Letter from Edinburgh 27.06.08
The end of term feel is in the air. MSPs concluded parliamentary business this week with a debate on flooding… oh and a Standards Committee investigation into Labour leader Wendy Alexander. Watching the activity in Edinburgh this week was Yell man Jonathan Williamson, who is a third year politics student from Glasgow University. He came down to Edinburgh to work shadow my week’s activities, or, as a number of colleagues put it, to shadow because you never work Tavish! Charming.
Jonathan sat through a series of meetings, in particular on Wednesday where I chaired Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee through two draft reports. This means line by line agreement, page by page.
This can be tedious but it was enlivened by a good going spat over a certain paragraph which wasn’t agreed to, the dispute depending on whether you were defending the Minister or you believed that he hadn’t quite got the job done. Jonathan then had the misfortune to sit through quite the worst meeting I’ve had in many a year, where the bosses of the fuel distribution company which brings our fuel to Shetland, explained that the price we pay in Shetland is just that. Great news. If there is an upside, it proved to me that it’s not just politics where everyone blames everyone else. When it comes to the price at the pump, there is a $140 a barrel blame game in full swing. All I care about is what can be done, but answers are pretty thin on the ground.
Jonathan then caught part of Wednesday’s Parliamentary business in the Chamber where MSPs were debating alcohol policy. This was topical as we had met the Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, earlier in the day with the Shetland Licensing Board. Kenny, to me, falls into the entertaining bracket of politicians and deserves some credit for at least talking about the need to tackle the ills of alcohol in society. On Wednesday night, having discussed alcohol, MSPs attended the annual dinner of the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists Association sponsored by … yes you’ve guessed it … a whisky company. So having talked the talk we all then walked to the bar. Nothing like consistency in politics!
We finished the week with flooding, or rather what to do about it. I did think that one of the reasons that the Bressay History Group and the archaeology team up from south are moving the burnt mound from the Cruester banks to a site adjacent to the ferry terminal is coastal erosion – a subset of the same issue. Jonathan wrote me an excellent briefing to use in the debate. Let me quote a bit.
“Key points. In SEPAs indicative maps, Shetland has the 12th highest proportionate percentage of properties at risk of coastal flooding. Orkney is 3rd … but who cares about them!”
With a cheerful sense of humour, this West Sandwick lad will go far.
Tavish Scott MSP