23 September 2007

The Sunday Whip

Only three divisions took place this week, all on Thursday, and the absentees were as follows: Angela Constance (Livingston), and the Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead missed Decision Time for the SNP - Constance must clearly be on maternity leave now and Lochhead must have been travelling home early as he had an engagement in Aberdeen on Friday morning. Labour had Duncan McNeil (Greenock & Inverclyde) and Des McNulty (Clydebank & Milngavie, and the Shadow Environment Minister) missing, while Jamie McGrigor (Highlands & Islands) was out for the Tories. The LibDems were short of Ross Finnie (West of Scotland and Shadow Health Secretary), Tavish Scott (Shetland and Shadow Finance Secretary) and Iain Smith (North East Fife), who I suppose were still in Brighton. Margo MacDonald was also a no-show, but would probably have abstained if she had been there.

Anyway, the Government had a motion on flooding - proposed by Richard Lochhead, who therefore missed the passage of his own motion - nodded through, but only after a LibDem amendment was defeated. The motion was:

That the Parliament notes that a Flooding Bill will be introduced during this parliamentary session; acknowledges the need for Scotland to take a more sustainable approach to flood risk management in order to tackle the increased risk of flooding associated with issues such as climate change; recognises the importance of the publication of the final report of the Flooding Issues Advisory Committee, which ran for two years, and considers that similar positive engagement with stakeholders, including those who have suffered the effects of flooding, should continue throughout the development of the draft Flooding Bill.

The LibDem amendment called on the Government to offer extra money to tackle flooding, and noted that primary legislation wasn't needed for policy or financial commitments to be made. It fell by 62 votes to 57: Labour backed the LibDems, while the SNP, Tories and Greens voted against.

This was followed by a Government motion on penal policy, which was also nodded through after two amendments fell:

That the Parliament believes that Scotland should develop a progressive penal policy which improves public safety, delivers appropriate and proportionate punishment, ensures that the interests of victims and communities are given proper consideration, contributes to reducing reoffending and encourages rehabilitation in order to build a safer and stronger Scotland; recognises that, in the case of some offenders, custody is the only appropriate disposal, and welcomes the proposal to establish an independent commission to consider the purpose and use of prison.

Labour's amendment opposed any proposal to stop sheriffs or judges from passing short-term sentences of six months or less in prison, and fell by 75 votes to 44, with all the other parties voting against it. The LibDems proposed, among other things, replacing the Scottish Prison Service with a Custody and Rehabilitiation Sevice and offering training courses for prisoners. This crashed and burned, being defeated by 13 votes to 62 with 44 abstentions. The SNP, Tories and Greens voted against it, with Labour abstaining.

However, with all parties more or less happy to see Government policy go through, this can be chalked up as an easy week, particularly as the only other motions were the schedule for next week and changes to Labour's Committee membership.

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