Yesterday was a very good day for Scotland and for our parliament. There was by all accounts a very good and very civilized debate on the Equal Marriage Bill, aka Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill. The good news is that this bill passed its first reading by 98 votes to 15 with only five abstentions. This is probably an even larger majority than anticipated, which only adds to the good news. There were many good speeches in favour of the bill and I would like to single out one, that by Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Conservatives, who gave a particularly moving and eloquent speech, which you can see here. I do not often agree with Ms Davidson, but on this issue she spoke for most of us.
This decision is welcome, not just for those most directly affected by the measure, but for all of us, regardless of our sexuality or gender. For yesterday was a wonderful opportunity for our MSPs to send out a clear and unequivocal message about the kind of Scotland we want to live in. They did this with flying colours and the message is simple – Scotland will be a country which treats everyone equally. If we have to change the law to make equality a reality, then we will do so.
The debate was also important in that it demonstrated to all that our MSPs are capable of debating sensitive issues in a civilized way. The opposing voices were heard and able to put their case. This is important for parliament needs to reflect the range of opinions in the country as a whole. MSPs tend to have a poor image and reputation. While some of it may be justified, when push came to shove, enough MPS were able to demonstrate their competence.
The debate was also important as it dealt with an issue which has always been separate in Scotland. The bill was about changing Scots Law, in many ways the cornerstone of Scotland as a separate entity. So it was good to hear people like Ruth Davidson acknowledging the independence that our country already has. Next up is to extend our independence to cover all of the key issues that affect us. Equality is more than the right to same sex marriage, important though that is. The fight against other forms of inequality – of income, of life expectancy, of health, of life chances – are just as important to making Scotland the kind of country we can all be proud to live in. For this we need full independence.