Thursday, 21 March 2013

Beware of the Leopard

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy might have this to say about the Scottish Government’s consultation on Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill:

The Scottish Government will claim the Scottish people have had ample time to read the draft bill and sixteen (count them) annexes. This will have been of no use to the millions of Scots who were never informed there even was a consultation.

The Scottish Government will claim the draft bill was freely available and could be printed out. This will have been worthless to the 29% of Scots (Digital Participation in Scotland: A Review of the Evidence) who do not have personal Internet use. That is almost one third of adults in Scotland who have been disenfranchised from taking part in the debate on Marriage and Civil Partnership.

The percentage goes up dramatically when you look at lack of Internet access for the elderly and the poorest in Scotland: 52% and 42% respectively.

Over the last month I’ve helped almost two dozen people respond to the consultation on Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. These were a wide range of people, some professional working people, others unemployed; many are intelligent but a few had learning difficulties and one had aspergers syndrome making it hard for that individual to concentrate. They were a wide age range as well: from early twenties to seventies. Every single person struggled as I had to understand the complexities behind each of the eighteen questions posed.

The few people who actually had access to a computer and the free week to read through the bill, the annexes, the associated research and other materials and who did not commit suicide during that process may have shared some of the conclusions my friends shared with me and want to ask these questions:
  • Why is the Scottish Government discriminating against the elderly?
  • Why is the Scottish Government discriminating against those with learning disabilities?
  • Why is the Scottish Government discriminating against the poor?
I sat with a young man who has aspergers as he tried to respond to the consultation. I believe his views on the consultation are as valid as those of any MSP; any journalist; any activist from Stonewall. He is intelligent, able to form reasoned arguments and has an opinion. Yet he found the consultation questions and statements to be deliberately and frustratingly confusing.

Not having aspergers myself I found myself no more able to understand the reasoning or so called justification the Scottish Government are using to propose this bill.

Several of my friends are retired. Together we helped one woman who has never used a computer in her life to respond to some of the questions. Without our help she would not even have been able to open the link to begin her response.

The Government bill aims to redefine a core aspect of society; will impact every single person in Scotland and will place hundreds of thousands of people in direct conflict with the Government.

So why is the Government not holding a referendum? Why is it that every single person in Scotland is not being given the opportunity to vote on whether this bill should be made law?

Is it because the Scottish Government knows (as the UK Government also knows) that the vast majority of people are opposed to redefining the meaning of marriage?

I would love to end with a snappy one-liner, perhaps be thankful the Scottish Government did not paste their draft bill to the underside of a filing cabinet, in a disused lavatory, with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard,’ but Douglas Adams said it first.

No comments:

Post a Comment