This week’s committees have heard from members of the public with investment in education and allotments, and the chamber heard how the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee had used social media as part of its engagement with people during its inquiry into lobbying.
The Education and Culture Committee’s draft budget scrutiny focused on school spending. The committee’s witnesses included representatives of parents and young people and there was vigorous discussion, during which Iain Ellis, from the National Parent Forum of Scotland,talked about the benefits of technology in enabling schools to “offer every subject under the sun”, and Eileen Prior, from the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, challenged the institutions in charge of budgets to remember that “nothing beats talking to people.”
Much of the discussion was about accountability, and Liam McArthur MSP quoted a fellow politician’s comment that
One of the benefits of devolution is that—as a Basque politician described it to me—the bums are closer to kick.
Both Eileen Prior and Iain Ellis, however, supported the idea that “we ask whether we can do away with having 32 local authority education departments” – an interesting gloss on the tensions between local and central control and the challenge of providing the same service to people, wherever they are. Jim Thewliss, from School Leaders Scotland, gave voice to similar concerns, focused on inequality of funding.
The Local Government and Regeneration Committee took evidence on the Community Empowerment Bill. One panel of witnesses was there to talk about the statutory protection of allotments that the bill offers, and we learned about the “meanwhile” use of land, which is the temporary use of land for gardening and growing food. Witness John Hancox made the important point that the community and health benefits of allotments outweigh what crops are grown:
I have an enthusiasm for fruit but I am tolerant of people’s enthusiasm for flowers.
Word of note
The Devolution (Further Powers) Committee was established this week. It held its first meeting on Thursday, mostly in private to discuss a work programme, but was in public long enough for Annabel Goldie to describe herself as a “carnaptious” old lady: an excellent word of Scots and Irish derivation meaning cantankerous or bad-tempered – neither of which adjectives anyone would ascribe to Ms Goldie.