I will not be blogging about the draft independence referendum bill because it will be addressed in my Sunday Times column this week. I don't know what the excuse was from Scotland's opposition parties though. Did they really have nothing to say on the matter, or is The Fear setting in?
Iain Gray chose to lead on knife crime in Scotland, which we all know has been much higher than the UK average since, well, Ramsay Macdonald was Prime Minister. Labour is pushing for an amendment to introduce mandatory six month sentences for simply carrying a knife - something they failed to do when in government themselves. Now I don't have a problem with parliaments laying down mandatory sentences in response to public concern. We do elect them after all. And I would agree that the statistics in Scotland for homocide, knife crime and violence are unacceptable. But so is the number of people we send to jail at present - also one of the highest in Europe.
How many more jails does Iain Gray want the government to built to accomodate all the tooled up teenagers who will be caught in this judicial net? How does he plan to pay for the construction and staffing of all these prisons and the maintenance of a bugeoning population of inmates?
A cheaper and easier solution to violence has already been endorsed by doctors and police officers. It's the plan to deal with alcohol abuse, which is associatiated with so much crime. Labour has paradoxically refused to support this. I am not just talking about minumum pricing. That will help a bit. But the original proposals to ban all under 21s from off sales and create separate tills for purchasing drink in supermarkets would have made a huge difference. These have been dropped because of the irresponsibility of opposition politicans and their determination to put party interests before those of the country as a whole.
I acknowledge that many victims of knife crime would support Gray's proposal. But if he really had their wellbeing in mind - as opposed to their votes - he'd have done the statesman-like thing and supported the measures on alcohol - just as the SNP did with the smoking ban when they were in opposition.