I spent two days this week visiting the Scottish Parliament, which is called Holyrood and is located in Edinburgh.
By way of a brief history, in 1997 there was a referendum where the Scottish people voted for Scotland to have a Parliament once again, and it held its first meeting on 12th May 1999.
In fact, Scotland did have a Parliament in the 13th Century until 1707 when the Parliament of Scotland merged with the Parliament of England.
The Scottish Parliament today has 129 Members known as MSP’s (Member of the Scottish Parliament) with the Scottish National Party holding the most seats with 63 elected Members.
The Manx delegation to Scotland was headed by the President of Tynwald, Steve Rodan, MLC and other members travelling included Geoffrey Boot, MHK, Bill Shimmins, MHK and myself from the House of Keys, along with Tanya August Hanson, MLC and Kerry Sharpe, MLC and Deputy Clerk of Tynwald Jonathan King.
The trip was organised through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the visit certainly gave the Tynwald members an opportunity to examine the procedures and practices of the Scottish Parliament, focusing on legislation, committee work, youth engagement.
I know that this type of trip does generate considerable negative comments at times, but I hope that my Blog this week gives greater details around the visit to the Scottish Parliament, but more importantly shows the level of work undertaken by Tynwald Members during such a trip, and you certainly don’t get a lot of free time for sightseeing.
Anyway more on my Scottish Parliament visit later on…..
With regards to Monday I was in the office at 8am but I only had one meeting scheduled throughout the day so the first hour was spent paying some bills and ensuring that I had my travel documents ready for Wednesday.
At 9am I walked over to DfE for a short meeting with the Head of Tourism, in order to discuss the Visit Isle of Man Tourism Industry Day, which was being held at the Villa Marina on Tuesday.
We also took the opportunity to discuss a tourism paper, which was hard to follow initially, and therefore I was unable to give my support until I obtained a bit more information.
Once back to the office I needed to review a couple of Southern 100 motorsport papers, which also required emails to be drafted.
I also started to review the MNH Minutes and make a couple of amendments before they are published.
As for the rest of the day, other than calling into B & Q and B & B during the afternoon, the day was spent at my desk preparing various supplementary questions for the House of Keys on Tuesday or working on the Order Paper.
Six of the twelve questions being tabled on Tuesday were from me, so it was important that I prepared a number of supplementary questions, which isn’t easy when you are trying to second guess what the Minister or Chairman might actually say.
On most occasions I draft my supplementary questions around the responses given on the floor of the House, but on this occasion I wanted to be better prepared.
I also needed to go through the actual House of Keys Order Paper, which had a large number of Clauses for Consideration, which took a considerable amount of time.
I left the office at 17.00, but I was only home for an hour or so before attending a meeting with Onchan District Commissioners, which started at 18.30.
I felt the meeting with the Commissioners was far better than the ones held previously, and there was a clear dialogue between National and Local Political Members on various topics.
I finally got home for around 20.40, which gave me an opportunity to draft a couple more emails before finishing at 21.15.
In the office for 8am on Tuesday morning, but only to drop off my bag before heading down to the Villa Marina for the Visit Isle of Man Agency “Industry Day”….
There was registration and networking from 8.30am and that it gave me an opportunity to catch up with a few people before I gave the opening remarks and the welcome statement to industry delegates in advance of a full day of presentations and workshops.
Unfortunately, I had to leave at 9.20am ahead of what was scheduled to be a very busy day in the House of Keys.
Just before 10am we went into the Keys Chamber for this week’s sitting, which started with 12 oral and 20 written questions.
I certainly enjoyed question time on Tuesday, and although as I mentioned previously I do try and get most of my questions answered by email in order to save money, maybe I should table a few more questions in the future.
After question time there was the Second reading of the Charities Registration and Regulation Bill 2018, the Third reading of the Income Tax Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019, before Members considered the Clauses of the Highway (Amendment) Bill 2019 and the Communications Bill 2018, which had various amendments for consideration.
During the lunch break there was an excellent presentation by the Isle of Man Climate Change Coalition, which continues to apply pressure for change on the Isle of Man.
Straight back into Keys at 14.30 to continue with consideration of the Communications Bill 2018, which had several interesting amendments being tabled and debated.
The sitting finished at 16.30, which gave me a few minutes to catch up with things in the office before heading home for 17.10.
Once home I still needed to respond to various emails, in fact I was still sending emails and packing my suitcase at 21.00.
A very early start on Wednesday morning, up and showered for 5.15am before heading to Ronaldsway for a 7am flight to Manchester.
The Manx delegation met at the airport for 6am and the flight was on time and there were no delays in security.
We landed on time and it was straight into the transfer lounge and onto a flight to Edinburgh, which left at 8.30am.
We arrived at the hotel (Macdonald Holyrood Hotel) for around 10.40am, which gave us time to grab a coffee and look around Edinburgh briefly – well, I mean a 30 minute walk along the Royal Mile.
Just enough time to have some lunch before walking around the corner to the Scottish Parliament for 13.30.
From there we had several meetings scheduled, including a brilliant one with representatives from the Scottish Youth Parliament, in which young people aged between 14 and 25 from all across Scotland can stand as Candidates to become Members of the Youth Parliament.
There was also a presentation on the process of the passing legislation in the Scottish Parliament, along with details on a particular policy called “Getting it Right for Every Child”, but unfortunately I was left with more questions than answers on this particular presentation, especially around improving the culture for every child.
We also met the Presiding Officer over the Scottish Parliament, the Rt Hon Ken Macintosh, MSP.
The Presiding Officer in the Scottish Parliament is the equivalent of the Speaker in the House of Commons or in the House of Keys, or the President of Tynwald etc.
We left the Chamber at 17.15 to return to the hotel.
At 18.30 the Manx Delegation were invited out to dinner at the Michael Neave Kitchen & Whisky Bar by the Presiding Officer, and we were joined by Joan McAlpine, MSP, John Scott, MSP and Tavish Scott, MSP.
It was a good night in wonderful company and it is very clear that the bonds between the Scottish and Manx Parliaments remain incredibly strong.
I finally got back to the hotel for 22.00, but I still needed to catch up with emails.
Day two in Scotland started with a swim at 6.30am, which is something I try to take advantage of when off island.
I was also able to catch up on any remaining emails and my Blog before meeting up with Tynwald colleagues at 7.45am for breakfast.
We walked over to the Scottish Parliament just after 9am and the first meeting of the day was on the Primary and Secondary legislation process in the Scottish Parliament in the company of Graham Simpson, MSP (Convener) and Andrew Proudfoot, Clerk.
Once the meeting finished we looked in on a Social Security Committee session that was already underway, along with enjoying a tour of the Parliamentary building, which cost around £414 million to build.
I will be posting a few pictures from our visit to the Scottish Parliament later on today.
We were then given an opportunity to watch the First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon talking questions for around 45 minutes, which was very interesting.
The behaviour within the Scottish Parliament was a lot different than in the Tynwald Chamber, a lot of table slapping, discussions going on in the background and shouting etc….
It was good to watch question time, especially with the First Minister coming under pressure from all sides on various issues.
Once question time finished we had lunch in the Members Room, which was being hosted by Linda Fabiani MSP, Margaret Mitchell MSP and Graham Simpson MSP.
The Scottish Parliament, officers and various MSP’s certainly looked after us throughout our visit.
After lunch we had some excellent discussions around the Public Audit function, the Auditor General and post Scrutiny of Legislation, which was led by Liam Kerr MSP, Bill Bowman MSP who I have already met in the Isle of Man last September, along with Graham Simpson MSP.
Definitely my favourite session as I was able to compare the work currently being undertaken by the Tynwald Public Accounts Committee.
There was also a great discussion around the role of the Auditor General and how the Parliament Scrutiny Committees work.
The final session on this visit was around the Active Travel Plan, which Edinburgh continues to roll out across the city.
My colleague Bill Shimmins, MHK was in his element for this particular topic and Alan Rehfisch, a Senior Researcher on the topic was on hand to answer any questions.
The Parliamentary visit to Scotland concluded around 16.30, and the Manx delegation were able to enjoy a final dinner in Edinburgh at the Deacon Brodies Tavern, which is a fantastic local pub.
Friday was all about travelling home from Edinburgh, the team met up for breakfast at 8.30am and a few Tynwald Members were invited to attend a meeting with the local Council, which Bill Shimmins, MHK had organised, but I declined the offer.
Instead I took the opportunity to work from the hotel for the first of couple of hours before taking a taxi to the airport at 11.15am.
The direct flight from Edinburgh to the Isle of Man was on time and I managed to get home for around 14.30.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at home catching up with a few things, including a large amount of emails.
I still have a lot of things to catch up with over the weekend.