16 December 2007

The Sunday Whip

One of the less consensual weeks in Holyrood: even the Business Motion on Wednesday found itself to be the subject of quibbling from Labour, although no vote was taken in the end, and the Scottish Police Services Authority (Police Support Services) (Modification) Order 2007 was waved through in the tradition of SIs.

However, for the two votes that were taken, there were a good deal of absences. I shall refrain from linking that to the subject matter (woodland and green spaces), and instead simply tell you that for the SNP, Angela Constance (Livingston) was still on maternity leave, but that turnout was otherwise surprisingly high. Labour did without Rhoda Grant (Highlands & Islands), Andy Kerr (Shadow Public Services Secretary and MSP for East Kilbride), Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy), Ken Macintosh (Shadow Schools Minister and MSP for Eastwood), Duncan McNeil (Greenock & Inverclyde), Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South), Richard Simpson (Shadow Public Health Minister and MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife) and Elaine Smith (Coatbridge and Chryston). The Tories and Greens both had full attendance, while the LibDems had Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) out, and Margo MacDonald stayed away.

Anyway, a Labour amendment to the Government's motion fell by 62 votes to 54: Labour - minus Charlie Gordon (Glasgow Cathcart), who must have rocked up late - secured LibDem and Green support, while the SNP and Tories were not convinced. A Tory amendment got waved through, but a LibDem amendment was defeated by 62 votes (SNP and the Tories) to 53 (LibDems and Labour) with the two Greens abstaining. No one wanted to argue with the amended motion, so the Parliament agreed:

That the Parliament recognises the value of the physical environment in promoting health and wellbeing; recognises the role that woodland and other greenspace plays in this through increased opportunities for physical activity, relaxation and social interaction in people's everyday lives, further recognises the economic significance of woodlands and the need to support the development and expansion of Scotland's commercial forestry sector and calls on the environmental and health sectors to work together to further develop the contribution of woodland and other greenspace to Scotland's health.

Thursday was a scrappier affair, with the Government defeated on a motion about sport and young people (or rather, the proposed abolition of sportscotland, which, if you ask me, should not just be scrapped but have all those in charge of it burned at the stake simply for using the lower case), and some rare voting patterns on display following a debate on Civil Liberties. The SNP had Angela Constance out, and also Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead (Moray) absent. Labour were missing Rhoda Grant, while the Tories, LibDems and Greens were all present and correct. Even Margo MacDonald was there.

Anyway, the SNP's amendment to the LibDem motion on sport fell by 79 votes - Labour (minus Richard Simpson), the Tories, LibDems, Greens AND Margo - to 45 - the SNP alone. The Tories got another amendment through on the nod - how do they keep doing that?! - and the amended motion went through by 81 votes to 44. The 81 were Labour (this time with Dr. Simpson), the Tories, LibDems, Greens and Margo, plus the SNP's Shirley-Anne Somerville (Lothians). The rest of the SNP group (at least those present) voted against, but that wasn't enough (so the most recently returned MSP didn't swing the vote), and Members voted:

That the Parliament rejects the case for the abolition of sportscotland without prejudice to any proposals which may improve the performance of that body; notes the importance of grass-roots sport and the opportunities that currently exist to increase sporting participation and enhance sporting performance, particularly among young people, in Scotland as we look forward to the London Olympics of 2012 and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games of 2014; recognises that sportscotland has established itself as an effective arms-length body for distributing both Treasury and lottery funding as well as successfully performing important co-ordinating and strategic functions in the development of integrated sporting performance pathways, and therefore calls for sportscotland to be retained.

Then came the vote on the Civil Liberties debate. First up was a Tory amendment which broke their recent winning streak, falling by 18 votes (the LibDems and Greens) to 16 (the Tories alone), with a staggering 91 abstentions (the SNP, Labour and Margo). A Green amendment - that rarest of beasts - passed by 64 votes (the SNP, LibDems, Greens and Margo) to 16 (the Tories), with 42 Labour abstentions: at this point, Rhona Brankin (Shadow Education Secretary and MSP for Midlothian), Margaret Curran (Shadow Health Secretary and MSP for Glasgow Baillieston) and Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill) all went walkabout and missed this one vote, but as they would have abstained anyway, it doesn't really matter. The amended motion went through by 64 votes (the SNP, LibDems, Greens and Margo) to one with 60 abstentions. Labour abstained, and most of the Tories did, with the exception of Ted Brocklebank (Mid Scotland & Fife. So the Parliament resolved:

That the Parliament believes that the fundamental liberties enjoyed by generations of our citizens must not be eroded; welcomes the commitment by the previous Scottish Executive that ID cards would not be needed to access devolved services and its proportionate position on DNA retention; is concerned at the threat to civil liberties from the UK Government's expensive and unworkable proposal to introduce compulsory ID cards; believes that the Scottish Government should not put citizens' privacy at risk by allowing the UK ID database to access personal information held by the Scottish Government, local authorities or other devolved public agencies; therefore calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that all data protection procedures comply with the principles of data protection, namely that personal information must be fairly and lawfully processed, processed for limited purposes, adequate, relevant and not excessive, accurate and up to date, not kept for longer than necessary, processed in line with individuals' rights, secure and not transmitted to other countries without adequate protection, and that audit of data under its jurisdiction is independent of government and accountable to the Parliament; further calls on the Scottish Government to review plans for Scottish Citizens Accounts on the basis of these principles, and takes the view that there should be no blanket retention of DNA samples and that the Assistant Information Commissioner for Scotland should have specific powers to carry out spot checks on the compliance by Scottish government agencies and bodies with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Just one more of these to go before the Christmas break. You're all going to miss it, aren't you?

3 comments:

Julie said...

That's a hell of an important vote, Will; I didn't know about it. Keep up the good work on Sunday Whip, cos I read it and it saves me having to trawl through all the votes.

On the subject of civil liberties, a while ago there was a bill going through Westminster called the Legislatory Reform Bill and I haven't checked how that has turned out. What was interesting was that at the same time that that was going through, 'Spooks' on the BBC had an episode about a bill being passed that granted the prime minister powers to override Parliament. It was thought that the Legislatory reform bill might do that and the last that I heard was that the Lords were politely driving a coach and horses through it, but I must check.

Will said...

Thanks for the comment, Julie! The reason I started doing this is because with the minority government, votes have become a lot more interesting. Also, all of the information is out there, but there can be quite a lot to sift through and it's not that easy to keep track of, which makes it very off-putting. So there's something of a niche there to exploit which I can take advantage of at the weekend.

And you might be interested to know that the Tory amendment suggested that the cost of ID cards would be better spent on a border police force, and extra prison or drug rehab places. The original motion read:

That the Parliament believes that the fundamental liberties enjoyed by generations of our citizens must not be eroded; welcomes the commitment by the previous Scottish Executive that ID cards would not be needed to access devolved services and its proportionate position on DNA retention; is concerned at the threat to civil liberties from the UK Government's expensive and unworkable proposal to introduce compulsory ID cards; believes that the Scottish Government should not put citizens' privacy at risk by allowing the UK ID database to access personal information held by the Scottish Government, local authorities or other devolved public agencies; therefore calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that all data protection procedures are secure and that audit of data under its jurisdiction is independent of government and accountable to the Parliament, and takes the view that there should be no blanket retention of DNA samples and that the Assistant Information Commissioner for Scotland should have specific powers to carry out spot checks on the compliance by Scottish government agencies and bodies with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Scott @loveandgarbage said...

Will,

I think these records are incredibly useful. I've passed your URL to a number of people on that basis alone (although your other posts are also always worth a read, even (or especially) if I disagree).

For julie the Legislative and Regulatory reform Act was passed in 2006 and accessible here http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/ukpga_20060051_en_1 - some refer to it as the ABolition of Parliament Act. It has been toned down but still contains quite wide powers

Scott