By a curious quirk, parliamentary arithmetic has created a situation whereby two Member's (that is, non-Government) Bills look set to be scrutinised by Westminster and Holyrood respectively, pioneered by veteran Scottish politicians, by the name of Liam. That, however, is where the similarities abruptly end.
The Westminster Bill, being proposed by the ex-Cabinet Minister Dr Liam Fox, seeks to tackle issues being faced by those with Down Syndrome. According to Fox’s website: “The Down Syndrome Bill will lead to the establishment of a National Strategy to improve provision and outcomes for all those living with Down syndrome in the UK.” By choosing to allocate his Bill to this important subject, Fox is sending a signal that all lives matter equally. This is significant when we consider the heart-breaking tally of pregnancies that are terminated due to Down’s.
By contrast, the proposed Holyrood Bill, in the name of long-time Orkney MSP, and newly elected Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, Liam McArthur, proposes to legalise assisted suicide. In so doing, this Bill risks sending a message that certain lives are no longer worth living. Any assurances about disabilities made by proponents ring hollow, in marked contrast to the eloquently and authoritatively expressed concerns of newly elected MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy (who is a wheelchair user) and Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson.
Throughout this dreadful – and sadly ongoing - Covid pandemic, the razor-sharp focus of all governments has been to save lives, with a particular focus on the aged and physically vulnerable. This is the principle that should continue to guide parliamentarians across the United Kingdom as they evaluate the Fox and McArthur Bills in the weeks and months ahead.