07 October 2007

The Sunday Whip

Well, folks, it's Sunday and you know what that means: we take the register.

Anyway. Wednesday saw no votes taken, as everything was agreed by the Parliament without dissent. The Business Programme for after the half-term recess was agreed. That's right, people, they're off on their hollybobs again. Then they approved the Licensing (Mandatory Conditions) (Scotland) Regulations 2007, and the Housing Grants (Assessment of Contributions) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2007. Members saw absolutely no problem with George Foulkes replacing Trish Godman on the Audit Committee, or appointing the Committee Substitutes on the shiny new Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee. Finally, a motion on the Crerar Review passed without incident:

That the Parliament welcomes the Crerar review work commissioned by the previous administration; notes the broad principles and vision of a simplified scrutiny landscape, with a proportionate, co-ordinated and risk-based approach, as set out in the Independent Review of Regulation, Audit, Inspection and Complaints Handling of Public Services in Scotland; thanks Professor Crerar and his team for their work; commits to joint working with the Scottish Government over the relevant recommendations, and calls on the Scottish Government to carefully consider the review before returning to the Parliament with further proposals to take forward the conclusions of the report.

Thursday, meanwhile, ended on an equally peaceful and consensual note, with a Government motion on wildlife crime being accepted, after a Labour amendment had been taken on board by all parties, following discussions between Sarah Boyack and Mike Russell, so Members had no difficulty in agreeing:

That the Parliament notes the collaborative work being undertaken by a variety of agencies to fight wildlife crime and commends the enthusiasm and commitment of those involved in that fight; regrets that, despite these efforts and some highly successful prosecutions, 2006 was the worst year ever for recorded wildlife poisoning incidents and figures so far for 2007 show no improvement; condemns those responsible for such acts which destroy vital parts of our natural and national heritage while damaging our international reputation, and welcomes the thematic inspection of arrangements for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of wildlife crime which will be undertaken by HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in association with HM Chief Inspector of Prosecutions in Scotland which will make recommendations by 31 March 2008 and urges ministers to ensure that each Scottish police force appoint at least one full-time police wildlife crime co-ordinator, that wildlife crime cases are prosecuted wherever possible by fiscals with specialist training and that guidance is produced which pulls together all legislation relevant to wildlife crime for use by landowners, managers and their staff, and further urges ministers to monitor the effectiveness of such guidance and report back to the Parliament.

However, what came before it was ugly, for the Government at least. It was a Labour motion accusing the SNP of broken promises, and their was the expected Government amendment, a Tory amendment, a LibDem one and even a Green one. And for the SNP, things did not go well. Firstly, the absentees: the SNP had Angela Constance (Livingston) missing. Labour were without their Shadow Education Secretary Rhona Brankin (Midlothian), Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South) or Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East). The Tory absentees were Justice Spokesman Bill Aitken (Glasgow) and Health Spokeswoman Mary Scanlon (Highlands & Islands), as well as, embarrassingly, their Chief Whip David McLetchie (Edinburgh Pentlands). Derek Brownlee (South of Scotland), the Tory Finance Spokesman, showed up late, missing his own party's amendment. The LibDems had no sign of Liam McArthur (Orkney) or Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross), and Margo MacDonald was elsewhere.

To the voting, and first came the Government amendment, which fell by 71 votes to 46 after all the other parties voted against it. The Tory amendment passed by 71 to 46, with everyone but the SNP supporting it (even Helen Eadie voted for it). The LibDem amendment passed by 70 votes to 48: the Greens joined the SNP in opposing the amendment but Derek Brownlee had showed up by this point. The LibDem amendment passed, which meant that the Green amendment fell by default, so the motion as amended went to a vote, and was passed by 70 votes to 48, with Labour, the Tories and LibDems in favour, and the SNP and Greens against. It read:

That the Parliament notes the SNP Government's failure to implement a range of policies that the SNP pledged to take forward in its election manifesto and its document, It's time to look forward, including reneging on the promise to set out plans to employ 1,000 additional police officers, backtracking on a council tax freeze, failing to implement smaller class sizes in every primary school, shelving the commitment to adopt the Better Regulation Commission's policy of "one in one out" and not delivering on plans to give £2,000 to first-time house buyers; further notes the SNP Government's reluctance to keep its promise to students and dump student debt by writing off the debt to the Student Loans Company for Scottish domiciled graduates; notes the SNP Government's refusal to meet its manifesto pledge for mandatory carbon reduction targets of 3% per annum; recognises that the SNP gained votes on these pre-election promises to the people of Scotland which they are now failing to keep, and calls on Scottish ministers to make a statement to the Parliament explaining which of these pre-election promises are no longer government policy and why, and which promises they do intend to implement and by when.


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