03 February 2008

The Sunday Whip

What a week! Wednesday was a relatively consensual affair, but Thursday was, well, see for yourself. Anyway. The usual Business Motions were waved through on Wednesday, then we came to the nitty gritty, with the motion on the teaching of Scottish History on the School Curriculum. A Labour amendment to the Government's motion went to a vote, but passed quite easily, by 104 votes (everyone but the LibDems) to 0, with 15 abstentions (the LibDems). Anglea Constance (SNP, Livingston) could afford to take the day off, as could Shona Robison (Public Health Minister and MSP for Dundee East). For Labour, Cathie Craigie (Cumbernauld & Kilsyth) was absent, as were Rhoda Grant (Highlands & Islands), Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy) and Tom McCabe (Hamilton South). The other absentees were John Scott (Tory Rural Affairs Spokesman and MSP for Ayr), Tavish Scott (LibDem Finance Spokesman and MSP for Shetland) and Margo MacDonald. To be fair though, they were not needed, the Labour amendment went through so easily, and the Tory and LibDem amendments were nodded through, as was the amended motion, which read:

That the Parliament recognises the importance of ensuring that young people understand Scotland's and their place in the world, both currently and in a historical context, and in pursuit of this aim welcomes the opportunities for more exciting, engaging and relevant teaching presented by the Curriculum for Excellence and, in particular, the publication of the draft social studies outcomes and experiences by Learning and Teaching Scotland, along with the recent decision by the Scottish Qualifications Authority to include questions on Scottish history as a compulsory component of the Higher History examination; further recognises that without basic literacy and numeracy skills young people have difficulty accessing the curriculum, including history; calls on the Scottish Government to provide leadership to tackle literacy and numeracy in Scottish schools which will facilitate an improved understanding of history; however, emphasises that it is important that Scottish history is taught in a balanced manner, which encourages young people to evaluate the evidence critically and come to their own conclusions, and that it is taught in its rightful context, namely alongside local, British, European and world history, and further emphasises that courses must be of a high quality with teachers being supported by new teaching resources and continuing professional development training as necessary, and believes that history should be taught without political interference.

A Legislative Consent Motion on the Criminal Justice & Immigration Bill was nodded through, as was the Management of Offenders etc. (Scotland) Act 2005 (Members' Remuneration and Supplementary Provisions) Order 2008. And MSPs were all agreed that Parliament should consider the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2008.

Thursday, however, was a pig, with twelve divisions, a figure I don't recall being reached since the election. Cathie Craigie and Marilyn Livingstone were missing for Labour, while the LibDems missed Liam McArthur (Orkney), John Farquhar Munro (Ross, Skye & Inverness West), Tavish Scott and Jim Tolson (Dunfermline West).

First came the Labour motion and amendments on Passenger Transport. A LibDem amendment fell by 63 votes (SNP and Tories) to 58 (Labour, LibDems and Greens) with one abstention (Margo). This is telling: the Labour and LibDem absences could have seen it go through. However, the remaining votes would have been lost by the former Executive anyway: a Tory amendment to the Green amendment passed by 65 (SNP, Tories, Greens) to 56 (Labour and LibDems) with one abstention. The amended amendment passed by the same result, as did the amended motion:

That the Parliament notes the importance of accessible passenger transport to achieving the Scottish Government's climate change objectives and in tackling the significant inequalities in Scottish society; recognises that it is vital that accessible and affordable public transport is available to help the Scottish Government to meet its climate change objectives and to ensure the continuation of vital urban and rural services; calls on the Scottish Government to provide a substantial increase in the budget for the Bus Service Operators Grant in 2008-09 and to consider keeping fares more affordable for the longer term; notes the Scottish Government's intention to review the national concessionary travel scheme, and calls on ministers during that review to ensure that they maximise the benefits for the public throughout Scotland while guaranteeing the best return on a scheme which represents a significant investment of public money and notes that Labour and Liberal Democrat ministers in the previous administration chose not to grant eligibility to disabled people in receipt of the lower rate of disability allowance and to older and disabled people using community transport in rural areas when they created the National Concessionary Fares Scheme.

Then came a set of amendments and a Labour motion on education: a Government amendment to a Tory amendment passed by 65 votes - SNP, Tories and Greens - to 13 - the LibDems and Labour's Shadow Community Safety Minister Paul Martin (Glasgow Springburn) - with 44 abstentions - the rest of Labour and Margo. The amended Tory amendment went through by 109 votes (SNP, Labour, Tories, Greens) to 12 (LibDems) with one abstention. Labour's Shadow Energy Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central) missed the vote on the LibDem amendment, which was defeated by 63 votes (SNP and Tories) to 55 (Labour and LibDems) with three abstentions (Greens and Margo). Macdonald was back for the amended motion, but Labour's Shadow Justice Secretary Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin) missed it. Again, her absence wasn't a problem: it passed by 108 votes (SNP, Labour, Tories, Greens) to 0 with 13 abstentions (LibDems and Margo):

That the Parliament recognises the importance of high-quality school buildings to young people's learning; and the need for energy efficiency, quality design including the incorporation of sound ecological and sustainable design principles, and value for money for the public purse in building schools; recognises the need for the Scottish Government and local authorities to continue to improve Scotland's school estate; notes the SNP's commitment to match the previous administration's proposed school building programme "brick for brick", and calls on the Scottish Government to make a statement to the Parliament detailing its plans for new schools and how these will be funded; and further notes that future plans for school buildings will be usefully informed by the imminent publication of Audit Scotland's report on improving the Scottish school estate and the Scottish Government's proposals for the Scottish Futures Trust and the Infrastructure Investment Plan.

This left the Government motion on Poverty: a Labour amendment fell by 66 votes - SNP, Tories, Greens and Labour's Shadow Sports Minister Frank McAveety (Glasgow Shettleston) - to 43 - the rest of Labour), with 13 abstentions - the LibDems and Margo. A Tory amendment went through by 65 votes - the SNP, Tories, Margo and Labour's Pauline McNeill - to 3 - the Greens and Labour's Frank McAveety (tut tut!) - with 54 abstentions - the rest of Labour and the LibDems. The LibDem amendment fell by 63 votes (SNP, Tories) to 13 (LibDems and Margo) with 46 abstentions (Labour and Greens). Finally, the vote on the amended motion arrived, though LibDem Health Spokesman Ross Finnie (West of Scotland) had clearly had enough and left - it's not hard to sympathise with him, frankly. The motion passed by 75 votes (SNP, Tories, LibDems and Margo) to 46 (Labour and Greens):

That the Parliament agrees that poverty, inequality and deprivation are among the greatest challenges to be faced in Scotland today, that tackling these challenges is core to the delivery of the Government Economic Strategy and that development of a framework for taking forward these aspects of the Government Economic Strategy will contribute to the creation of a fairer Scotland, recognises that the Scottish Government, UK Government and local governments need to work together to get people off welfare and into work where possible and to increase the percentage of benefit take-up ensuring that those most in need of help get it, and calls on the Scottish Government to bring forward proposals to achieve these aims.

Finally! Now if you'll excuse me, I need a lie down. I suspect most MSPs did on Thursday, as well.


Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

consensual affair

Not sure if this is exactly family rated, Will.

Will said...

It never was... the MSPs are being whipped, after all!