The House of Lords rolled into town this week. Not an event previously chronicled in these columns, but these are not normal times. The Government's attempts to dish the Scottish parliament and bring legislative exotica closer to the people assumed its latest manifestation in the form of a Lords select committee taking evidence from all and sundry on the Education (Scotland) Bill.
Unusually this has begun its parliamentary passage in the Lords rather than the Commons. Hence the appearance in Glasgow University's senate room of five lords, a baroness, a couple of earls and a viscount. The last Lords committee to foray north of the border, in February, considered the Deer (Scotland) Bill, perhaps an issue closer to peers' hearts than the Scottish Examination Board's merger with the Scottish Vocational Education Council.
But interests had to be declared first. Lord Goold (James), who chaired the group and is a former Tory chairman in Scotland, had to confess he also chairs Strathclyde University's court. Lord Sewel (John), a former president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, is vice-principal of Aberdeen University. Baroness Carnegy of Lour (Elizabeth), a former chairman of Tayside education committee and the Scottish Community Education Council and goodness knows what else, owned up to membership of St Andrews University court and the council of the Open University.
Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove (Neil, ex-Labour MP and junior minister) had nothing to declare but repeatedly mentioned his involvement with pre-school playgroups. The Earl of Cromartie (John Ruairidh Blunt Grant Mackenzie) alluded to the problems nursery vouchers would cause for playgroups in the Highlands.
And so, joined by Addington, Dundee, Dunrossil and Sempill (plus Taylor of Gryffe who is not a member of the committee but turned up anyway after a Caribbean holiday), they plunged into their gentle, but knowledgeable, grilling of everyone from parents and unions to the examination bodies and the dean of education at Strathclyde University. Small but perfectly informed.