13 January 2008

The Sunday Whip

A mixed bag in this, the first Whip of 2008. Wednesday was not a great day for the Government. First, the absentees: Angela Constance (SNP, Livingston) was elsewhere. George Foulkes (Lab, Lothians) had his "Baron Foulkes of Cumnock" hat on, and was asking questions about NHS medicines in the House of Lords. The other Labour absentees were Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy), Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South), Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) and Richard Simpson (Shadow Minister for Public Health and MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife). For the Tories, Deputy Leader and Shadow Education Secretary Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland & Fife) was absent.

Anyway, following the wavethrough of the Business Motion (comme d'habitude), Parliament voted on a Government motion on Serious Organised Crime, and a Labour amendment went through on the nod. A LibDem amendment got support from Labour and the Tories, which was enough to overcome opposition from the SNP, Greens and Margo MacDonald by 72 votes to 49. The amended motion passed by 72 votes (Labour, Tories, LibDems) to 48 (SNP & Greens), with one abstention (you know who by now). It read:

That the Parliament recognises that serious organised crime is a major problem that has a devastating impact on communities and businesses in Scotland; believes that tackling this menace should be a key priority for a safer and stronger Scotland; supports the Scottish police service and UK and European law enforcement agencies in ramping up their efforts to disrupt and destroy the criminal networks which inflict misery on law-abiding citizens; commends the agencies responsible for recovering over £17 million worth of assets using the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002; supports the view that serious organised crime cannot be seen to pay and supports further measures to ensure that criminals are stripped of the profits made from the misery they cause in order to reinvest in the youth of Scotland and communities, and supports the role of the newly established Serious Organised Crime Taskforce in spearheading a renewed drive and commitment to address this type of crime; calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that the necessary resources are in place to effectively implement the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, but regrets the Scottish Government's continued failure to implement the SNP's election promise of 1,000 extra police officers, which would contribute to the fight against serious crime.

Following that, however, a Legislative Consent Motion to allow Westminster to legislate for Scotland in the Health & Social Care Bill passed without dispute.

Thursday was far easier for the Government, and the only absentees for the whole thing were Murdo Fraser, Cathy Peattie and Richard Simpson. The vote on Labour's motion on the Spending Review 2007 had the potential to be ugly, but it proved not to be the case. A Tory amendment to the SNP's amendment passed by 81 votes (everyone except Labour) to 44 (Labour). The amended amendment then went through by 64 votes (SNP, Tories, Greens) to 60 (Labour & LibDems) with one abstention (Margo has clearly had the worn down 'Abstain' button replaced). This caused a LibDem motion to fall automatically (as it was amending something that was no longer there) and the amended motion passed by 63 votes to 61 with one abstention. Angela Constance appears to have voted with Labour and the LibDems, but no harm was done, so the Parliament passed:

That the Parliament looks forward to the replacement of significant amounts of ring-fencing by single outcome agreements with local authorities that will support the achievement of national outcomes set out in the spending review; recognises that the effectiveness of the national outcomes and the removal of ring-fencing will require to be monitored; looks forward to the continuation of full scrutiny of the Scottish Government's budget in the Finance Committee and the Parliament as part of the budget process; notes the decision of the Parliament on 8 November 2007 in relation to a review of the budget process for future years, and calls on all interested parties to participate fully in that review when it commences.

Then came the vote on the Gould Report, which was almost consensual. A Tory amendment to Labour's amendment passed by 109 votes (everyone but the LibDems) to 16 (the LibDems), and the amended amendment passed by 107 votes (SNP, Labour, Tories and even Margo) to 16 (LibDems) with two abstentions (Greens). A subsequent LibDem amendment fell by 18 votes (LibDems and Greens) to 59 (Labour and Tories) with 48 abstentions (SNP & Margo). The amended motion passed by 109 votes to 15. In favour were the SNP - minus Tricia Marwick (Central Fife) who missed this last vote - Labour, the Tories, Greens, Margo and John Farquhar Munro (LibDem, Ross, Skye & Inverness West). The rest of his party voted against the motion, which read:

That the Parliament welcomes the Gould report, including the recommendation calling for the further devolution of executive and legislative powers to the Scottish Government and the Parliament for the administration of its own elections and the decoupling of future elections to this Parliament and Scotland's councils; calls on Her Majesty's Government and the Scottish Government to discuss, agree and publish a timetable for appropriate implementation of the report's recommendations having regard to the conclusions from both the Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Communities Committee and the House of Commons' Scottish Affairs Select Committee, and believes that the proposed Scottish Constitutional Commission should consider the full legislative framework for Scottish Parliament elections.

Ah, it's good to have the Whip back, no?

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