Friday, 5 September 2008

All over bar the shouting

So, MSPs voted today by 70 votes to 49 with two abstentions to overturn the one day parliamentary suspension handed to Wendy Alexander by the Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee.

It was, as
Brian Taylor notes, not a great day. Not for the Parliament, nor for anyone involved.

Jack McConnell called for a
free vote on the issue, instead of the usual whipped vote. Ironically, while the Conservatives were allowed a free vote - and voted against the suspension - every single one of the former First Minister's party colleagues supported his successor as leader. Whether he would have called for the same free vote had the roles been reversed we will probably never know - given that MSPs will now know the rules inside out.

There were a number of heated exchanges this morning in the Chamber, and no one came out of it well. Having said that - and I didn't think in my week of avoiding slagging the Lib Dems I'd be praising one of them - Hugh O'Donnell spoke fairly well, stuck to his guns and said what he believed.

The Presiding Officer, Alex Fergusson, has promised a review of the system, and has indicated that he may think it appropriate for the convenor of the committee - Keith Brown - to resign.

To be honest, I think the decision of MSPs in this case - regardless of party politics - has shamed the parliament. The idea of the standards committee is to allow MSPs to police themselves - providing accountability and transparency. And while the committee was split 4-3 in this case, the decision to hand down a one day suspension was the least they could hand down given the standards commissioner had found Wendy guilty. But then that decision was overturned by the chamber - which begs the question: what is the point in having a standards committee in the first place?

Wendy's comments afterwards - that it "was a victory for the law, for natural justice and for common sense" - was really the final irony in a long and sad process. It was none of those things, only a sad day for parliamentary politics in Scotland.


ScottishToryBoy 5 September 2008 at 11:20  

Difficult to disagree with your thoughts in this post. As you refer to, Brian Taylor sums things up rather well on his blog as well.

It'll be inetresting to see what Keith Brown does now.

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