There has been much commentary this week on the new Scotland Bill. Many have concentrated on the new tax raising arrangements and new legislative competences proposed for the Scottish Parliament. But it’s not all one way traffic…
I wish to draw your attention to the shocking plans to strip Holyrood of its powers with regard to Antarctica. You heard me, Antarctica. Section 14 of the Bill adds to the list of reserved matters the “Regulation of Activities in Antarctica”. And the Scottish Government seems perfectly content to see these powers disappear without so much as a whimper! Call themselves nationalists?
As the explanatory notes explain:
Clause 14: Antarctica
60. This clause re-reserves the regulation of activities in Antarctica. The effect of this clause is that it will no longer be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament to pass Acts which relate to the regulation of activities in Antarctica. The Scottish Parliament has never in fact exercised this competence.
61. Subsection (2) provides that the amendment to Schedule 5 takes effect retrospectively, so that it is regarded as having effect from the date that Schedule 5 came into force. The effect of this provision is that executive functions in relation to the regulation of activities in Antarctica are regarded as never having transferred to the Scottish Ministers under section 53 of the 1998 Act (where they would otherwise have been exercisable within devolved competence) and always having been exercisable by Ministers of the Crown.
So, there is a short window of opportunity to legislate in this important area. But what laws should be passed? I asked my 8 year old son what new rules he would make if he was put in charge of the South Pole. Here are his ideas:
- build lots of new ice houses and ice hotels so that people have somewhere nice to live, built by properly secure ice builders with boots (or ice skates);
- all ice houses and ice hotels must be equipped with blankets, and people staying in them must keep their clothes on in bed (unless they have warm pyjamas);
- everyone in Antarctica must have a pet husky dog, and they must ensure that the dog’s claws are sharp enough to grip on the ice – their sledge must also be grippy and have good reins in case of a bad accident;
- all husky dogs must wear special collars to let their owners know if they have been behaving or not; and
- everyone must wear proper warm clothes with sheepskin or animal fur, so they don’t catch a rash.
Not sure how the last one would go down with the animal rights people, but it’s a harsh environment down there and it calls for bold legislative action. My son’s stated ambition when he grows up is to be Ruler of the South Pole. I think he’d do a good job.
What rules would you make. Please, keep on thinking. The future well-being of the Antarctic may depend on it.