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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 21:13 GMT 22:13 UK

Business as usual?

The general election campaign did not stop activities in the Scottish Parliament, writes BBC Scotland political correspondent Elizabeth Quigley.

The posters have been up, the canvassers have been out and the voters have taken their pick of the parties.

But while one democratically elected parliament has might have closed its doors for the last few weeks, another has stayed open.

The MSPs were there, the journalists turned up and the public still queued.

On the Mound in Edinburgh it was supposed to have been business as usual at the Scottish Parliament.

Just two days after Tony Blair went to the country, Presiding Officer Sir David Steel voiced his worries about behaviour in the Scottish Parliament.

It was more in hope than in expectation, he admitted, but he appealed to MSPs not to fight the Westminster election campaign on the floor of the Scottish Parliament's chamber.

Almost immediately that afternoon some minor scuffles broke out during Ministers' and then First Minister's Questions.

And that pattern was repeated on most Thursday afternoons.

But, on the whole, have MSPs listened?

The Presiding Officer thinks so.

But electioneering has been part of life on the Mound, especially as the issues dominating the Westminster campaign have been schools, hospitals and bobbies on the beat - and they are all the responsibility of politicians in the Scottish Parliament.

The election might not have bounded through the doors of the Assembly Hall at every opportunity - but it was wishful thinking to have believed the parliament would manage to exist as some hermetically sealed bubble, oblivious to the campaigning slogans outside.

This is not a unique situation, however.

Back in 1999, Westminster continued with its work during the elections to the Scottish Parliament.

The roles are now reversed - and will be again in 2003 during the next Scottish Parliamentary elections.

But this is not something the architects of the Scottish Parliament spent much time considering.

Alice Brown, professor of politics at Edinburgh University, was a member of the consultative steering group which drew up the parliament's rules and regulations.

She could see no reason why the parliament should not continue during another election campaign, but admits the steering group did not even think about whether or not the Scottish Parliament should sit during elections to Westminster.

Bills passed

Work on the Mound might have been deliberately low-key in the last few weeks, but MSPs have been busy ploughing through stage three debates and working on committee reports.

Several bills have been passed in this parliament in the last few weeks, including convention rights, local authorities tendering and regulation of care.

While few of them were exactly headline grabbing, they are all undoubtedly very important to the people concerned.

But if you were looking for fiery rows spilling out on to the floor of the parliament's chamber, then you would have been disappointed.

For the controversial debates on issues like the Housing Bill, which has already caused divisions in the Labour group, you will have to wait until after polling day.



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