On Wednesday afternoon (18th September) the warring tribes of the Scottish Parliament met in the chamber to debate Scottish independence in recognition of That Day – Referendum Day 18 September 2014. That Day is exactly a year away and our tribunes were locked in a clash of fixed positions that look as if they are likely to be set firm for the next 365 days. How much they will engage and inspire people outside the world of politics remains to be seen.
Arriving at the Parliament building, I had naively supposed that the long queue stretching from the entrance back round into the Royal Mile consisted of people thirsting to listen to this debate. In fact, most of those people were queuing for a sighting of the Great Tapestry of Scotland, which has been on display in the foyer of the Parliament throughout September (well worth viewing, by the way).
As I had an appointment with an MSP, I was glad to be ushered to the front of this queue by a friendly policeman. Later, with plenty of time to spare before the meeting of our Cross Party Group, together with my Stroke Association colleague, Elspeth Molony, I took the lift up to the debating chamber to listen to some of the independence debate. Considering that this was the Big Debate, Scotland’s Future, etc the public galleries were not particularly full. The debate consisted of a number of set speeches from fixed positions (see above), but what was notable to a first time listener-in was the background braying, heckling and shouting, particularly, I have to say, from the SNP ranks. Perhaps they were the loudest, simply by virtue of their larger number. Weren’t we promised that our shiny new Scottish Parliament would spell an end to Yah-Boo politics?
Later that evening, in the more tranquil setting of Committee Room 5, the Cross Party Group on Heart Disease and Stroke met under the calm, efficient chairmanship of Helen Eadie MSP. The committee agreed to endorse the Charter for People Living with Stroke – (click on the link to view). It will be formally launched later this year and distributed widely throughout Scotland – more later.
We then heard a most moving presentation from Dr Lisa Morton, who lives with congenital heart disease, and the efforts to improve routine medical support for sufferers of this condition – a reminder to all of us that Scottish Independence and stroke care are not the only two Big Debates out there. It was also a reminder that, when away from the grand stage of the debating chamber, and with co-operation rather than confrontation, our Parliament can actually achieve something worthwhile.