Sober reflection

Yesterday we published the Justice Committee’s meeting of 4 November, at which the committee revisited the draft Road Traffic Act 1988 (Prescribed Limit) (Scotland) Regulations 2014, this time in the company of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill.

Mr MacAskill set out the Government’s position on lowering the drink-driving limit and the committee questioned him on the short time available in which to advertise the new limit before its implementation. Watch out for what the cabinet secretary described as “posters and collateral” coming to a supermarket or service station near you. John Finnie also wanted to know whether the police had the resources to enforce the regulations.

The Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee took green evidence on the budget from Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, the Existing Homes Alliance Scotland and Community Broadband Scotland. There was a detailed critique of the budget and the Government’s efforts at meeting its climate change targets, with a focus on Scotland’s carbon footprint, traffic congestion, public transport and active travel.

Richard Dixon, from Stop Climate Chaos, was both excited and frustrated by the Scottish Government’s work. If your broadband connection leaves something to be desired, you’ll want to read Mark Tate’s evidence on extending digital access. John Lauder gets the witness of the week award for having read the Official Report of the committee’s previous meeting.

The Public Audit Committee heard from Caroline Gardner, the Auditor General for Scotland, who spoke to three reports on national health service finances: in the NHS overall, and in NHS Highland and NHS Orkney. The Auditor General wished to highlight the latter two because she believed that the external auditor’s report on the boards highlighted “issues of concern that should be brought to the Parliament’s attention through this committee.” The strains and stresses under which the NHS labours, and which the Auditor General sets out in forensic detail, make for sobering reading. Ken Macintosh weighed up the bleak message of a service creaking under the strain of demand against the dramatic changes in life expectancy that the Auditor General reported on – circumstances that, combined, create competing pressures for which, said Caroline Gardner:

There is no quick fix … As a society, we need to debate that and make choices about it.

I’d wish you happy reading, but it’s all rather serious content today. Perhaps a wish for sober reflection is more in keeping.