The Bankruptcy and Diligence (Scotland) Bill, known for acronymic reasons as the BAD Bill, then as Naughty William and finally as Wicked Willie, completed its passage in the Scottish Parliament on St Andrew’s Day (30 November) 2006.  The Bill sets the debt threshold for the commencement of bankruptcy at £3,000 (rather than the originally proposed £1500), and reduces the period of bankruptcy from three years to one. 


Other possibly not so good Bills have also recently passed under the approving scrutiny of MSPs: one the Christmas Day and New Year’s Day Trading (Scotland) Bill, approved in principle by 99-4 on 22 November, under which large retail stores must close on the two days in question; the other the St Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Bill, passed on 29 November, under which employers may make the national saint’s day a holiday.  Scottish Ministers’ opposition to a compulsory St Andrew’s Day holiday led to the compromise optional holiday in the finally passed Bill.  It is thought that opposition from the same source (as well as from business) may mean that the compulsory New Year’s Day store closure will also not survive in what remains of that Bill’s parliamentary progress. 


Westminster’s St Andrew’s Day contribution to our legislators’ reputation for sagacity and sense was reported on the Berwickshire Today website: a Private Member’s Bill by Andrew Mackinlay, Labour MP for Thurrock in Essex, proposing a £1.50 toll for motorists crossing the Anglo-Scottish border in a southerly (but not a northerly) direction.  According to the website, Mackinlay’s Bill is in protest at experimental road-charging being introduced in his constituency.  The best of the many criticisms quoted by Berwickshire Today is that of Alan Beith, LibDem MP for Berwick, himself a notable contributor to cross-border difficulties this year (see No 594):  It would be a bit cheeky to ask the Scots, who have done so much to upgrade the A1, to pay a toll to travel on a vastly inferior road south of the border.


On 2 November 2006 the Scottish Commissioner for Human Rights Bill completed its rather shoogly parliamentary progress at Holyrood.  The end result is a Human Rights Commission rather than a Commissioner, with a five-person commission (members being either full or part-time) rather than a Commissioner.  The Bill was controversial from the start, with Lord McCluskey amongst its most prominent critics (see previously No 78 for his views on human rights).  While the overt worry was about cost, the real anxiety amongst MSPs was probably the prospective power of the Commissioner to tell public bodies what they had to do to comply with Convention rights.  It will be interesting to see which public-spirited individuals put themselves up as prospective members of the Commission, given the troubled background to its foundation.