As this is my first post of 2015 I shall wish you all a happy new year, however belatedly. Lang may yer lum reek, and may it not catch fire, as Christine Grahame’s did one year. She told the story to the chamber yesterday, during a debate on the emergency services. Other stories were told, too, and Patricia Ferguson remembered the Stockline factory disaster. There was universal praise for members of the emergency services, which reminded me of David Stewart’s question on the Kinloss rescue coordination centre, during which he described the staff there as “a beacon of light on the hill”.
As I looked over Official Reports that we’ve published since the parliamentary term resumed, I found a refrain of disaster. There were four topical questions at the meeting on 6 January, on Ebola, the Glasgow bin lorry crash, the Cemfjord sinking and the loss of City Link jobs. On 8 January the First Minister conveyed Scotland’s condolences on the shootings at Charlie Hebdo to the French consul general. On 14 January there was Opposition business, for which Labour focused on pressures in the national health service, and Hanzala Malik led a member’s business debate on the school attack in Peshawar.
I also noticed the odd prescience of some business. Last week, the Justice Committee scrutinised subordinate legislation on the regulation of investigatory powers and this week, in the wake of Charlie Hebdo, the nation is again debating the degree of access that we might be prepared to permit the security services to have to our communications. The chamber discussed active travel on 7 January and on 15 January the BBC reported a study that found that inactivity kills more people than obesity does. Might scheduling some good news debates have more effect than hitherto dreamed of?
Worth a look:
- The Health and Sport Committee had its first evidence session on the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, in which members heard from lawyers and the medical profession. Patrick Harvie has taken over the bill, which was introduced by the late Margo MacDonald.
- The Finance Committee took evidence on the Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill, which aims to cancel any debts that people might have as a result of not paying the poll tax. Local authorities are not altogether happy with the bill: the convener described Glasgow City Council’s submission as doing a body swerve around the question whether it supported the bill.
- The Local Government and Regeneration Committee took further evidence on the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill and heard from parties interested in the licensing of adult entertainment venues.
- The Justice Committee is looking at the Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill, which deals with the ending of automatic early release for some prisoners, including sex offenders. There are thorny questions to be addressed about whether and what conditions should be put on those who are released early, and whether any conditions could be put on prisoners who are released only once they have served their whole term.
Words of note:
Obtemper won’t be new to the lawyers, nor is it new to Fergus Ewing, who has used it on a few occasions. It is from Scots law, and The Chambers Dictionary defines it as meaning “to yield obedience (to)”. On this occasion, discussing the City Link administrators, Mr Ewing said:
“That is why it is extremely important that the administrators obtemper the undertaking that they said in a press release they would fulfil, namely that employees affected by redundancy would be offered appropriate advice and support on making claims for redundancy and notice pay.”
Lum, for those who were wondering, is Scots for a chimney. You can also get a lum hat, and a lum-head – which last is the top of a chimney, rather than an insult.