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I, too, support amendments 172 and 173, because section 58U of the bill will give effect to a members’ bill from stage 2 that was not scrutinised by the committee or Parliament at stage 1, which means that there might be unintended consequences, as has been illustrated by Pauline McNeill.
Members have addressed the substance of section 58U, but I want to consider the process, because the Scottish Government has created a precedent in something that it usually resists vigorously. Should a back-bench member of a different party, or even of the same party as the Government, attempt to bring to Parliament, for consideration, a proposal that was not included at stage 1 of a bill, they are shouted down by Government ministers and its party’s MSPs. However, lo and behold, the Scottish Government is now guilty of not practising what it preaches, and SNP members are silent about the matter.
Many members will note the precedent that is being created today by the Scottish Government. Henceforth, it will not be able to use that position as an excuse to thwart members’ ambitions in forthcoming bills. This is not a party-political issue; it is about good parliamentary practice, with which we should not be so cavalier.
We do not have a second revising chamber, so we need to be careful about the scrutiny that we undertake. However, the current process falls well short of what is required.
The other point of note is that the provision that has been transposed into the bill relates to an English act and code of practice. Far be it from me to second guess the cabinet secretary, but I hope that he has had that tested against Scots law.
Pauline McNeill was right to point to the potential for confusion and to the lack of certainty and clarity. All law that we pass should be clear, but the provision in section 58U is not clear, and might therefore have unintended consequences, despite the cabinet secretary’s good intentions.
I urge the cabinet secretary to support Pauline McNeill’s amendments 172 and 173.