18 November 2007

The Sunday Whip

Well, considering what a big week this was, the voting provided something of a damp squib. Wednesday - Budget Day - saw no motions moved other than those from the Parliamentary Bureau, and they were nodded through, thus approving schedules, recess dates, the Fundable Bodies (Scotland) (No. 2) Order 2007 and the Protection of Charities Assets (Exemption) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2007. Oh, and the Local Government & Communities Committee will be the lead committee for Stage 1 of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Bill.

Thursday followed suit, with only four questions coming before the Chamber and two of those being nodded through, namely a Labour amendment to a Government motion, and the motion itself, on the Legal Services market. The Parliament therefore agreed:

That the Parliament notes the Office of Fair Trading's response to the super-complaint by Which? on restrictions on business structures and direct access in the Scottish legal profession and the Law Society of Scotland's consultation on alternative business structures; believes that the regulatory and business structures of the Scottish legal profession should reflect Scottish circumstances and support improved access to high-quality legal services in a competitive and appropriately regulated market in accordance with competition law, and notes the Scottish Government's approach of working closely with the legal profession to secure reforms that will allow the Scottish legal profession to compete internationally while enhancing access to justice in local communities and considers that this approach should also widen choice, provide easier access to legal services and create the conditions for more affordable services so that social justice will be at the heart of future changes.

Then we moved on to Stage 1 of the first Bill debated on the floor of the Parliament since the May Election, the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill, and the financial resolution for the Bill.

The SNP had three absentees: Angela Constance (Livingston), who was undoubtedly with the baby, Linda Fabiani (Europe Minister and MSP for Central Scotland) and Alex Salmond. Labour had Wendy Alexander out, along with Jackie Baillie (the Shadow Parliament Minister and MSP for Dumbarton), Richard Baker (Shadow Higher Education Minister and MSP for the North East), Sarah Boyack (Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary and MSP for Edinburgh Central), Lewis Macdonald (Shadow Energy Minister and MSP for Aberdeen Central), Ken Macintosh (Shadow Schools Minister and MSP for Eastwood) and Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East), who was on sick leave and was the only Labour absentee not to have any sort of Shadow Ministerial portfolio. Poor her. Anyway, the Tories were without Gavin Brown (Lothians), while the LibDems had to make do without Ross Finnie (Shadow Health Secretary and MSP for the West), Tavish Scott (Shadow Finance Secretary and MSP for Shetland) and Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross). It's worth mentioning, as this has become a feature of the last few Whips, that John Farquhar Munro was not only present, but spoke at FMQ's. Margo MacDonald, on the other hand, was elsewhere.

Anyway, Stage 1 passed, by 107 votes to 4 with 2 abstentions. The SNP and Labour groups were unanimously in favour - or at least, unanimous among those who were there. The Greens were clear in their opposition. The Tories were mostly in favour, though Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) voted against. The LibDems were mainly in favour, but Hugh O'Donnell (Central Scotland) voted against, while Mike Pringle (Edinburgh South) and Margaret Smith (Shadow Justice Secretary and MSP for Edinburgh West) abstained.

After this came the Financial Resolution, which passed by 110 votes to 3. The SNP and Labour maintained their support, and the LibDems re-united to vote in favour. The Greens were again clear in their opposition. The Tories voted in favour with one exception. Bizarrely, it was Annabel Goldie, the Party Leader. I can only assume she pressed the wrong button.

Never mind, Bella. We all have our off days.


ASwaS said...

Well, at least she didn't do the (possibly apocryphal) trying to vote with her Tesco Clubcard.

Will said...

Actually, I can see a few of them doing that. Maybe we should start the rumour that 100% attendance until the Recess nets a £10 shopping voucher?

Oh, and up to now, the Auntie of the House hasn't tried the "Rosie Kane Defence" to explain away her error. I hope she stays above that, if only because I didn't like the imagery associated with its original use, and I wouldn't like it to be associated with Bella either.

hacksaw jim duggan said...

Good to see JFM back, and I mean that.

Interesting tale from the Highland count.

JFM was being kept up to date with the results across the land, and had been told about Nora and Euan Robson losing their seats.

A Lib Dem activist ran up to inform JFM breathlessly that George Lyon had lost Argyll and Bute.

"Ah, so it's not all bad news then" came the reply.

Ted Harvey said...

I know that for many folks it's not the biggest budget issue ever, but I'm increasingly concerned about the SNP Administration's intentions (or non-intentions) over Community Regeneration.

Whilst the overall 'Regeneration' budget gets a big hike in the next financial year and levels out a bit, but remains significant, the Community Engagement bit is seperately stated as a small and three-year flatlining sum (circa 3.5 pa).

It seems that the Regeneration budget increase represents larger funding to the private sector (housebuilding etc.) Fair enough, that's a political decision an Adminstration can take. Moreover, to the housing associations disappointed about this settlement, I would suggest that if 'community based' housing associations in north Glasgow can afford Gala Anniversity nights at the Kelvingrove galleries, maybe they're not so hard up.

But, couple this private sector weighting with the underwhelming 3.5 figure for community engagement, and the fact that activities like the national Community Voices Network for community activists is to be dismantled... sorry, I mean handed over to local authorities (worse than being dismantled).

Where does all this leave the community and voluntary sector with regard to Regeneration? Back to have Regeneration being 'done to' their communities only to fail yet again!

The lessons of Scottish urban history show us time and again that without meaningful and deep-rooted community engagement most public funded activities falter and are not sustainable without huge repeat cash injections... and Regeneration is no different.

So what is the SNP game plan on Community Regeneration?