Gazette columnist Alasdair Allan writes his final column before the elections in May.
The last few weeks in the Scottish Parliament have been hectic, as MSPs have sought to finalise numerous bills before breaking up for the election.
Some have inevitably been more high-profile than others. However, I want to draw attention to one piece of legislation which probably hasn’t had the attention it deserved and that is the Bill to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots Law.
This landmark bill delivers a fundamental shift in the way children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled in Scotland and is, arguably, one of the most significant pieces of legislation since devolution.
From now on, all decisions made by government and agencies in Scotland – be that Government, council or any other public body – must be made with the needs and interests of children as a primary consideration.
Children now have protected rights to help fulfil their potential through health, education, leisure and play, as well as a right to fair and equal treatment, a protection from exploitation and the right for their voice to be heard.
This makes Scotland the first devolved nation in the world, and the first country in the UK, to make this significant change and it reaffirms our commitment to making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up as a child.
On a different issue and a different bill, I was also delighted to support my colleague Emma Harper’s Bill seeking to tackle incidents of dog attacks on livestock. This is a topic of particular concern in the islands, given our crofting communities and the fact we have had one of the highest rates of reported attacks on livestock in the country.
Over the last few weeks in the chamber, I have been raising issues which have been as varied as the Crofting Commission, and how the Police intend to manage the return to looser restrictions across the country. I have also been highlighting the damage Brexit has done to Scottish exports, as well as asking for more clarity on what travel restrictions the islands could now be subject to and in the future.
With Parliament set to break up for pre-election recess, this will be my last Gazette column before the upcoming election.
It has been an eventful five years. I certainly yearn for the days where I thought an oil rig washing up on the west side of Lewis would be the most extraordinary thing to happen.
The last year has been taxing on us all and I would like to use my final remarks to pay tribute to the amazing work our local health and social care workers have been doing. Having two thirds of adults in the Western Isles vaccinated is truly an amazing feat, and this gives us the hope we need that better times are on the way.
In this Parliamentary term my constituency office and I have assisted more than 3,000 constituents on a variety of issues. From Thursday 25 March, the rules will not generally allow me to take on new casework. However, my office and I will still be able to help constituents who require urgent assistance and we can continue to be contacted via email at: [email protected] or via telephone on: 01851 700357.