September 6th, 2010

People’s Parliament?
The Scottish Parliament opened in 2004 with an ambition to be more accountable and accessible to the people it serves.

In order to bring forward Scottish solutions to Scottish problems, we believed that we had to be closer to the Scottish people we serve and better understand their lives.

People certainly know where the parliament is, with 2.5 million visitors in the last 10 years, more than 1300 petitions lodged and more than 10,000 telephone enquiries every year.

If success is measured in statistics, at has already went some way to meet that ambition but for me, Inverclyde has a walking, talking testament to that principle.

John Muir, grieving the senseless loss of his son to knife crime, walked into my parliamentary office in January 2008, determined to change the law to prevent other families going through what he did.

That set him off on a journey that put him at the centre of Scotland’s political debate.

Within a year, he was appearing before the Public Petitions Committee, representing the thousands who had signed up to his anti-knife crusade, and led an unprecedented summit in the chamber looking into the scourge of knife crime.

That started in motion a train of events that led to an amendment, based on the principles of Damian’s Law, going before MSPs and being cruelly defeated by just two votes.

Although unsuccessful for now, that campaign proved that any person, with the right issue and the backing of the community, could influence the political process through the Scottish Parliament.

Inverclyde, literally, came to the parliament that day, and, in one sense, the parliament makes the return journey this week.

This month, Greenock Central Library is hosting the Moving Stories Exhibition, which demonstrates the experiences of 10 people interacting with the Scottish Parliament.

I was able to speak at the launch of the event on Saturday and was joined by John, who is of course one of those featured in the exhibition.

In many ways, Holyrood can boast to be the people’s parliament. But it can only truly lay claim to that title if its politicians listen to the people they serve.

September 6th, 2010