David Steel on 'lessons learned' from devolution
The Scottish Parliament should have responsibility for raising revenue, the post of Secretary of State for Scotland should be abolished, the current election system was a mistake, and it is not true that the cost of the parliament's new building has risen 10 times.
These are among key points made by David Steel, who was the restored Parliament's first Presiding Officer, in this year's National Library of Scotland Donald Dewar Lecture, given to a packed theatre at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 18 August.
In 'Lessons learned from the first four years', Lord Steel of Aikwood cited Parliament's significant achievements since devolution began in 1999 as being 'the bringing of the whole process of governance closer to the people' and major reforms in areas such as mental health and land tenure. Looking to the future, however, and with his thinking based on Donald Dewar's assertion that devolution 'is a process, not an event', he made 'constructive criticisms' on five key topics:
- the funding of the Parliament: '... the freedom to develop different policies is limited so long as the purse strings are wholly controlled from London.'
- the Parliament's 'regional list' system: 'I now think the system was a mistake ...[it ] creates an unacceptable democratic defict'.
- a 'revising' mechanism for legislation: '... the total absence of any check could present problems.
- the new building: 'The ... white paper on devolution suggested a parliament could be build for £40 million. But that was not this building.'
Lord Steel and the late Donald Dewar, friends since student days, worked closely together as Presiding Officer and First Minister respectively of the Scottish Parliament - which, the former Libaral Party Leader assured his audience, 'will go from strength to strength'.
The annual National Library of Scotland Donald Dewar Lecture was initiated last year as a way of marking the politician's overall contribution to devolution and his long interest in the world of books.
19 August 2003
Sponsoring at the book festival
Two of the events in this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival have been sponsored by the National Library of Scotland. The first of them, on Monday 19 August, has already sold out. The main theatre will be full when Lord Steel talks about the history, performance and behaviour of the Scottish Parliament. David Steel is well placed to discuss the first four years of devolution, having only recently stepped down as the parliament's presiding officer, a post he had held since 1999.
Our other event is a discussion about 'Edinburgh and the Enlightenment' with James Buchan, grandson of John Buchan and an award-winning novelist in his own right. During the Age of the Enlightenment, Edinburgh enjoyed a reputation as the intellectual centre of the Western world, the source of new ideas on culture and in philosophy and science. James Buchan will talk about his new book on the subject, Capital of the Mind, at the festival at 3pm on Tuesday 19. Tickets are priced £7 or £5 (concession); to book by phone, call the box office at: 0131 624 5050. Check on ticket availability at: www.edbookfest.co.uk
6 August 2003
Scotland illustrated: mapping and picturing the nation 1680-1720
Four of the principal figures who have provided us with a permanent record of Scotland from the 1680s to the 1720s are to be discussed at a Scottish Maps Forum seminar in Dundee. Organised by the National Library of Scotland, the seminar on Saturday 4 October will explore the work (and personalities) of John Adair, Sir Robert Sibbald, John Slezer and Martin Martin, whose maps, illustrations or texts combine to produce a remarkable and comprehensive picture of Scotland at that time.
Open to anyone, the event runs from 10am to 4pm in Dundee University's Tower Building. Registration costs £15, including lunch. The booking form, which is part of the seminar leaflet available here in PDF format, should be returned by 19 September.
The Scottish Map Forum was initiated by the Library last year, as a means of encouraging the use and study of maps, and of spreading and recording information on maps, collections and ma-making, with a particular Scottish emphasis. Issue 3 of Cairt, the forum's twice-yearly newsletter, includes features on Victorian cartographers Alexander and Keith Johnston, and the 'Edinburgh and Leith Pilot', a new acquisition containing sea charts for the east coast coal trade in the 1840s. For further information on the forum or the seminar, contact the Map Library at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6 August 2003