In my post yesterday, about the two phase approach being taken to crofting law reform by the Scottish Government, I made reference to the rush over the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.
I thought it would be worthwhile to remind readers about that rush which in effect took place at Stage 3 of the Bill going through the Scottish Parliament. In that final stage of parliamentary procedure there were around 230 amendments dealt with in around three hours.
At the commencement of the debate the Presiding Officer stated:-
The first division will be a 30-second division, following a five-minute suspension. Thereafter, there will be a voting period of one minute for the first division after a debate and the voting period for all other divisions will be 30 seconds. We are incredibly tight for time, so, to begin with, I ask no speaker to speak for more than one minute.
It is little wonder that we are having to revisit crofting legislation given the potential lack of scrutiny that these 230 last minute amendments might have received in the very limited amount of time allowed to debate them.
Furthermore the rush to get these amendments through saw an opposition amendment being passed without the objections thereto being noted! The chaos surrounding this in the debating chamber at Holyrood was well documented at the time by Scott Wortley on the Edinburgh University Scots Law News Blog: The Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill and the curious incident of the unopposed opposition amendment.
Back in November 2016 when Fergus Ewing MSP met with the Cross-Party Group on Crofting at Holyrood he stressed the importance of taking time to get crofting reform right. The two phased approach recently announced by him reinforces that.
Let’s hope that we do not see a repeat of the 2010 fiasco when the next crofting reform bill reaches stage 3 debate at the Scottish Parliament. It looks as though Mr Ewing, as Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, will be doing his very best to avoid that.