I had an interesting and enjoyable visit to the Isle of Man at the invitation of an old friend Steve Rodan, who is the current Speaker of the House of Keys, to speak at the Manx Parliament’s Commonwealth Day dinner.
The Isle of Man is, of course, self governing, with Tynwald - its Parliament - claiming to be the oldest continuous Parliament in the world.
One thing that impressed me was that the Parliament has three Chambers which ensures that legislation is thoroughly considered and revised. Given the recent unedifying spectacle of the abolition of corroboration being forced through the Scottish Parliament on a whipped vote against very strong opposition, it is clear to me that Scotland needs a revising chamber.
I dread the idea of an independent Scotland with only one Chamber with laws being forced through without proper consideration.
careful thought needed
It is interesting that all the pro UK parties are coming forward with proposals that could lead to the further transfer of powers to the Scottish Parliament - even though the present Scottish Government has not learned how to use the powers it has already yet and further tax powers only come into effect next year.
Nevertheless we all agree that devolution has further to go. In particular, the Scottish Parliament needs to raise its own revenue so that it has more responsibility and accountability for its spending decisions. That in turn may lead to a more responsible and considered level of debate. At the moment, it is the UK Government that has had to take the hard decisions to balance the budget while Scottish based politicians and commentators prefer to denounce unpopular measures, give the impression they would halt or reverse them and, indeed, think they can promise yet more spending with lower taxes. We need to think carefully about what is best held in common and what can easily be devolved. But the debate is on and will, inevitably, continue to and through the Referendum.
The fact that Labour is seeking to guarantee work for all 18 to 24 year olds who are otherwise out of work, education and training is a worthy objective. However, it fails to acknowledge what the Coalition Government is doing and is in danger of killing or at least weakening the goose that lays the golden eggs.
By ignoring the initiatives established by the present government or ignoring the real achievements and insisting on bringing in a whole new unproven system I do not believe Labour will really be doing young people the favour they intend.
Litigation over pharmacy
I am disappointed that Tarves Health Limited is mounting a legal challenge to the decision by NHS Grampian to allow dispensing of prescriptions from Pitmedden and Methlick surgeries.
It is unfortunate if two essential parts of our health service become locked in litigation or unproductive competition.
The only positive outcome might be to make ministers and the Scottish Parliament review the law to allow the needs of particular rural communities to be taken into account.
overhaul not smashing
As the elections for the European Parliament loom closer (May 22, in case you haven’t got it in your diary) it is understandable that Nick Clegg made it a central focus of the Liberal Democrat Spring conference.
We support devolution and subsidiarity. We work to give communities a voice. We respect individual freedoms and civil liberties. But we recognise, as John Donne famously wrote in the 16th Century - that “no man is an island”.
I find it ironic that, on the one hand, Conservatives tend to support strongly keeping the United Kingdom together. It is after all incorporated into their name - “the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party”. On the other hand, they seem to hunger to put the UK on the margins of power outside the EU.
By contrast, Scottish Nationalists, enthusiastically and iconoclastically seek to destroy the UK while insisting, almost in desperation, that Scotland will and must be a full, participating member of the EU.
Neither the UK nor the EU are perfect but before they were created the constituent members were locked in generations of conflict and struggle. Let us go for continuous and dynamic change but don’t smash up the machinery which is essential for constructive engagement.