23 December 2007

The Sunday Whip

What can I say? After months of waiting, Holyrood delivered a Christmas present in the form of actual legislation to get my teeth into! Huzzah!

Anyway, on Wednesday the various Business Motions got waved through as is the usual custom, which left a division on the EU Reform Treaty. The only two absentees were Angela Constance (SNP, Livingston, maternity leave) and Richard Lochhead (the Rural Affairs Secretary and MSP for Moray, who was in Brussels). So a Labour amendment got voted down by 64 votes (the SNP, Tories, Greens and Margo) to 61 (most of Labour and all the LibDems). There was one abstention: Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston) broke ranks and withheld support for her party's amendment.

The vote itself went through by 64 votes - the same 64 who voted down Labour's amendment - to 17 - the LibDems plus Labour's Frank McAveety (Glasgow Shettleston and Shadow Sport Minister). The rest of the Labour group abstained, so MSPs agreed: That the Parliament believes that the UK Government should hold a referendum on the EU Reform Treaty.

Thursday saw the standard waving through of the Business Motion, so the first vote fo the day came mid-afternoon, with a vote on Conservative amendments (PDF) to the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill. Amendment 1 came to a vote, and passed by 106 votes to 2 with 16 abstentions. The SNP - minus Alasdair Morgan (South of Scotland), who was in the Chair so couldn't vote - voted with Labour - minus Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife), who missed the vote and Trish Godman (West Renfrewshire) who abstained - and the Tories in favour. The Greens opposed the amendment and the LibDems - minus Mike Pringle (Edinburgh South) - abstained, along with Godman. Amendment 2 was nodded through, so the amended Bill (PDF) went forward to Decision Time.

At Decision Time, by which point Cathy Peattie (Lab, Falkirk East) and Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston) had evidently opted to go home early for the holidays, the main event was the vote on Stage 1 of the Graduate Endowment Abolition (Scotland) Bill. A LibDem amendment to the motion passed by 65 votes (the SNP, LibDems and Greens) to 16 (the Tories) with 45 abstentions (Labour and Margo). The amended motion then passed by 65 votes to 60. In support were the SNP - minus Linda Fabiani (Europe Minister and MSP for Central Scotland) who missed this one vote - along with the LibDems, Greens and Margo. In opposition were Labour and the Tories, so MSPs passed:

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Graduate Endowment Abolition (Scotland) Bill and, in so doing, calls for a statutory duty on Scottish Ministers to provide student support and provision made thereunder to be improved for existing and future students and further calls for more research into the barriers to accessing further and higher education to be undertaken.

Of course, this isn't the end of the story as the Bill has made it past Stage 1. It has to go through the Committee Stage and the Education Committee could try to kill it. There are 3 SNP members and 1 LibDem who would back the Bill, but 3 Labour members and 1 Tory who would oppose it. That's a tie at 4-4, but the Convener has the casting vote and is Labour's Karen Whitefield. That makes passage difficult.

One Bill that faced no such difficulty is the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill, which faced its final Stage 3 vote, and passed by 122 votes to 3, with one abstention. The one abstainer, breaking ranks with her party, was the LibDem's Justice Spokesperson Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West). The three opponents were the Greens and Margo. The remaining MSPs in the Chamber voted in favour, so Holyrood passed its first Bill since the Election.

It then went on to wave through its first Legislative Consent Motion (formerly known as Sewel motion), allowing the UK Parliament legislate on behalf of Scotland in the Climate Change Bill:

That the Parliament endorses the principle of introducing for the United Kingdom as a whole statutory targets and a related framework for action to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions as set out in the Climate Change Bill, introduced in the House of Lords on 14 November 2007, and agrees that the provisions in the Bill which fall within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament should be considered by the UK Parliament.

Then they all swanned off for Christmas, so there'll be a Whip special looking at the parties' performances in the Chamber since September coming soon, but other than that, the Whip is being put away for the season.


Anonymous said...

Could you clarify the difference between Elaine Smith's 20 non-votes and her 4 non-votes? It looks like a typo but it is possible I am just particularly slow tonight. PS Happy Christmas!

Will said...

Happy to clarify that, Anon... the smaller number refers to votes she's missed over the meetings of the Parliament, while the larger refers to the number she's missed from September through to December. All the best!