Thursday, 29 January 2009

Votes Won and Votes Lost - But Are We Any Better Off?

Today's news agenda has been about parliamentary votes won and lost.

In the Scottish Parliament the SNP administration lost its vote on the Scottish Executive budget for the forthcoming year, on the casting vote of the Presiding Officer, despite controversial Conservative Party support.

At Westminster the Labour government won a vote to authorise a third runway at Heathrow Airport, along with a sixth terminal, by just 19 votes thanks to their whips - who cojoled every vote they could through the lobbies, including the unfit and unwell.

I celebrate living in a democracy but question sometimes whether the democracy I live in is actually serving the people of Scotland and the United kingdom in the way it should.

Surely it is Scotland's best interest to pass a budget that includes measures to regenerate Scotland's High Streets, to boost public expenditure at a time of economic woe and to insulate Scotland's homes to benefit our environment and reduce the cost of heating over the long term.

And across the UK we should question whether a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow is actually in the national interest. I believe Mayor Boris Johnson is right to encourage London to think out of the box about a new location for our major international air hub rather than expansion of Heathrow given its urban location. Look at Hong Kong where they moved their airport from the middle of their population, (you used to land in the middle of the skyscrapers), to a new rural location where planes take off and land without disruption to its population and to a location where there is enough spare land to create additional capacity in the future should this be required. This is the sort of blue print the UK needs to adopt, in addition to high speed railways connecting this international air hub to the rest of the UK.

So I feel that today our politicians let us down and our democracy is poorer as a result. My only consolation is that the Conservative Party was on the right side of the arguments today and long may that continue!

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