It is a chance for MSPs to hold the head of the Scottish Government to account, raise important issues of the day, and highlight serious problems faced by individual citizens. It’s the event that people from all over the country come to see, like the school children who witnessed Humza Yousaf experience his inaugural grilling.
However, the proceedings were repeatedly interrupted by climate change protesters with the session suspended on no less than five occasions. The public gallery was eventually cleared although thankfully the school children, some of whom had travelled from Gourock, were allowed to return. Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “This shower have been doing this week after week, and the image of genuine constituents being forced out of our parliament is one we will all regret and one none of us want to see repeated.”
Perhaps a one-off protest is to be expected, but to repeatedly interrupt proceedings is anti-democratic, counterproductive to efforts to tackle climate change, and extremely tedious. The only thing the demonstrators can possibly hope to achieve is to force Holyrood – a parliament designed with openness in mind – to close the public gallery, although they will have probably also annoyed the very people they are trying to persuade to do more. The fact that this keeps happening means the public will stop paying any attention to such protests as they are no longer shocking or remarkable, but simply a fact of ordinary life.
Politicians are moving too slowly on cutting emissions, but there are better, more democratic ways to make them take the issue more seriously.