28 December 2007

The Politicians' Syllogism

"Hacker's intention to make this announcement even when he was well aware of the risk involved was a result of what is known to the logicians in the Civil Service as the Politicians' Syllogism:

"Step One: We must do something.
"Step Two: This is something
"Step Three: Therefore we must do this.

(Source: Lynn, J. and Jay, A. in Yes, Prime Minister: The Diaries of the Right Hon. James Hacker, Volume II, BBC Books, 1987, London.)

Tavish Scott is criticising the SNP Government for a lack of action, on the grounds that very little legislation has been passed since May. Indeed, LibDem and Labour supporters of devolution have always pointed to the number of laws passed by the Scottish Parliament as an example of its sucess. Scott has clearly forgotten, or perhaps never learned, that the quality of legislation ought to be a stronger factor in determining success than the quantity.

And had there been less consultation and more legislation, then you can bet your house that Scott would have been the first to cry foul, accusing the SNP of ignoring the views of ordinary Scots and riding roughshod over democracy. Plus which, while very little legislation has been brought to the Parliamentary table, any proposals are at the mercy of a potentially hostile Parliamentary chamber - the Government only has 47 MSPs to the Opposition's 81, remember - so care has to be taken in the drafting to make sure that supporters will come. And there's been the spending review to think about, and following that, the Budget. Once that's out of the way, we may see more Bills coming to the Chamber.

Oh, and Tavish Scott forgets that Members can propose Bills as well. If he's intent on seeing legislation brought forward, why doesn't he take the initiative?

In any case, action is not limited to legislation. Alex Salmond's first act as FM was to re-organise Ministerial departments. Nicola Sturgeon's first act as Health Secretary was to reverse the closure of key A&E departments at Monklands and Ayr. Both of those were done without legislation being passed.

Oh, and here's a thought: if Tavish Scott wants there to be far more legislation, will he vote in favour of every Government Bill to make sure that it happens? He can't vote against laws and then complain when they aren't passed, after all.


Reactionary Snob said...

Great post, as ever.


Neil Craig said...

Dead on. Passing ever more laws is not a sign of good government merely of more government. Tavish would know this if he was a genuine liberal.