Made in Scotland, a better kind of politics?

The day has certainly demystified some of the Parliament’s workings and put a human face on the institution.

Ben Stollery is the latest person to take part in our Opening Doors scheme. Here he describes how his day shadowing Malcolm Chisholm MSP gave him an insight into the workings of the parliamentary committees –  and more confidence to get involved in politics. That’s politics with a small ‘p’…now over to Ben.

it was interesting seeing this process of calling the Executive to account in action

After meeting Malcolm at the parliament I accompanied him to a sitting of the Equal Opportunities Committee, of which he is a member. It was the day that the Minister for Housing & Communities, Alex Neil, was to appear before the committee. He received some probing questions about his department’s proposals and it was very interesting to see a process live that I’d only ever glimpsed on TV before. The knowledge and concern of the members was evident and it was interesting seeing this process of calling the Executive to account in action.

Malcolm explained to me later that the fact that proposed legislation went first to the relevant committee – before going for debate on the floor of the parliament – was a distinguishing, and appealing, factor of the Scottish system over the one at Westminster.

At lunchtime I accompanied Malcolm to the opening of some new housing association flats in Leith. Malcolm gave a short speech and we were shown around the new accommodation. I enjoyed meeting the other guests, including a Community Councillor, and gained some insight into Housing Association’s experience of the downturn in the construction industry.

In the afternoon was the Subordinate Legislation committee (the remit of which is not easy to explain but I think it deals with the small print that allows the Scottish government to function and negotiates the boundaries of what the parliament can legislate on). A bit dryer subject than that of the morning’s committee but interesting nonetheless. I was reassured when even a top QC who was giving evidence at the meeting said that, to be honest, he didn’t understand the question the MSP had asked and could he repeat it!

The day has certainly demystified some of the Parliament’s workings and put a human face on the institution. As I’m wishing to engage more with current affairs and politics (with a small p’) I am now more confident, as a result of my visit, in engaging with the Parliament and my representatives there in the future. Thanks again to Malcolm and Fay at Leith Open Space for the opportunity.

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