So far, so factual. But why the change? One can certainly conceive of justifications. Principled notions, no doubt, well argued, clearly articulated. After all, the legislation could be approached in a number of different ways. For me, predictably enough, it is primarily a question of justice. Others notice the word ‘doctor’ contained in the text and the broad questions of ‘health’ seem germane and primary. On that basis, in theory, a case for an ad hoc committee can certainly be constructed.
But Hamish McDonnell, writing in the fresh-fangled Caledonian Mercury, suggests an alternative account of the Bureau’s actions – one that returns us to the beady-eyed calculation which informs political choices. Suggests McDonnell, the choice to ad hoc out Margo’s proposal is concerned with the (presumably conventional) Gubbin’s turn political principle which deals out convenorships of these occasional committees based on a ranking order. If the End of Life Assistance Bill had been treated as a health matter, and no extraordinary ad hoc committee formed – an SNP MSP would chair the ad hoc committee which is anticipated to deal with the independence referendum bill. With just a touch of legerdemain, Margo’s proposal is slipped into the ad-hoc convenorship cycle. Meaning that an SNP MSP would chair the committee looking into assisted dying – while a Labour MSP would be installed as the convenor of the parliamentary group due to Salmond and shoal’s proposals for a popular plebiscite on
Assuming McDonnell is on to something here – this really is a sly spot of rodentship. And as I said, we can single out the offenders – McLetchie, Rumbles, Martin. I’m not convinced, per se, that the loss of Christine Grahame et al. is a great tragedy and that the scrutiny will suffer as a result. We have good grounds to be highly suspicious of this doughy triumvirate's motives, however. Particularly since the Unionists got exactly what they wanted, we might want to flatter them a little by suggesting they intended to bring about that consequence by deliberate parliamentary stratagem, as opposed miraculously landing on their arses rather than their heads. Obviously, they deny it. Insist they are simple stumbling souls, without front - nothing further from their mind than the referendum. Justifying quotes insisting on their blandness from wee man Martin and others appear in the Scotsman this morning. Although I quite appreciate Margo’s irritation – particularly at the sense that her Bill being hijacked in a shamelessly politicking fashion – that’s how the cookie crumbles. If you were particularly keen on the health committee, if you anticipate further jiggerypokery in terms of nominations to this ad hoc committee, materially damaging the Bill’s prospects – you’d have other grounds for fury. The latter, in particular, would be disgraceful. Why feign free votes, if a stitch up is firmly intended? For myself, however, I’m not persuaded that such a fix is in view here or that this manipulation is to the material injury of the discussion on assisted dying. As for the referendum - the sly spirit of Rattus scotticus politicus continues to haunt Holyrood's oakentree rafters.