It would be fair to say that the official reporting team is a lover of language. We work with it every day and relish all of its complexities and proclivities. In the Official Report we publish English and Gaelic when spoken and we publish the simultaneous or offered translation for all other languages. We can cover quite a wide range of languages ourselves. The team speaks Gaelic, Scots, French, Spanish, German, Afrikaans, Punjabi, Russian, Chinese, Swedish, Norwegian, Italian, Japanese and of course English. And our publication and public information team manages a contract to supply interpreters and translators of other languages when required.
Well, we’ve been rather quiet on here recently. With all the virtual tumbleweed, you might be forgiven for thinking we just swan off on holiday for the whole dissolution. Although we all make sure we take a well-deserved break—there were some exceptionally long days of meetings towards the end of session 4—that couldn’t be further from the truth. Read on to find out what we’ve been doing and check back to see our mini-series reflecting on on the parliamentary speaking careers of some MSPs who have stood down and won’t be returning on 6 May.
Official reporters have the privilege of a front-row seat at what sometimes turn out to be historic events. It may be obvious: the very first meeting of the Scottish Parliament; the first meeting after the referendum. At other times, history unfolds more quietly: the slow accumulation of parliamentary activity that led to the smoking ban in Scotland looked pretty unpromising at first. This week, we will see mainly the first kind of history in the making: Alex Salmond has made his last First Minister’s statement to the Parliament; Nicola Sturgeon will become Scotland’s first female First Minister. History was very much on Mr Salmond’s mind as he addressed the chamber this afternoon.
The budget process is reaching a pitch of activity as committees push to complete their scrutiny and their reports, so this week has continued the high levels of parliamentary business that we associate with this time of year. The week also had an unusual momentum, however, building towards Alex Salmond’s final First Minister’s question time, which was the 215th time that he was held to account in the chamber. Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, wanted to know whether Alex Salmond really was resigning as party leader. Nicola Sturgeon urged him to answer.
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.
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.”