British Sign Language in the Chamber
The first official report staff joined the Parliament in November 1998 and a fair few of us are still here, nearly 19 years later. You might think that by now we’ve seen it all, but parliamentary business keeps us on our toes. This week, the Government published its national plan for British Sign Language, as required by the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015. In an exciting first for the chamber, the Presiding Officer introduced the item in BSL, which required us to think about how to reflect that in the Official Report. Previous BSL users attending committee meetings have spoken with interpretation and we have reported that. The Presiding Officer, however, simply used BSL and then continued in English.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, the committee heard from Michael Russell, the Scottish Government’s Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which even the most casual observer of the UK political scene will know is making its way through the House of Commons at the moment. In keeping with the committee’s tightly drawn remit, the focus of the discussion was on the technicalities of getting the legislation right rather than areas of policy. Mr Russell explained that there were two main areas of concern: clause 11 of the bill and the so-called Henry VIII powers.
When questioned by Bill Bowman on the need for co-ordination with the UK Government, Mr Russell cited UK minister Damian Green’s use of the example of a jam manufacturer in Dundee wanting to sell his jam in Newcastle. That prompted Mr Bowman to reveal that he had recently bought Mackays marmalade in Faro, to which Mr Russell replied, “I just hope that you can continue to do so after 2019.”
A Holistic Approach to Homelessness
The Local Government and Communities Committee’s thought-provoking inquiry into homelessness in Scotland, which we have previously mentioned in Editor’s Picks, continued on Wednesday. Dr Adam Burley, a consultant clinical psychologist at the Access Point holistic housing, health and social care service, argued that “from a psychological point of view, the idea of homelessness … is something of a red herring in that it covers up what has brought somebody to the point at which they are homeless in the first place.” Dr Burley pointed out the need for services to respond to the whole person, not isolated symptoms such as homelessness and addiction, and the need for flexibility to allow services to adapt to the different ways in which individuals can engage with them.
On Wednesday evening, Tom Arthur introduced a members’ business debate on the effect of Brexit on musicians and the music industries. We heard both from members who perform and from members who are fans. Michael Russell, closing the debate for the Government, cited the philosopher—and organist—Albert Schweitzer, who said that the way to overcome the misery of life is to be fond of music and cats.
Who could argue with that?