Roll up! Roll up for all the fun of the Holyrood fair. What thrills and spills can we expect in this, the last year of this parliamentary term?
There’s the budget bingo of course, but there will be few big prizes up for grabs this year. Not even John Swinney will be able to get excited by the numbers on his card: expect the UK Government to have bagged the snowball for themselves.
There will, though, be plenty of action on the dodgems with MSPs continuing to crash their way through the Alcohol etc (Scotland) bill and the three opposition parties ganging up to bump the SNP, until they give up on minimum pricing.
Local government committee members will be lining up to throw wet sponges (and possibly worse) at Right to Buy as it finds itself in the stocks of the Housing (Scotland) bill. With the abolition of this, one of the last remaining totems of Thatcherism no one will surely miss the chance to score highly.
Other than that, the prospects for legislative fireworks are few. The Children’s Hearing (Scotland) bill could have, should have shaken up our prized child welfare system and set it fair for the next 50 years. But the bill involves largely procedural and structural reform and will leave a pretty dry and unpalatable taste in the mouth. Just like candyfloss.
But there are plenty of inquiries to get our teeth into. We might be pleasantly surprised by the economy committee’s birl on the big wheel that is our enterprise agency and the success (or failure?) of recent reforms. As long as they don’t get stuck at the top and fixated by the big salaries, there might be some interesting findings. Or there again, maybe not.
The finance committee’s inquiry into preventative spending will definitely prove to be a shooting gallery. Everyone is taking aim, confident they know how to hit the targets of early intervention and spend to save but they will all be disappointed when the ducks fail to fall over. Pot shots there will be aplenty; few will score a bullseye.
The health committee’s inquiry into out-of-hours healthcare provision in rural areas will turn into a visit to the haunted house. Quite simply it doesn’t exist. We can believe all we like, we might occasionally glimpse an apparition of a rural doctor in the middle of the night, but frankly it is no longer for real.
And of course, we will have the roller coaster of FMQs to look forward to every week. Can we expect a killer ride for the new season? That will hurtle us up and down the course of political rhetoric, wit and bombast at breakneck speed? That will thrill us to the core of our being and leave us definitely shaken not stirred? Probably not. Knowing our luck, it will turn out to be a far more tame and predictable ride on the giant teacups.