Wednesday 18 July 2012

Petty in pink

Petty in pink
Mighty has been the Twitterage over the last twenty-four hours on the subject of the Scottish Government's efforts to bring our marriage laws into the age of enlightenment. Mighty and, for the most part, angry. All because there was a "delay" in announcing the results of the cabinet's deliberations. Not really a delay, of course. Because the eagerly anticipated announcement was promised by the end of July. But it seems that some people simply can't wait a few days for what, if the Scottish Government do as expected, will be a historic moment for Scotland as another anachronistic social division is swept away.

There was the entirely predictable, and patently contrived anger of the SNP's opponents. The Labour/Tory/LibDem coalition approach to any issue is first and foremost to find some way of turning into a stick with which to beat Alex Salmond. They will perform the most amazing contortions of logic and semantics in the process and are not above simply lying when this suits their purposes. The issue itself, whether it be employment, the economy or equal marriage, is always subordinate to political point-scoring - even when, as with equal marriage rights, there is almost complete agreement with the SNP. The consequence of this is that less and less attention is paid to the rantings of the old parties and their tame hacks in the Scottish media.

Rather more irksome, to this writer at least, was the foolishly petulant response of many avowed SNP supporters. Foolish because those venting their excess of righteous indignation tended to leap immediately to the very conclusions being peddled by the SNP's opponents. Namely, that this was at best a serious misstep by the party in terms of communication and, at worst, a "betrayal". It didn't seem to occur to them to pause in their rush to condemnation to reflect on how valid a judgement this might be.

When a political party has demonstrated such devastating effectiveness in campaigning and quiet competence in government does it not defy logic to make ineptitude and incompetence ones first assumptions when that party does something you don't much like?

When a party has fairly consistently, at least by the standards of British politics, delivered on its manifesto promises, is it reasonable to so readily accuse them of betrayal?

Some claim, or insinuate, that there are political reasons for the "delay". But there is no party political advantage for the SNP in needless postponement. That much is all too obvious. The measure has sufficient support among MSPs that it is almost certain to be passed. So it can't be that more time was needed to allow party managers to do their wheeling and dealing behind the scenes. The only possible political consideration that I can discern relates to the need for the Scottish Government to be consistent in its treatment of the public consultations on equal marriage and the independence referendum. But, again, this does not seem to present any obvious insurmountable problems so long as the equal marriage consultation reflects what polls have shown to be the general public's attitude on the issue.

Unfortunately, it hardly matters how self-evidently right and just a measure is, or how much it is welcomed by the people of Scotland. If it impinges on areas of social policy that the religionists have scent-marked as their domain then such measures will always be politically problematic so long as said religionists enjoy unwarranted status and unearned privilege in our society.

People need to calm down and get themselves a bit of perspective. And, perhaps, reflect for a moment on what has actually happened here. The issue of marriage law reform has been referred to a sub-committee under Nicola Sturgeon. This suggests that, rather than being a matter of political expediency, there may be some point of law which must be resolved before the legislation is brought before parliament. Surely it is proper that ensuring the legislation is solid should be the priority. Surely it is worth taking a few extra days to get it right. Especially when one considers the forces that will be brought to bear in an effort to challenge the legislation.

And, after all, it's not as if a few days more means all those gay couples are missing out on a sun-soaked summer wedding.
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  1. Peter, one of the possible reasons for the delay is that religious organisations may fall foul of the Equalities act if they refuse to perform a same-sex religious marriage.

    I saw this point raised by jimmyarab on the Wings over Scotland blog and there is a report on the BBC which seems to confirm it.

    The Scottish Government are delaying the bill until they can get a guarantee that religious organisations can opt out.

    1. The issue of the Equalities Act is being presented by the media as if it was some major new revelation. But it was covered in the consultation paper. So it seems unlikely that this would be an issue now. Unless the UK government is dragging its feet on the necessary amendments.

      I get a bit impatient with these people who are castigating the Scottish government for being cautious. They would be the first to raise the roof if the legislation was passed only for it to become the subject of a legal challenge.

  2. Wow! If they gave out awards for political toadying then that article would get a gold star!

    Just a question for you to consider, is there anything, ever, that Alex Salmond could do that you wouldn't back 100%?

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

    1. I am still looking for the substantive argument in your comment. Maybe you could give us a pointer.

  3. Peter, thanks for the calm and insightful analysis. An antedote to the hype and tripe of the MSM.

  4. Nice article, thanks for the information.