There’s a bit of a row brewing at the Scottish parliament over the publication of the Scottish Government’s long-awaited independence White Paper.
The document will be launched by First Minister Alex Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow next Tuesday at the Glasgow Science Centre.
Because this will be a substantial tome, setting out in great detail what the Scottish National Party says are the answers to all the questions about independence, there will be considerable interest.
The media conference in Glasgow to launch the document is expected to be packed with a large number of journalists not just from London but possibly even from Europe and the rest of the world.
Given that what the SNP proposes is extremely radical – taking Scotland out of the 300 year old union that has become the United Kingdom – such a level of interest is to be expected.
But in the eyes of the opposition parties at Holyrood there is a problem. They say that as the elected representatives of the Scottish people – and the legislature which has approved the referendum – they should be told first of the SNP plans.
There has been one heck of a row about this behind the scenes in the parliamentary Bureau, the body at Holyrood on which all the parties are represented and which decides the parliament’s business.
Opposition parties put it this way: imagine the boot was on the other foot and the SNP were in opposition and a Scottish government was proposing a substantial new policy.
What would the SNP be saying in that case? Well, say the opposition, the SNP would be saying that it was an outrage that the parliament was being sidelined and MSPs were not being told first about an important political development.
Who’s right? Well, it is true that when the SNP were in opposition – and they once were, remember – this was the kind of thing they would complain about.
On the other hand if this is such an important policy, which it is, the SNP government will argue that they will reach more members of the public by a high profile launch in Glasgow.
It does look like there will now be a statement to parliament on Tuesday afternoon but as things stand it will be Ms Sturgeon, not Mr Salmond who makes it, and a fuller debate on the following day.
What will the voters make of it all? Well, some will appreciate the need for parliamentary accountability. That’s not a trivial matter.
Others may well thing that they have enough to do to get their heads around the detail in the White Paper than worry too much about parliamentary protocols.
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