Thursday, September 03, 2009

Yesterday's debate ...

I've already made my personal view on the release of Megrahi pretty clear - and its a view that hasn't altered over the intervening week or so since I wrote that post ...

... but, having watched this saga unfold, and twist-and-turn, I do feel compelled to comment further on it all. Many politicians I know, both local and national, have expressed similar thoughts to those below.

I watched almost all of the debate in Holyrood yesterday, and on the whole thought many of the contributions (from all sides of the Chamber) were well-considered, carefully thought-through, and sincerely delivered. I have to say, the First Ministers' summing-up wasn't one of them :-(

But, on the whole, I thought the Parliament acquitted itself well - better than during the re-called session last week.

Contrast the (relatively) measured tone within the Parliament to the debate outside; and I'm just left with a sickening feeling in my stomach.

Both politicians and activists have been at each others throats over this issue - the News Releases from the main Parties have hardly been a model of political restraint, and the on-line debates have been nothing short of vitriolic.

It could have been handled so differently.

Why didn't Salmond just speak to Gray, Goldie, Scott or Harvie prior to the Scottish Government pouring forth with the original announcement? I'm not claiming agreement would magically have been reached - but, surely, in the wider interests of Scotland they could have agreed how to potentially handle all of this far better?

Why didn't the Scottish and UK Governments liaise more closely ... all the correspondence in the world won't replace good face-to-face relationships! ... over how to handle this issue? I'm not suggesting MacAskill should have been involved - he clearly had a Ministerial decision to make - but other senior players in the whole saga seem to have 'barely spoken' to each other about how to deal with what many see as the biggest Holyrood decision since devolution.

Tragically - the core answer to both the questions above, is that the historic hatred between the SNP and Labour stopped such closer cooperation.

That hatred has literally poisoned this whole debate - as with so many others - but on this issue the results have been very, very damaging for Scotland. I know that many, many colleagues - both Nationalist and Labour - agree this to be the case. There is a time and a place for political knock-a-bout ... but this was not one of them.

Truthfully - nobody comes out of this whole episode with much credit.

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