04 November 2007

The Sunday Whip

Well, we're back to our usual day for the Whip, and we're still some way away from anything actually meaty.

Wednesday saw a ropey day for the Government in terms of votes, after an SNP motion on Early Years and Early Intervention was amended by Labour into something the administration wasn't too keen on: the amendment passed by 75 votes - Labour, the Tories, the LibDems and even Margo MacDonald - to 45 - just the SNP - and two abstentions - the Greens. for the SNP, Angela Constance (Livingston) is still on baby duty, while Shona Robison (Public Health Minister and MSP for Dundee East) was elsewhere. Labour had Des McNulty (Shadow Environment Minister and MSP for Clydebank & Milngavie) and Elaine Smith (Coatbridge & Chryston) missing, the Tories were missing Jackson Carlaw (West of Scotland), while the LibDems were missing John Farquhar Munro (Ross, Skye & Inverness West) for the second week in a row. Does anyone have any info on where he is? Anyway, a Tory amendment fell by 59 votes - themselves, Labour, albeit minus Tom McCabe (Hamilton South) who missed this vote, and Margo - to 62 - the SNP, LibDems and Greens. A LibDem amendment passed by 107 votes to 15, in which the only opponents were the Tories. The amended motion went throughby 61 votes - Labour, the LibDems, the Greens and Margo - to 45 - the SNP. The Tories abstained, and themotion agreed by Parliament was:

That the Parliament recognises the importance of early years policy in delivering improved outcomes for children and young people; believes that early intervention has a crucial role to play in reducing inequalities, particularly in health and education, but also more widely; welcomes the intention to develop a long-term early years strategy; agrees that parenting, support for families and community capacity-building are areas which require a strong focus; believes that services must work more closely together to support children and families, and highlights the importance of a highly skilled and collaborative workforce in delivering a new strategic approach to early years policy; notes the failure of the SNP Government to provide a statement on its commitment to reduce class sizes to 18 in primary 1 to primary 3 by 2011, as called for by the Parliament on 13 September 2007, and agrees that the Scottish Government should bring forward detailed plans and costings on its commitment to reduce class sizes within the imminent strategic spending review statement; and further believes that the Scottish Government's approach to early years must incorporate a strategy for play and communication, give greater support for play provision for two-year-olds and develop primary 1 into a transition year from nursery to formal education.

Thursday was a more sedate affair: a motion on Alternative Dispute Resolution passed, somewhat ironically, without dissent, and it's a testament to our MSPs that an expression of consensus can run beyond its allotted time slightly. Anyway, the Parliament passed:

That the Parliament recognises the need to develop a broad range of appropriate dispute resolution schemes, as alternatives to the formal court system, which can offer more flexibility, quicker resolution, less stress and reduced expense for citizens.

Clearly by this point something had got in the water, with one exception: a Government motion on the Environment faced a Labour amendment which was defeated by 54 votes to 63. Labour, minus Richard Baker (the Shadow Higher Education Minister and North East Scotland MSP), Rhona Brankin (Shadow Education Secretary and MSP for Midlothian), Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) and Ken Macintosh (Shadow Schools Minister), and the LibDems, minus Ross Finnie (Health Spokesman and MSP for the West of Scotland), John Farquhar Munro, Iain Smith (North East Fife) and Nicol Stephen (tsk!), voted in favour; the SNP (still without Angela Constance), the Tories - without John Scott (Rural Affairs spokesman and MSP for Ayr) - and Greens voted against. Margo was wherever Margo is when she's not in the Chamber. So with that amendment rejected, a LibDem amendment went through on the nod, and the amended motion was waved through:

That the Parliament notes the important relationships among Scotland's natural and built environment, culture and history, which together make us who we are; recognises the achievements over the centuries of artists such as Sir Walter Scott, James Hogg, Alexander Naysmith, Robin Jenkins, Sorley MacLean, Joan Eardley and Ian Hamilton Finlay and, continuing those connections today, Angus Farquhar, Alasdair Gray, Andy Scott and Frances Walker among many others; is glad that so many artists from Scotland and from elsewhere have taken their inspiration from Scotland's people, landscape and natural resources and the ways of life which they support and continue to do so, and recognises the need for the Scottish Government to work closely with cultural and environmental organisations, local authorities, community groups and individuals to celebrate, explore and reveal the diversity and ever-changing nature of Scotland, its people and its place within the United Kingdom and the wider world.

And that's this week. Only a couple of weeks till the Budget!


hacksaw jim duggan said...

Word on Munro is that he is very ill. Apparently he didn't want to stand but the Lib Dems feared they would lose the seat so forced him into it. Strong rumour that he will either stand down or die before 2011.

Anonymous said...

That comment is completely untrue. Very patronising to think that John F can't determinedly do what he wants to do.

hacksaw jim duggan said...

Completely untrue? So he isn't ill then?

Will said...

Hmmm... looking at what's been said, it's plausible that he is ill - indeed he's looked poorly since 1999.

But JFM doesn't seem like someone who can be forced into anything, so the idea that pressure was put on him to stand again doesn't sit well with me.

And the LibDems risking a By-Election? A bold strategy to say the least but there'd no doubt be a school of thought that said their chances would be better in a By-Election than during a full campaign with a new candidate - Cheadle springs to mind.