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So what? So this . . .

Brian Taylor | 15:20 UK time, Thursday, 1 July 2010

Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about time.

From his special theory of relativity, many deduce that forward time travel is theoretically possible.

Myself, I cherish his observation that "the only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."

Holyrood seems determined to prove him wrong.

Two significant Bills entered final stage consideration this week.

After that, they are ready to enter the criminal and civil law of Scotland. Which, I hope you might agree, matters.

Yet yesterday we had speeches on key amendments reduced to one minute each as the Presiding Officer tried to get through stage three consideration of the Criminal Justice Bill in the allotted single day.

Likely defeat

Today was worse. Umpteen amendments to the Crofting Bill were read out rapid fire as time pressed. Inevitably, there was a slip-up.

On an Opposition amendment, Roseanna Cunningham lodged an objection by saying: "No."

This would have prompted a formal division and the likely defeat of said amendment.

Trish Godman in the chair didn't hear her, declared the amendment carried and moved to the next item.

Uproar. The clerk - and several MSPs - insisted they had heard the minister lodge her objection.

The deputy presiding officer noted that, in accordance with standing orders, it was what she heard that counted. And she had heard nothing.

As the commotion grew, Bruce Crawford, the wise and sensible minister for parliamentary business, urged suspension in order to sort the issue.

Eventually, he got his way.

Proceedings resumed after five minutes - and moved to next business without any reference to the row nor any attempt to explain to the bemused public.

New register

I understand the controversy was resolved as follows. The contentious Labour amendment (number 93, if you're still following this) was designed to insist upon a further affirmative resolution before part two of the Bill takes effect.

Part Two deals with a proposed new register for crofting. Labour dislikes the plan and, in effect, was seeking to thwart it or, at least, facilitate second thoughts.

My belief is that Mr Crawford secured agreement from others that they would permit the new register to go ahead, on affirmation.

Job done, row over.

So what, I hear you asking? So this. You may not regard the crofting legislation as core to your everyday concerns.

But it is critically important to the economy of parts of our nation.

Is it right that time for final decisions on this legislation is so truncated that the amendments have to be read out at the speed of a bingo caller?

Granting leeway

Ditto the Criminal Justice Bill and its amendments. Not much at stake here. Just penal policy, the rules on jury trial, the detention of children, the retention of DNA and action on knife crime.

More on timing. Once again today so much leeway was granted to - or taken by - the front benches to ask questions of the first minister that there was virtually no opportunity for back benchers to get a word in.

Annabel Goldie essayed an oblique reference to the magnificent "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" (so long and thanks for all the fish) when she suggested the FM had underplayed the row over The Gathering.

She implied that he had been dismissive of those contractors left out of pocket, including hospitality suppliers, and had, in effect, told them: "So long and thanks for the canapés."

Perhaps our MSPs are seeking to live in accordance with another line from the late, great Douglas Adams when he opined: "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."


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