Each week, three of the Official Report’s team of reporters and sub-editors bring you a selection of parliamentary highlights from the week just gone …
On Tuesday, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee took evidence on waste in Scotland, which presented us with one of the few occasions on which it could justifiably be said that members talked rubbish. Finlay Carson elicited a few laughs (and possibly a groan or two) when he offered to “compact” his questions “to take out some of the wastage.” Members spoke to representatives from local authorities, Zero Waste Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the private sector. Scotland’s target of recycling 70 per cent of its waste by 2021 was a hot topic, as was the ban on biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill that will come into force on 1 January 2021. Both panels stressed that there are many challenges ahead, but there are “grounds for optimism”, as Martin Grey from Viridor said when he discussed the consumer-driven shift away from black plastic packaging (which is unrecyclable) in the food industry.
In a week that saw the start of the Brexit negotiations, the Finance and Constitution Committee took evidence from two constitutional law experts, Professor Alan Page and Professor Stephen Tierney, on the use of the legislative consent mechanism—otherwise known as the Sewel convention—with regard to the great repeal bill and its aftermath. The convener, Bruce Crawford, admitted at one point that the discussion was getting into “dancing on the head of a pin” territory, but he stressed that such issues could take on importance, particularly in light of the fact that, as Professor Tierney pointed out, there would be more than 12,000 European regulations to deal with in the event of Brexit. In any case, the witnesses agreed that what had to be avoided after Brexit was “legislative ping-pong” or some kind of “war of attrition” between the Scottish Government and the UK Government—and, indeed, between all the UK Governments and legislatures—in respect of legislation that would have to be put in place and suggested that better joint working and better intergovernmental relationships would be needed.
On Wednesday, MSPs debated motor neurone disease (MND) global awareness day. Christina McKelvie—one of several members with family or friends who have been affected by what she described as a “cruel” disease—opened the debate by noting that, “in the face of cruelty, we find community.” In the week when Scottish rugby legend Doddie Weir announced that he has been diagnosed with MND, his friend Brian Whittle made a heartfelt speech about the condition. Kezia Dugdale, who spoke earlier this year about her friend the MND campaigner Gordon Aikman, mentioned that the little zebrafish, which lots of us keep in tanks at home, is being used in research to find a cure for MND. Finally, noting the personal nature of some of the speeches, Deputy Presiding Officer Christine Grahame observed that MSPs’ contributions had shown “the Parliament to the public in a different light.”