BAD BILLS AT HOLYROOD? – AND AT WESTMINSTER
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.