18 January 2009

Seriously, where is she?

Following on from my last post, when I noticed that Elaine Smith hasn't voted in Parliament since 8 October, the plot thickens: the most recent sign of activity that I can find from the MSP for Coatbridge & Chryston is this press release dated 29 October on her website.

Which begs the question: what in blazes did children at Carnbroe Primary School do to her? Is their P7 class particularly feral, or is there something else occurring?

Of course, it's going to turn out that it's health-related, and I'm going to feel incredibly guilty (as well as embarrassed for not knowing), but the fact remains that the people of Coatbridge & Chryston have, in effect, been without a Constituency MSP for two and a half months.

Now, according to Section 9 of the Scotland Act, when a vacancy comes to the attention of the Presiding Officer (i.e. when a Constituency MSP resigns, dies or is disqualified), there's a three-month time limit on holding a By-Election to fill it, unless a full Election is due within three months of that deadline.

Of course, the PO has not been notified of any official vacancy, but a de facto one now seems to be in effect, and it can't be filled until either Elaine Smith returns from wherever she is, or officially resigns. And then it could take up to three months for her to be replaced!

This is a massive flaw in the system: whatever the reason, she is not discharging her duties effectively. Even those MSPs on maternity leave this session (Angela Constance, Karen Gillon and Shirley-Anne Somerville) have found their way to the Parliament at crucial moments. But Elaine Smith has not. She is not in a position to do her job, and in any other walk of life, some sort of cover (or even a full-time replacement) would be arranged.

But the people of Coatbridge & Chryston have to wait until 2011 to replace her. Maybe it's time that we started thinking about some sort of provision for a recall vote, or a method of Parliament triggering a By-Election.

This isn't a campaign against Elaine Smith in particular: this could be any MSP for any Constituency, in any Party. But she's the first one to just vanish like this since the Election, and the fact remains that it shouldn't be any MSP at all, for any Constituency whatsoever, in any of the parties in Parliament. It shouldn't be happening and it's time that rules were looked at, for the sake of the people of Coatbridge & Chryston, and for the next constituents (wherever they are) who find themselves suddenly deprived of their representative and with no prospect of a replacement.

But in the absence of any likely change to the law, I'll settle just to know where she is and how she's doing.


Caron said...

I have a lot of time for Elaine Smith, as I fully supported her work on the Breastfeeding Bill a few years back.

I kind of think that if she is not there, then there has to be a good reason. I wouldn't doubt her dedication.

I understand what you're saying, though.

margo channing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ted Harvey said...

Caron I'm sure Elaine's an awfully nice person, but yet another drearily familiar C.V. - West of Scotland long time party member who worked in Local Government and the voluntary sector, and T&G and General Teaching Council member - is not something that immediately enthuses me.

I’m baffled by the whole affair and well done Will for spotting it (of course if it turns out to be health-related I will immediately post a ‘disgusted from’ rebuke to you)… and hands up, I’m equally baffled by Margo’s posting. Given Elaine’s CV I’m prepared to buy the Cuba line – but am I humour challenged because it’s just that Margo’s at the wind-up?

There again I see I’m being unfair to Elaine, back in 2006 under ‘Time up for New Labour’ she proclaimed:

“Gordon Brown, one of the original architects of the project, is sounding more New Labour by the day and only recently was boasting that he had promoted PFI and definitely would not be rescinding it. How the trade unions could possibly support a candidate for leadership who takes such an evangelical position to the marketisation of public services is a mystery; of course it’s possible that they won’t unless he backtracks.”

Well they did support him, and rather than backtracking, he is now going forward witlessly into his second heroic rescue of the UK banks… sorry about my misspelling of ‘heroic’, it should of course have been d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r-o-u-s.

On the constituional points, don't we keep finding out that politicians have a strangely self-serving ability to leave 'gaps' and weaknesses in these arrangements. Earlier examples were with Henry McLeish (I take it he did eventually repay what he was supposed to repay?), Jack McConnel and of course Mick Watson - another long-serving Labour Party member character that I understand now resides in the Lords having drawn a (burnt) curtain on his earlier disgraced career.

Holyrood Patter said...

S3M-02695 Elaine Smith (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Scottish Labour): Plight of Wives of Miami Five— That the Parliament welcomes the visit by Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez, the wives of two Cuban nationals, René González and Gerardo Hernández, who are here as part of a UK-wide trip to highlight their own and their husbands’ plight; recognises that their husbands, members of a group of men known as the Miami Five, are currently serving long prison sentences in the United States of America since being arrested while trying to gather information on Miami-based groups allegedly responsible for terrorist attacks against the Cuban people; is concerned that the wives have been denied US visas, meaning that they cannot visit their husbands and have not seen them for over eight years; agrees with Amnesty International that this action is “contrary to standards for humane treatment of prisoners and to states’ obligations to protect family life”; further considers that it is inhumane, unjust and cruel, and believes that the US authorities should grant visas to enable the women to visit their husbands.

Lodged on Thursday, October 09, 2008; Current

Holyrood Patter said...

In other news, on her website, her pledge is:

* To be a devoted full-time MSP with a staffed, accessible office.
* To work closely with the Westminster MP, local councillors, and community organisations to ensure her constituents the best possible representation.
* To continue to campaign to ensure that the issue of poverty, particularly child poverty, and all resultant inequalities such as those in the areas of health, social justice, housing and employment remain central to the work of the Scottish Parliament.
* To work towards an inclusive Scottish society where equal opportunities are fundamental.
* To represent the best interests of my constituent’s at a national level and to promote and support opportunities for growth and regeneration within Coatbridge and Chryston.

AyeWeCan said...

Obama is Scottish - here's the proof

Jeff said...

What happened to the claim she is in Cuba?

Factually incorrect or something more sinister?

This comrade demands to know!

Ted Harvey said...

Hello?... is she back at the desk yet?