Tag Archives: Leo McGarry

Our constitution, July 2012: public scrutiny of legislation

“Public scrutiny of legislation; right of committees to conduct hearings, pre-legislative consultation; active petition system; guaranteed rights of opposition.”

You may ask, why do we need to make such a point of this? This is what we already do in Scotland. Why would we stop?

“There are two things in the world you never want to let people see how you make ’em: laws and sausages.” – Leo McGarry, The West Wing, “Five Votes Down”.

I haven’t heard from Better Together voters who don’t like the idea of a constitution for Scotland.

But Yes Scotland voters who don’t like the idea of drafting a constitution for Scotland prior to the referendum or eve independence day, usually say something along the lines of: “Don’t you trust the SNP?” and when I say no, suggest that this is partisan. (Examples in comments at Our constitution: beyond yes and no and A New Claim of Right for Scotland.)

But I don’t trust any political party that far. Or any government. There is nothing special about the air of Scotland that makes politicians more anxious to have legislative work completely open to scrutiny: it’s just that the law requires it. The law that was passed at Westminster: the Scotland Act.

Public scrutiny of legislation

In the Scottish Parliament, this is a three-stage one-chamber process, described in Chapter 9 of the Parliament’s Standing Orders:

The introduction of a Bill in the Scottish Parliament (SP) is roughly equivalent to the First Reading stage of a Bill in the UK Parliament, but more is required of the member in charge of the Bill in the Scottish Parliament, in the sense of accompanying documents. This is in order to give the members of the committee more information.

Stage 1: After the committee has prepared the legislation, the Parliament will debate and vote on it and if agreed, it will proceed to Stage 2. The latter part of Stage 1 is equivalent to the Second Reading in the UK Parliament.
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