Thursday 28 November 2002

A day out

I visited the Scottish Parliament for the first time this afternoon. On arrival, I noticed that all of the members' seats were occupied by a group of schoolchildren and I commented to the security guy that the MSPs were getting younger. He replied that it was because of "all the pills they had been taking"! He also agreed that the schoolchildren were probably more sensible than the politicians. Sadly, the children moved to the visitors' gallery and the "real" legislators arrived.

First Minister's question time was fun. Jack McConnell looked smaller than I had imagined and seemed nervous when challenged about the NHS. The Presiding Officer (speaker), Sir David Steel, told the Scottish Nationalists that they were making too much noise when McConnell was speaking but I heard them afterwards saying that Labour do the same when the SNP have the floor.

The Scottish Parliament has a semi-circular seating arrangement rather than the supposedly more confrontational Westminster face-to-face layout. The inter-party shouting and rivalry seemed just the same to me. I shall have to visit the tax-consumers more often.