02 December 2007

The Sunday Whip

This is possibly the closest I've cut this to midnight, but here goes. Wednesday saw just one vote taken: Labour had an amendment on the Government's equality and diversity motion accepted, but a LibDem one faced (and was defeated in) a vote. The LibDems were the only ones to vote for it, and even Nicol Stephen missed it, while the SNP - minus Angela Constance (Livingston) and Tories - minus Jamie McGrigor (Highlands & Islands) voted it down. Labour abstained, and were without Trish Godman (West Renfrewshire), Hugh Henry (Paisley South), Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy), Ken Macintosh (Shadow Schools Minister, MSP for Eastwood, and absent for three weeks now, what's happening?), Frank McAveety (Shadow Sport Minister and MSP for Glasgow Shettleston), Tom McCabe (Hamilton South) and Duncan McNeil (Greenock & Inverclyde). They were joined by Lothian Green Robin Harper (Glasgow Green Patrick Harvie was absent) and Margo MacDonald.

So the motion was amended by Labour but not by the LibDems, and passed without further dissent, reading:

That the Parliament is committed to securing equality of opportunity and a fairer Scotland in which diversity of need is recognised, respect for others is fostered, stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes and behaviours are challenged and people have more control over their lives and welcomes Equality and Diversity Week, the creation of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the commitment of the Scottish Government to promoting and mainstreaming equality and to working in partnership with public bodies, the voluntary sector, business interests and communities to tackle disadvantage and the barriers to equality; further recognises that equality impact assessment tools should be used in determining and assessing policy priorities and spending allocations, and calls on the Scottish Government to bring forward a statement to the Parliament detailing how the above commitments on equality and diversity will be delivered through the Scottish budget.

Also passed quietly were the Budget (Scotland) Act 2007 Amendment Order 2007 and the Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007 (Incidental, Supplemental and Consequential Provisions) Order 2007, and the Parliament agreed to alter the remit of the Pension Scheme Committee.

Thursday was less sedate, and resulted in a Parliamentary egg being thrown at the Government. On the missing list were Angela Constance, Charlie Gordon (Lab, Glasgow Cathcart and until a couple of hours earlier Shadow Transport Minister), Hugh Henry, Ken Macintosh, Tom McCabe, Jamie McGrigor, Liam McArthur (LibDem, Orkney) and Patrick Harvie.

Voting commenced with a Labour amendment to a Government motion on Tourism. The amendment fell, by 61 votes (SNP & Tories) to 58 (Labour, LibDems and Margo), with one abstention (Robin Harper). A Tory amendment was passed without comment, but a LibDem amendment fell by 63 votes to 56 with one abstention. The No voters were the SNP, the Tories, and Labour's Richard Simpson (Shadow Public Health Minister and MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife) and David Whitton (Wendy Alexander's PPS and MSP for Strathkelvin & Bearsden). The Yes voters were the rest of the Labour MSPs present, the LibDems and Robin Harper. Margo abstained. With that, the motion that had been amended by the Tories went through on the nod as follows:

That the Parliament recognises the vital role that tourism has in increasing sustainable economic growth in line with the Scottish Government's Economic Strategy; reiterates its support for the ambitions set out in the Tourism Framework for Change that tourism revenue should increase by 50% in real terms in the decade to 2015 and that Scotland should be one of Europe's most sustainable tourism destinations; recognises the appetite in the industry to improve and exceed visitor expectation; welcomes the fact that these ambitions are shared between the public, private and third sectors; further recognises the important work done by the excellent network of tourist information centres; believes that decision-making at a local level is a crucial element of an effective tourism strategy, and calls on the Scottish Government to give a more detailed explanation as to how the 50% growth ambition is to be met and the role of the public, private and third sectors in doing so.

A motion on St. Andrew's Day, however, caused the trouble. It began with the Labour amendment, which fell by 60 votes (the SNP and the Tories, minus John Scott, the Tories' Rural Affairs Spokesman and MSP for Ayr) to 44 (Labour, Robin Harper and Margo MacDonald), with 15 LibDem abstentions. A Tory amendment passed by 78 votes (everyone but Labour) to 42 (Labour), but a LibDem amendment also passed by 72 votes (Labour, the Tories and the LibDems themselves) to 46 (the SNP alone) with two abstentions (Harper & MacDonald). This was when things stopped going according to plan for the Government, and the amended motion was carried by 74 votes (everyone but the SNP) to 46 (the SNP), reading:

That the Parliament believes in the importance of celebrating Scotland's national day; recognises the opportunity that it offers both to celebrate what it means to be Scottish in the 21st century and to promote a fair and inclusive society; notes the Scottish Government's proactive support of a programme of events throughout the country and all of Scotland's cities, including the cathedral city of St Andrews itself and urges it to build on St Andrew's Day as a launch-pad for a winter tourist season; commends the work of schools and community groups across Scotland in teaching our young people about St Andrew's Day and its importance in a national as well as an international context and promoting diversity through their celebrations, and furthermore thanks the St Andrew's societies, Caledonian societies, Scottish Development International, Globalscots, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and all the other overseas organisations who have planned over 100 wide-ranging celebrations in countries around the world but notes the failure of the SNP government to keep the SNP manifesto promise to "make St Andrew's Day a full national holiday".

Following that, Pauline McNeill's motion to nominate Professor Alan Miller as Chairman of the Human Rights Commission went through unopposed, then McNeill got into trouble for walking across the floor of the Chamber, which is a no-no when Parliament is in session. Apparently.

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