11 November 2007

The Sunday Whip

Wednesday saw a rare outbreak of total consensus in the Parliament, with the Business Programme for the next two weeks being passed, and a motion on food policy - as well as all the amendments - going through on the nod, with Members supporting the final wording of:

That the Parliament believes that Scotland should have a national food policy and would benefit greatly by having a clear, consistent and coherent approach to food covering health, environmental, social, cultural and economic factors; believes that a national policy must include more assistance for public procurement of home-grown Scottish food to be achieved by improved co-operation between Scotland's local food producers and government; welcomes the Scottish Government's commitment to launch a national debate and consultation on a food policy for Scotland, building on work done by the previous administrations, and believes that policy priorities should include local procurement, affordability, sustainability and reducing Scotland's climate footprint, taking into account the views of the Parliament, industry and wider society; believes that educating children about where their food comes from must be central to any national food policy; resolves that early action is required to amend public procurement policy to ensure greater use of freshly produced healthy food in the public sector, including in our schools, hospitals and other public bodies; and calls on the Scottish Government to assist in the development of farmers' co-operatives and farmers' markets, and further calls on the Scottish Government to work with retailers to encourage more use of local Scottish produce in stores.

Though credit must go to Alex Fergusson, for his self-deprecating introduction to Decision Time: "Rather worryingly, from my perspective, there are four questions to be put as a result of today's business. Members will note that I have my glasses on, so I will try to get them in the right order."

Anyway. Thursday was a good deal less consensual, with Labour's motion on "Holding the SNP Government to account" - i.e. trying to change the rules on the Budget process with less than a week before the thing - coming before Members. A word on the abstentees: Alex Salmond (who as well as being FM is MSP for Gordon, remember) and Stewart Maxwell (Minister for Communities and Sport, and MSP for the West of Scotland) were in Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Games meeting), while for Labour, Marlyn Glen (North East Scotland) and Mary Mulligan (Shadow Children's Minister and MSP for Linlithgow) were absent, as was John Farquhar Munro (LibDem, Ross, Skye and Inverness West), who is missing for the third week running, and as the comments thread in last week's Whip bears out, there are the beginnings of a discussion on Munro's health, and how long he can continue as an MSP.

But to the vote, and a Tory amendment passed by 64 votes to 59, gaining support from the SNP, Greens and Margo MacDonald, but opposed by Labour and the LibDems. A LibDem amendment was voted down by 63 (the SNP, Tories and Greens) to 59 (the LibDems, with Labour support) and one abstention - guess who? The amended motion then carried by 63 (the SNP, Tories and Greens again) votes to 44 (Labour alone), with 16 abstentions - Margo and the LibDems, which sounds like the name of a rubbish band. Regardless of that, the motion passed was:

That the Parliament recognises the critical importance of the forthcoming three-year spending review to meeting the hopes and aspirations of the people of Scotland; welcomes the detailed scrutiny of the SNP Government's spending plans by parliamentary committees as a central part of the budget process; believes that an effective budget scrutiny process is critical in ensuring that public services are delivered in a way which provides optimal value for money; believes that the process should be sufficiently robust to cope with majority and minority government; believes that there is scope to review the operation of the current procedures as laid down in the Standing Orders and the agreement between the Finance Committee and the Scottish Government; believes that the appropriate vehicle for such a review would be the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, in consultation with the other committees of the Parliament, particularly the Finance Committee, and requests that the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee undertakes a review of the budget process for future years.

Oh, and a relatively non-contentious motion on Europe went through on the nod: That the Parliament notes the importance of EU policies and legislation to the Parliament, its Committees and to Scotland and notes the priorities identified by the Scottish Government for particular attention.

That's it for this week, but next week we have the Budget, and Stage 1 of the Abolition of Bridge Tolls Bill. Should be good.


Anonymous said...

Re: John Munro. A poster on the Herald website just before the election had this to say:

"Anyway, out and about today and more than one credible source told me that John Farqhuar Munro is not well and intends to stand down within 6 months if he wins. Another person said he only ever intended to do 1 or 2 years.

This was people in JFM 's own community. I know he's amost 73 and not been keeping well lately but if this is true I would suggest the Liberals are not being fair on poor Farqhuar or on the electorate."


Anonymous said...

Fellow anon, I'd heard such a thing re Farquhar Munro and that they are prepared for a by-election with Cllr Alexander Graham lined up as the Lib Dem candidate.

Scottish Toryboy said...

Farquhar Munro was in Parliament today