Monday, 22 December 2008

Under the (political) influence

The Scottish Parliament often conveys the impression that it meets only on a part-time basis, and it has hardly changed the fabric of the nation in its decade of existence, therefore it's curious that last week it could spend time debating drink-driving, a matter reserved to Westminster.

But at least it voted overwhelmingly to call for the UK Government to lower the drink-drive limit, thus presumably it was more about a principled stand on road safety rather than party politics. Except that Labour and the Conservatives abstained, on the basis that the SNP should be contributing to the Department for Transport's current review of the legislation rather than picking a constitutional fight with London. And a Labour amendment calling for Scottish Government ministers to engage with the DfT's consultation was defeated.

So MSPs are concerned about road safety, but also concerned enough about unrelated matters to object to a request for ministers to contribute to the only currently practicable process for amending the drink-driving legislation.

The Scotsman's David Maddox had already warned that the vote might be taken on an anti-Union basis and as a stick to beat the UK Government with, and he subsequently stated that Labour had accused Alex Salmond of misleading the Scottish Parliament in claiming that the DfT's consultation (paras 10-13) had not included a question on lowering the drink-driving limit.

Thus this all looks as much about political posturing than road safety, and as a reserved matter it also helps deflect attention from a rather ineffectual Holyrood parliament and administration.

At least justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said that he had already written to the DfT outlining support for lowering the drink-driving limit and the introduction of random testing. Which begs the question, what's the difference between this and the defeated Labour amendment calling for ministers to engage with the DfT's consultation?

Which perhaps begs another question; is anyone outside the Holyrood bubble really interested in the minutiae of these political machinations?


Ideas of Civilisation said...

I think the answer's 'no'.

Do I win a prize?

Merry Christmas.

Stuart Winton said...

On the other hand, I suppose I myself undermine the basic premise of the question, as (I assume) do you!

So no prize, except to wish you a Merry Christmas!!