Chambers dictionary, the official reporter’s trusty friend, defines “cliffhanger” as “an ending line of an episode of a serial, etc that leaves one in suspense”. In a break from the norm for parliamentary debates, Liam Kerr left members in a state of suspense—and amusement—when he became possibly the first MSP ever to have used such a fiendish device in a speech.
Speaking in Thursday’s debate on support for veterans and the armed forces community, Mr Kerr recounted a visit to HorseBack UK, a charity that uses horsemanship to help wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women. Its co-founder, Jock Hutchison, introduced one of his horses to him. Having set the scene, Mr Kerr continued:
“Demonstrating what not to do, Jock instructed the horse to move, but it refused. He then stood respectfully next to the beast. He spoke to it and I could see him gently gesticulating about what he would like the horse to do. Then he stood still next to the horse. The horse was still. He looked in its eye, smiled and raised his hand. And then—
Jock will tell members exactly what happened next when he comes to the reception for my members’ business debate on 7 February. [Laughter.]”
And with that, members, clerks, members of the public and all of us in the official report were left on tenterhooks. We look forward to reporting the conclusion of the story early next year.
You might not think that the Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill would get the pulses of “River City” or “EastEnders” viewers racing. However, Paul Brown from the Legal Services Agency, who gave evidence to the Justice Committee this week on the bill, would beg to differ. He spoke of the need “to encourage the right sort of soaps on telly” to explain the basics of law, which prompted Mairi Gougeon to respond that she was looking forward to “the TV dramatisation of civil litigation.”
Football has often been associated with colourful language, but the colour took an unexpected turn later in the same meeting, during the committee’s consideration of the bill to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 when Andrew Tickell told the committee that the common-law offence of breach of the peace is “notoriously vague” and “has been used to prosecute everything from playing marbles on a Sunday on the island of Lewis to walking the streets of Aberdeen wearing women’s clothing.” More controversially, he argued that
“striking this act completely aside is like using a sledgehammer for a task for which a scalpel is better devised”.