Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

Thank you very much, Presiding Officer.

I often wonder how much more can be said about a bill when we get to the final debate at stage 3. The cabinet secretary and I discussed the possibility that we might have only half an hour for the stage 3 debate, but we have ended up with an hour and three quarters. It has actually been a comprehensive conclusion to this session’s debates.

Margaret Mitchell and Christine Grahame expressed concern about not being given the opportunity to discuss their judicial direction amendments today. The amendments would not have been agreed to, but I can understand their frustration at not being able to air their arguments again.

Christina McKelvie and Alison McInnes spoke effectively about the work that is done by the various organisations that are active in this area and about the psychological effects on victims of things such as revenge porn. In what I hope will not prove to be her last speech in Parliament, Alison McInnes also spoke about her work and the Justice Committee’s work on Cornton Vale, which led to the great change in direction on the women’s prison estate that has come during this session.

Margaret McDougall reminded us that screenshots are images. She knows a great deal about screenshots—she was able to show us all how to do them—which are not something that I knew much about. She and Malcolm Chisholm made very important points about the Parliament. Malcolm Chisholm said that we make progress through collaboration and working together when we agree, and we should never allow the political discourse and the ignominy of the political football that we sometimes all get involved in to detract from our understanding that it is when we work together that we make the most progress. Margaret McDougall said that the Parliament works best when we all pull together in the interests of Scotland, and we would all do well to remember that.

John Finnie and Rhoda Grant spoke about the shocking attitudes that there still are towards victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence and the need to continue the education work on the understanding of consent. As I said earlier, that is unfinished business in the Parliament that we must return to, because although, as Malcolm Chisholm illustrated, a lot has happened since he first brought up the issue in the House of Commons back in 1993, we still have a fair way to go to make real progress.

I will use most of my speech to pay tribute to four colleagues—I thought that it was only three—who retire this week. Three of them gave their final speeches in this debate and one gave his a couple of weeks ago without telling anyone. He has been in London as he is involved in the appointment of the new electoral commissioner, but he said that he would be here this afternoon. He is not here, but he need not think that that will prevent me from marking his retirement from membership of this Parliament. I know that he will not be retiring in any real sense, but that will certainly not put me off embarrassing him by putting my thoughts on the record.

First, however, I pay tribute to Annabel Goldie, who has had a distinguished parliamentary career, including as leader of her party for many years. The only thing that I can say to her is that I may often have disagreed with what she has said but, by heck, I have always been very entertained by the way in which she has said it.

This debate saw the last of many insightful contributions from Malcolm Chisholm. He served as an MP for seven years before coming here, and he has been an MSP for 17 years. He was a minister in both Parliaments and he made his mark on both the communities and health portfolios. Malcolm has also been a outstandingly prolific speaker for Scottish Labour in this Parliament. I believe that he holds the record on our benches for the number of speeches that he has delivered. His hard work and thoughtful kindness have gained him popularity across the parties but, more than that, and perhaps rarely among politicians, he is universally recognised as being a person of principle.

I thank my colleague Margaret McDougall, who also made her last speech today. As she said, she has served on several committees—five, I think—since 2011, which in itself is no mean feat, as there is an awful lot of homework to do to get up to speed when an MSP joins a new committee. Margaret has taken up that challenge on several occasions.

On the Justice Committee, Margaret McDougall has been a tenacious advocate of the rights of victims. I am sure that she made an impression on the new chief constable. Having raised police officers’ concerns about the need to assimilate the volume of information that is sent to them by means such as email, she received a detailed, lengthy and erudite response from Mr Gormley. After what felt like about 10 minutes, he finished his peroration and she looked at him and said, “Yes, but what about the emails. Are there fewer of them?” It reduced the rest of the committee to laughter. I cannot remember whether it was Christine Grahame or Margaret Mitchell who said, “Welcome to Scotland.” Mr Gormley may be pleased that Margaret is not coming back.

As I said, Graeme Pearson may have thought that he could get away without being mentioned, but he cannot, even if he is not here. Graeme served in the police in Scotland for 38 years, starting as a young constable on the streets of Glasgow and finishing his service as director-general of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency. His trajectory in the force is, in itself, testament to his abilities. We on the Labour benches have benefited hugely from his extensive knowledge, and I believe that the whole Parliament has benefited and profited from his unique experience.

On a personal note, I have very much enjoyed working with Graeme Pearson. One can have a robust exchange of views with him without in any way falling out with each other. I also noticed that his police experience was shown in other ways. One time, we had been in a meeting and the division bell rang. Graeme set off as if he was in hot pursuit of a felon. It reminded me of police series on TV, where there is always a young, fit police officer, either male or female, who can jump over fences, run fast and get to the criminals, and there is usually an unfit and overweight counterpart who puffs along behind them. On that occasion, I was peching along behind Graeme as he dashed into the chamber. I am grateful to Graeme for everything that I have learned from him during our time working together.

I know that there are a lot of people in this Parliament who hope that this is my last speech in the chamber. That is not paranoia—I am standing only in my constituency, and I know that both the Conservatives and the SNP are working hard to take it off me. I think that most people would agree that I do not have much in common with Arnold Schwarzenegger—although some years ago I had an intern who went on to work for Arnold Schwarzenegger, which was a bit odd, because Evan was a Democrat and I am not sure how he ended up working for Mr Schwarzenegger—but like the Terminator, I would like to think I’ll be back.

If I am not back—and politics is an uncertain business—I do not in any way regret having spent the last 17 years of my life in Parliament. It has been an absolute blast. At times I have been frustrated, irritated and delighted, but it has been great. Thanks very much to the wonderful staff and to my colleagues, past and present, from all parties. I will be back. [Applause.]