottish Parliament is proportional representation. I still think this is a huge strength. The wide spectrum of parties that make up political life in Scotland is crucially important. As with our current minority Government, different factions are forced to work together and make concessions to one another. Because of how we’ve set things up, people from all walks of life are elected. This is a good thing as we need people elected who live like large swathes of the population to represent us more authentically.
- The level of debate in parliament is of a poor standard. In fact, it’s not true debate at all. The pre-prepared questions and responses that are read stiffly by MSPs prevent any true exchange. This set-up removes the possibility of MSPs developing skills of extemporising, removes learning how to think quickly on one’s feet, and to truly have a back-and-forth exchange until an issue is thoroughly examined. This is the same problem both for questioners and respondents. This can surely be altered.
- COVID-19’s arrival, and prior to MSPs having to evacuate the Parliament building, showed that the Government and the opposition can play nicely. The exchange between Nicola Sturgeon and Jackson Carlaw over those initial days proved this. Can we not have an attitudinal change agreed amongst all parties that the tiresome enmity between one another can be put aside? Having fundamental disagreements and visions for Scottish life need not mean the unnecessary Capercaillie-like posturing. It’s Ken Macintosh’s job as Presiding Officer to keep people’s attitudes in check in parliamentary session. Let him therefore do so.
- Suggestion: MSPs should give up Twitter. The infantile seeking of public attention where we’re told ever-so-proudly what’s been accomplished should cease. People in communities know over time who is working hard for them. These MSPs become known through personal involvement in local matters. Scots don’t value MSP’s shameless sale of their supposed accomplishments. How do we show our appreciation? At the polls in 2021. In the same way as a sporting coach does, Scots will select our ‘team’ and the subsequent deselection is communication enough for people we don’t rate.
If at the end of the scourge of this global disease we revert back to old patterns and rhythms that haven’t been good for anybody, we confirm our own madness. Our self-oblivion is confirmed. Can we envisage a new politics in Scotland? We should take this time to consider this.