In a break from the usual routine, my Parliamentary work took me to Skye recently. While the visit brought back great memories of my days there as a student learning Gaelic at the Gaelic College Sabhal Mor Ostaig, this time the journey was in my capacity as convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee.
We are currently scrutinising the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) Bill and considering the implications of how the law might work if it is passed. The Bill proposes to stop parents relying on the defence of “reasonable chastisement” if they physically punish their child.
This stage in the Parliamentary process is an opportunity for the Committee, which is made up of MSPs representing all Scotland’s political parties, to hear from stakeholders, get their recommendations about the Bill and to come to a collective view on whether or not to support the Bill becoming a law.
The visit to Skye allowed us to informally meet a range of groups on the island including children and young people at schools in Portree, young carers and parents. Then we held a formal evidence gathering session and heard from representatives of different faiths and belief systems.
The physical discipline of children is an emotive topic and that was certainly reflected in the evidence we heard – from strong supporters of the proposal to robust and impassioned arguments from people who spoke in opposition. We’ll be taking points of view into account before we report back to the full Parliament on the next steps.
This visit was just one of a number of different sessions the Committee has held, and will hold, and it was important for us to make a point of holding a meeting away from our usual Edinburgh base. The Scottish Parliament has a strong ethos of being as open and inclusive as possible and it’s a matter of principle that parliament committees should meet outside Edinburgh from time to time to allow interested members of the public to attend meetings and become involved in the parliamentary process.
Open to the public 6 days a week, the Parliament encourages visitors both to the public spaces in the iconic Parliament building at the foot of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and to witness parliamentary debates and committee work. If you haven’t been, it is well worth a visit. My office can help with tickets if you give us a ring on 01294 276730.