Christine Grahame on new FM: “To me these are not good decisions but we shall see”

Friday March 31st 2023

Christine Grahame MSP in Parliament Main

Christine Grahame MSP writes her monthly column for Midlothian View

Well what a week it has been with the election on a new SNP leader and then First Minister.

I supported Kate Forbes who narrowly lost to Humza Yousaf and I have of course sent him my congratulations.

Kate was a worthy opponent but being offered Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, though an important post, was certainly a demotion from her position as Finance Secretary. I don’t think that was a good first move on his part as she now sits on the back benches along with MSP Ivan McKie, who supported her candidacy, an excellent Minster for Business and well regarded by them.

He also effectively sacked from his cabinet position Keith Brown who is the elected Deputy Leader of the SNP. Indeed, Keith Brown received at the time of his election a higher percentage of members’ votes than Humza Yousef did in this recent election to be party leader.

To me these are not good decisions but we shall see.

What is the adage about keeping your friends close (Shona Robison now Deputy FM, friend of Humza and also resident of Dundee) and your enemies closer?

But there you go. I have reserved judgement on other appointments as some have a very steep learning curve. As for me I remain where I have long been, on the back benches, frequently ploughing my own furrow and enjoying my independence. I have never wanted to be a minister and am quite sure I would have been dreadful. Besides it allows for far more time for the constituency.

After the election, the first session for the new First Minister this Thursday was disrupted 5 times by demonstrators in the public gallery with coordinated interruptions. Each time the session was suspended and of course they put some folk in the public gallery into a state of alarm. The upshot is that mobile phones (they phone themselves and share on social media) will be banned in the public gallery and other measures are being brought in such as exclusion for disrupting business from Parliament for a period of 6 months.

It’s a shame this has had to happen really but there’s a place and a time for everything as my late mum used to say and preventing the government being held to account is not the time or place. It also meant that many backbenchers, including myself, who were trying to ask a question couldn’t because so much time had been lost.

Mind you I had a wry smile when one demonstrator as she was being ushered out proclaimed “I am almost finished” as if she should then be allowed to resume her seat!

The same busy afternoon I was sponsoring SSPCA and the Kennel Club with a drop-in to demonstrate to MSPs the nastiness of electronic shock collars which some use to “train” their dogs and even cats. With a remote control they sent a shock to the animal and frankly they should be banned.

Back to the disruptions. I stress I am a defender of the right to demonstrate but it is not absolute, it must be tempered with the right of others to exercise their democratic rights. Preventing the First Minster answering for his government’s actions just to get footage on social media is doing no favours to democracy.

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