This parliamentary update was first published on 18th January.
The first two weeks of parliamentary business in 2023 have been a good example of the chaotic and irrational way the place is run. Last week there were very few votes on contentious matters and most of these didn’t apply in Scotland so I was able to get finished around 5 or 6 pm most days – almost like “normal” working hours. At the time of writing we were expecting that this week, from Monday 16th Jan, there would be three full days of very controversial legislation with the possibility of very late finishes on at least two days. This lack of co-ordination by the government’s business managers means hundreds of parliamentary staff whose working day can’t finish until Parliament has adjourned could be required to stay on till very late at night with only a few hours notice.
On Monday this week we were due to consider the government’s latest anti Trade Union legislation. The government have repeatedly claimed this is about making sure lives are not put at risk by strikes in essential parts of the health service for example. This is blatantly untrue. The law already requires Trade Unions to make sure there’s adequate cover for essential “protection of life and limb” services and personally I’ve never met a Union member who would refuse to respond to a genuine emergency.
The new law is nothing to do with emergency cover and everything to do with pacifying the far right press whose support the government needs. When I spoke against this last week I said the enemies of the NHS are not on the picket lines, they’re on the government front benches. What a contrast to the situation in Scotland where NHS Unions have suspended strike action because they believe the SNP Scottish Government is at least willing to listen to their arguments and negotiate in good faith.
I’m getting a lot of emails from constituents about the “Retained EU Law” Bill which is due back in parliament this Wednesday. I’ve previously written about this reckless piece of legislation. If it’s passed, at least 4,000 pieces of legislation will be abolished at the end of this year even if the government haven’t managed to replace them with anything better. The Bill is worded in such a way that it could apply to hundreds or even thousands of laws that the government haven’t even identified yet. It also gives the power for a British Government minister to abolish Acts of the Scottish Parliament even if these were unanimously agreed by MSPs – so much for Scotland being “an equal partner in the Union”! The SNP will be fighting tooth and nail to stop this Bill becoming law.