Scottish vs. Canadian decorum
A couple of months ago, researching this story, I visited the Scottish Parliament. It's a fascinating and beautiful piece of architecture, consciously designed in part to address the flaws and anachronisms of the Westminster style of Parliament. It's filled with glass (to emphasize transparency), for instance, and the seating in the chamber is arranged in a semi-circle, as opposed to the confrontational, facing sides of our Commons. The entire chamber of the Parliament is set on top of the public entranceway to the building, to show that power flows upward from the citizenry.
When I sat down in the press gallery seats of the Scottish Parliament, I immediately looked for the earpiece, similar to what we have here, so I could hear the proceedings. None was available; I found that odd. It turns out, though, that I didn't need it. Not only are the acoustics better in the Scottish chamber, but there's no need to strain to hear over the chatter and shouting noise we hear in the Canadian Commons.
Yesterday, Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, paid a call on our Parliament (I'll have a story about that visit in the days to come.) We had lunch in the parliamentary restaurant before she went to watch Question Period. I told her at lunch I'd be curious to hear how she thought it compared to her own Parliament.
Later last night, at the St. Andrew's Day reception on the Hill, Hyslop offered her findings. First, she said, she found the questions and answers fine, in terms of substance. She thought that part was actually interesting, by and large. What struck her, though, was the number of people up on their feet, clapping and shouting in response to perceived points scored by the speakers. In the Scottish Parliament, she said, only one person can be standing at a time and this is strictly enforced. So it feels less like a sporting match and more like a conversation in the chamber.
It's a small thing, but could that be part of the decorum fix for our Commons? Michael Chong's proposals from the last Parliament, by the way, are not likely to see the light of day anytime soon. They are so far down the order paper, Chong said recently, that they are not going to end up on the Commons agenda for years, maybe never.