The Full Weight of the Law
The wheels of justice are said to turn slowly, but the wheels of Scotland’s law making have geared up to a more turbocharged pace as the Government seeks to pass a bill many times faster than under the typical legislative timetable.
Legal expert Dr Tobias Lock dashed between two committees in one morning this week to brief members on the scale of their task in scrutinising the implications of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill.
So many laws and regulations are affected by Brexit that Dr Lock found them almost easier to weigh than to count. There are “tonnes of statutory instruments”, he told members: “There are thousands of them.” From that daunting total, members of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee picked out several familiar examples including regulations covering workers’ rights to annual leave.
Less familiar to the public will be the loss to all UK citizens of the right to claim Francovich damages, which people in all EU member states gained after a 1991 case in which 34 Italian workers won damages of 253,000,000 Lira from their Government.
By next week’s Editor’s Picks, we’ll be within four days of the bill’s third and final stage.
Wrasse to the Rescue
On Wednesday, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee held the first session of its inquiry into salmon farming in Scotland. Members heard from a number of experts on a wide range of issues including the value of the industry to the Scottish economy and how it might be affected by Brexit.
The committee took a close interest in fish health issues, asking questions about the use of “cleaner fish” such as wrasse and lumpsucker to deal with the problem of sea lice and the extent of antibiotic use in salmon farming in Scotland.
A wealth of facts were brought to light—did you know that the density of farmed salmon is 15kg per cubic metre?—but perhaps the issue of most interest to consumers is whether farmed salmon is as good as the wild variety. In the opinion of economist Steve Westbrook, the fat in Scottish farmed salmon “makes it perfect for frying, baking and so on, while I find the wild fish drier”—although, as he observed, it is a matter of taste!
Hard Times for Holyrood?
Had he been observing Tuesday’s business in the chamber from the reporters’ booth, Charles Dickens would have been amused to hear Derek Mackay likened to not one but three of his creations. Graham Simpson compared the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to Mr Micawber and Ebenezer Scrooge, Bruce Crawford said that he was benevolence personified, like Samuel Pickwick, and Murdo Fraser echoed the Micawber comparison.
Dickens was a parliamentary reporter at Westminster in the 1830s, where he honed the skills that would contribute to his success as a writer of popular fiction. He has been described as a master of the reporting art and the most celebrated of our predecessors. However, in David Copperfield, which is considered to be somewhat autobiographical, Dickens suggested that he was fairly happy to leave the job to enter the more exciting world of journalism when he had his eponymous hero say,
“I had been writing in the newspapers and elsewhere so prosperously that when my new success was achieved I considered myself reasonably entitled to escape from the dreary debates. One joyful night, therefore, I noted down the music of the parliamentary bagpipes for the last time, and I have never heard it since.”
Readers of the Official Report should be reassured that your trusty reporters at Holyrood are made of sterner stuff than Dickens and that the cut and thrust of parliamentary debates remains music to our ears.