Those who were in the public gallery for Thursday lunch time’s members’ business debate on men’s sheds—who, included, appropriately enough, people from men’s sheds across the Borders, from Peebles to Eyemouth—were treated to a vintage performance from Christine Grahame, the member for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale and one of the Parliament’s Deputy Presiding Officers. After describing the evolution of the men’s shed movement, she went on to reminisce about the importance of her father’s shed to her family life when she was a child:
“My late father, with five children corralled in a small council house, took refuge and sanctuary in his small green wooden shed at the bottom of the garden … With the door open, he would sit admiring the growing vegetables, with the Sunday papers—he always had to read them before the rest of us—and his cup of tea, rain or shine, taking a moment away from the hurly-burly of his five children indoors. My late mother was happy to leave him to it. Domestic friction was reduced.”
In passing, Ms Grahame extolled the usefulness of the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association website, jokingly suggesting that the Parliament’s retiring assistant chief executive, Ken Hughes, might want to look there for something to do with his time. Her conclusion was humorous, too:
“to allay any rumours that, as a single woman of a certain age, I am frequenting men’s sheds with romantic intent, I assure the gentlemen in the gallery and beyond that my interest is purely professional.”
As someone who has been a member since 1999, Ms Grahame has a particular interest in this year’s 20th anniversary of the Parliament. It was with that in mind that, later the same day, during Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body question time, she asked how the organisation planned to
“mark the contribution to the Parliament of staff past and present who were here in 1999.”
Liam McArthur, representing the SPCB, replied:
“our intention is for the Parliament to celebrate its 20th anniversary at an event on 29 June. All members of staff, past and present, will be encouraged to attend the event, and further announcements will be made later in the spring.”
Thursday was an especially busy day for Ms Grahame, who was also in action at that morning’s meeting of the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee, at which the committee continued its post-legislative scrutiny of the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, which she took through Parliament as a member’s bill—although, as she acknowledged, Alex Neil, now a member of the committee,
“did all the heavy lifting”.
She defended the act as “good legislation” and said that the problem lay with practical aspects of implementation. When asked by Alex Neil to give an overview of her proposed responsible breeding and ownership of dogs (Scotland) bill, she explained that it was about
“welfare of the animals and good relationships between dogs and owners.”
Another member’s bill that was discussed last week was Mark Ruskell’s Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill. The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee was holding its fifth and final evidence session on the bill at stage 1, and it heard directly from Mark Ruskell as the member in charge of the bill. Various aspects of the proposed legislation were explored in detail. In his opening statement, Mr Ruskell drew on personal experience in setting out a powerful argument for his bill:
“When I was at school, a classmate of mine was struck down and killed while out playing on his bike. He was not killed outside the school gates; he was killed in the residential street where he lived, like four fifths of child casualties on our roads.
Speed limits of 20mph make a big contribution to the safety of everyone on the streets where we live, especially children. They reduce speed, prevent deaths and injuries and encourage choices to walk and cycle. Public support for them continues to grow year on year.”