17 March 2009

A progressive conservative agenda...

If one were to attempt to cross the threshold of the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee and press your flesh into the discursive space - one could reasonably expect one of the people's tribunes to ask you "are you a stakeholder?" By this, the goodly elected souls would mean: what organisation do you represent, what form of officially sanctioned - and probably not too outlandish creed - do you subscribe? I loathe the self-regarding inwardness of the jargon, the lobby-lobeless expertise-asserting and self-satisfied bourgeois doctrine of NGO professionalism envisaged at times by the notion.

Let me be clear: I don't object in particular to partisan sections of that rough beast "Civic Scotland" rearing up and roaring for its causes. The sense that meaningfulness is exhausted, however, by touring Edinburgh & Glasgow's well meaning moralisers seems to me repugnant - not least because of the strangling toehold Scotland's various noxious religious groups have on this process. We do not, I trust, live in a stakeholderochracy - if you'll forgive a transmuting verbal barbarism.

Nowhere, however, is this pecking priority more visible than in the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill, presently in its second stage towards final enactment. While elsewhere I have praised this particular piece of legislative labour - a note of caution needs to be sounded, I think, more generally - about precisely what social outlook our doughty representatives drag - like an outsize and painful haemorrhoid - to Holyrood's committee rooms and chamber.

What do we actually know about the social views of our MSPs? Our First Minister? I recall, vaguely, a piece elsewhere asking this precise question. I remain unaware, increasingly unsatisfied not to know. To pluck an apposite example from the legislative firmament - the "age of consent" question in the ongoing process, squeezing the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill through Holyrood.

Surprise, surprise: the Government shrunk away from pursuing the more spicy theme emerging from the Scottish Law Commission's final report on the subject, determining that children must pertly be discouraged from engaging in sex by sexless adults in grey suits, warned of the evils that lurk, occult, inside the youthful vagina - which is, apparently, cheerfully cast off by achieving the age of majority. Consider another example: Margo's private member's bill on assisted suicide. Time and again, all of our parties shrink away from blistering a bright and liberating spark across Scotland - on and on they replicate careful, dusty, orderly policies - eschewing the radical and the challenging just in case.

Salmond - the Maximum Eck - may yap a good yap - and in many ways for me is a more satisfactory FM than the alternative true-"red" consuls of Clydebank - the endless wobbling dotard gibbet taunters from Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley.

Don't lets dream ourselves into the position, however, of imagining that any of this is particularly radical or interesting. As I've argued heretofore, the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill is a good thing in general terms - more of such labour is needful - but the ruling spirit of the legislation remains a progressive conservative agenda - a commonsensical expansion from feudalism - certainly not a particularly interesting or individualistic response to a creaking, dust-encrusted system of sex laws fit, only perhaps, for a 17th century gentleman and his wife.

At every point, interesting or difficult issues are avoided - and lusty "children" - usually boys - remain criminalised. For me, just another standing testament to the fact that it isn't children who are terrified of sex, but adults - and in their fevered, fitful reflections on the subject, quaking with inadequacy - invent themselves comrades in awkwardness, and thoughtlessly - even with fine consciousness of their own morality - set the wheels of prosecution churning, relentlessly and satisfyingly towards someone else.

I'm not suggesting that any of this is particularly easy or self evident. I'm just bored by how often Holyrood dodges the interesting questions.

1 comment :

  1. Can't say I'm familiar with the debate in question, but if I'm if reading you correctly then the stance being taken does seem to conflict with lowering the voting age, as was the case with raising the minimum age for alcohol off-sales.