I am encouraged by what Ms McAlpine says. There is certainly a lesson there about not being thwarted by adversity.
The final note before dismissing the petition on the national bird was that the Enterprise and Culture Committee agreed to write to the Scottish Executive to ask for clarification on the process and procedure for the establishment of a national symbol. Interestingly, that was pretty much what the Public Petitions Committee had done initially more than two years previously. The golden eagle is still not the national bird of Scotland.
That sorry tale was told not to discourage but to outline the pitfalls. Joan McAlpine has been wise to keep her motion non-specific about the type of tree, although her speech was perhaps a little more partisan. It is also important that neither the proposal nor the tree that is ultimately chosen, if that happens, be claimed by any one party. The proposal will work only if there is cross-party and broad-based support.
I observe that accepting a principle is only the start of a long and tortuous journey. From my experience, careful thought must be given to process. It has to involve wide public consultation and embrace public comment on the principle, because if the public do not want a national tree, the game’s a bogey. However, if the public are supportive of that, there are other issues to clarify. The Lord Lyon may have views about the matter and there will need to be some mechanism by poll of constituting a short leet of suitable trees and then inviting a national vote to establish a winner.
If we can do it to decide the name of a bridge over the Forth, surely we can do it to decide on a national tree. Would it be too much to hope that, one day, the golden eagle might sit on that tree as our national bird? I just might have to make that a prerequisite for my continuing support.