Letter from Edinburgh

Worried staff hustled into my parliamentary office this week. In the course of their duties they keep an eye on Shetland’s news websites to note what I may, or may not, have said to journalists.

The headline was about a “cheeky” calendar and the story involved the CLAN appeal selling out a Christmas edition which features local people in a state of near, if not complete, undress. All for charity you understand. There was a bashful look from one. “Tavish are you … ?” Before you go any further, the answer is “No!” I have played no part in the tastefully shot calendar which was raising money for a very good cause. The sense of relief was palpable.

I mention this because MSPs are under pressure from a charity raising money for a children’s hospice to appear in nothing more than pyjamas. You may have seen the publicity because the event is being fronted up, if that’s the right expression, by former First Minister Jack McConnell and Labour’s Lord George Foulkes.

I met the hospice organiser at a banking event this week and congratulated her on the pictures which appeared in so many papers. “How did you convince them?”

“Well a politician and publicity – the two go hand in hand,” was the gist of the reply. But the next stage is a parliamentary reception at which they expect the MSPs to attend in whatever they wear in bed. I am not sure that the good people of Scotland are ready for this image – real or imagined. Whatever goes on behind the confines of the front door seems to be safer if it stays there.

This week the parliament held the annual fisheries debate. This takes place before the December Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels where ministers from across Europe make a complete mess of fishermen’s livelihoods and of their Christmases.

One of the current problems is the ever tightening of fishing regulations to the extent that I wonder how a fishing vessel can actually fish. Governments in Edinburgh, London and Brussels are tying boats up in red tape which is more effective than a succession of sou’westerly gales.

The latest is a new way of measuring the size of the mesh of nets. This used to be done by a wedge shaped metal plate – simple, robust, cheap and accurate. And most importantly this is the way nets have been measured since the conservation regulations were introduced.

The government now wants to use an electronic gizmo which is measuring nets over 10 per cent smaller than the old method. So boats are going to have to buy nets with a bigger mesh size. It’s a backdoor way of hitting boats even harder. Not exactly a fair way to behave.

Tavish Scott MSP


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