*This article first appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News on 29/05/18*
By Kezia Dugdale
I’m buying a flat at the moment. They say that after a death in the family, moving house is one of the most stressful experiences you can have and I’ll vouch for that.
I had such a strange experience last week though when my mortgage provider, after letting me do 90 per cent of the whole thing online, insisted that I send a fax to confirm the deal. Had I suddenly woken up in 1995 again? My assistant, who was actually born in 1995, took great pleasure in asking me what a fax was and how it worked. Kids these days.
Anyway, it turns out it wasn’t 1995 at all that day, but a reboot of 2014 and the whole independence referendum debate. The catalyst for this trip back to the future was the publication of the long awaited Growth Commission report from former MSP, RBS economist and now Director of the successful Edinburgh-based business Charlotte Street Partners.
It’s a 360-odd page tome of what was missing in 2014 – answers. Especially to the big economic questions like what currency an independent Scotland would use, who would set the interest rates and be the lender of last resort. It’s a serious, sober report which will deeply upset those radical independence types who believe a socialist utopia is possible through independence rather than a Labour government
But I can’t help getting a vibe of the Two Ronnies from the whole thing. Remember the Mastermind sketch where Ronnie Corbett answers the question before last? The questions facing Scotland’s future now are altogether different.
No, for me, a far more relevant document about Scotland’s future was published last week and that was the snappily named Review of Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act. I know – they don’t make it easy do they?
This matters because it’s a review of the law as it affects children. Their rights, their experience of the justice system as victims and witnesses and the protections that we offer them in wider society. All important stuff.
It will also start some serious and contentious debates about family and families which I know will be of great importance to many of the people who come to see me at my surgeries.
Not least the grandparents who desperately want to see their grandchildren, but have no access at all because of a poor relationship they have with their daughter in law. Should they have a right to see their grandkids? Or, perhaps more fittingly, should children have a right to see their granny and grandpa aside from all the dramas of their parents lives?
What about Edinburgh resident Nathan Sparling? He wants the law to change so that people over the age of 18 can be adopted by their parents ending an age old anomaly in the law. For him it’s about yes, inheritance rights, but something more fundamental than that too. The right to have that relationship with his parents formally recognised.
Or the Edinburgh school pupil who has set up an online petition to change the law so that parents who are convicted of domestic abuse offences no longer have an automatic right to see their children.
Each of these three issues are huge and they matter beyond belief to the people campaigning for them. Together though, the answers to these questions speak to the type of country we want to be and it’s got nothing to do with economics or stock markets. It’s about relationships and people. Questions which the Scottish Parliament can, and will, answer with the powers it has today.
But while the independence debate rumbles on, you could be forgiven for thinking that’s all your MSPs ever do or talk about.