09 December 2007

The Sunday Whip

Wednesday was one of those drab, grey consensual affairs - errrr, sorry, a glorious triumph of the new politics in action - which saw everything passed through on the nod, including the Business Programme, but also a motion on kinship care (which, admittedly, was rather hard to oppose). So the Parliament waved through:

That the Parliament recognises that the needs of a child are paramount and that families should be supported to stay together; agrees that, where the child needs to live away from his or her birth parents, care within the family circle by a kinship carer should be the first option unless it is not in the best interests of the child; believes that all placements for a child who must live away from his or her birth parents must provide a safe and nurturing home, whether for a planned short-term period or on a permanent basis, and affirms its commitment to the provision of equitable and appropriate support for all carers of looked-after children, with systems in place to ensure that carers can provide the best possible opportunities and chances to all looked-after children.

And a handful of SI's went the same way: the Transport and Works (Scotland) Act 2007 (Inquiries and Hearings Procedure) Rules 2007, Transport and Works (Scotland) Act 2007 (Applications and Objections Procedure) Rules 2007 and the Transport and Works (Scotland) Act 2007 (Consents under Enactments) Regulations 2007 were all nodded through.

Even Thursday was relatively tranquil, despite the showpiece debate on a review of Devolution, which saw the Opposition defeat the Government on Unionist-Nationalist lines. So an SNP amendment to Wendy Alexander's motion fell by 76 votes (Labour, the Tories and LibDems) to 46 (the SNP alone) with three abstentions (the Greens and Margo), while the motion itself passed by 76 votes to 46, with three abstentions. Missing were Angela Constance (SNP, Livingston), Hugh Henry (Lab, Paisley South) and John Lamont (Con, Roxburgh & Berwickshire), who were not present to see the Parliament pass:

That the Parliament, recognising mainstream public opinion in Scotland, supports the establishment of an independently chaired commission to review devolution in Scotland; encourages UK Parliamentarians and parties to support this commission also and proposes that the remit of this commission should be:

"To review the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998 in the light of experience and to recommend any changes to the present constitutional arrangements that would enable the Scottish Parliament to better serve the people of Scotland, that would improve the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament and that would continue to secure the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom",

and further instructs the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body to allocate appropriate resources and funding for this review.

However, after that, consensus broke out, with Tory and LibDem amendments to a Government motion on summary justice reform going through without a challenge, and the motion itself passing nem. con. as well. The amended motion read:

That the Parliament recognises that a summary justice system should deal with offending behaviour quickly and effectively; believes that the implementation of the provisions contained in the Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007 will help bring about improvement in how the summary justice system deals with offending behaviour; recognises also that the success of a revised summary justice system will be dependent on fine payments being enforced and a much tighter and rigorous control of community service orders, and that in some cases custodial sentences are the only appropriate disposal; considers that the legal aid system should complement the reformed summary justice system and ensure that solicitors receive fair remuneration for their work in advising clients while also providing best value to taxpayers; looks forward to the Justice Committee providing effective post-enactment scrutiny on the impact of the programme of summary justice reform; and further calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that the views of professionals are taken into account in the consultation on summary justice to ensure that access to justice for the weakest and most disadvantaged in society is protected.

In addition, the Parliament agreed to put forward Alex Neil to be a member of the UK delegation to the the regional chamber of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, with Malcolm Chisholm as the alternate member, and to put forward Keith Brown and Irene Oldfather forward for the UK delegation to the Committee of the Regions with Alison McInnes and Ted Brocklebank as their substitutes. They also noted that local government's representation on the Committee of the Regions will come from Corrie McChord (Labour Leader of Stirling Council) and Roger Knox (SNP, East Lothian), with the alternate members being Graham Garvie (LibDem, Scottish Borders) and Jim McCabe (Labour, North Lanarkshire).

So the Government had a quiet week, with only the debate on how to advance devolution shattering things. And even there, with the other three parties at least agreeing that more powers should be considered, the SNP can live with the outcome.

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