02 March 2008

The Sunday Whip

There seems to be a pattern of late, with the act of consensus building taking place on Wednesday afternoons and the parties knocking seven bells out of each other on Thursdays. This week was no exception as no votes were needed on Wednesday. The Business Motions went through, and the Chamber agreed to the general principles of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Bill. The financial resolution went through as well. Then there was one act of nodding - well, apathy, I suppose, that saw the following SSIs passed:

Community Care (Personal Care and Nursing Care) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2008

Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007 (Supplemental Provisions) Order 2008

Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 Fixed Penalty Order 2008

Valuation and Rating (Exempted Classes) (Scotland) Order 2008

Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985 (Low Income, Low Asset Debtors etc.) Regulations 2008

Budget (Scotland) Act 2007 Amendment Order 2008

Fondue Set Regulations 2008

Cuddly Toy Order 2008

OK, I made the last two up, as devotees of the Generation Game will have spotted.

Anyway, Thursday was uglier, though LibDem amendments to the Graduate Endowment Abolition (Scotland) Bill went through on the nod. The amended Bill went through to Decision Time.

Speaking of which, no one missed the whole event, with all 128 eligible members casting their votes on a number of occasions, and a Labour motion on Improving Accountability was the first to gain a sellout crowd. A Tory amendment passed by 64 (Tory/SNP/Margo) votes to 48 (Labour/Green), with 16 LibDem abstentions, while a LibDem amendment saw the first defeat for the Government in six weeks - the longest spell of uninterrupted victory for the SNP since the Summer recess (and that's only because no votes were taken for two months!): it passed by 65 (Labour/LibDem/Green/Margo) votes to 63 (SNP/Tory), while the motion itself passed by 81 (everyone but the SNP) to 47. So MSPs agreed:

That the Parliament believes that government should be open and accountable; affirms its support for the Seven Principles of Public Life established in the first report of the Nolan Committee and for the further principles governing ministerial conduct as set out in the Scottish Ministerial Code; notes that the First Minister is reviewing the code, in line with practice after each Scottish parliamentary election; acknowledges the increasing calls for independent oversight of the code; considers that a modern and progressive government has nothing to fear from ensuring transparency and accountability in all that it does, and therefore calls on the First Minister to include independent authority to direct ministers in the appropriate arrangements for ensuring that their conduct as ministers is in accordance with the Scottish Ministerial Code to avoid conflict or potential conflict of interest, and to oversee its administration, and to bring forward a statement to the Parliament on this when the review is concluded and further believes that the best way of ensuring independent oversight is for the Parliament to appoint a person independent of government to investigate alleged breaches of the Scottish Ministerial Code.

There then came a set of votes on a Labour motion about Protecting Scotland's Children, which saw a Government amendment, which itself saw two amendments. The first of which was a Tory amendment, which Margo MacDonald skipped and fell by 111 (everyone but the Tories) to 16. The second amendment - also missed by Margo - came from the LibDems, and passed 81 (everyone but Labour) to 46. The amended amendment saw Margo pop into the Chamber, and she was one of the 82 MSPs to vote in favour, with only Labour's 46 MSPs voting against. She popped back out while the vote for the amended motion was taking place, but it still passed by 81 votes to 46. So to the chagrin of the Labour group, the MSPs resolved:

That the Parliament recognises the importance of making further progress on the 33 recommendations published by the Justice 2 Sub-committee on 15 December 2006 in connection with the management of registered sex offenders; believes that ensuring public safety is paramount in the management of registered sex offenders; further recognises that appropriate utilisation of DNA samples and fingerprints can play an important role in identifying offenders but that it is vital to strike the right balance between prosecuting criminals and protecting the innocent and notes the review that the Scottish Government has commissioned from Professor James Fraser; rejects the blanket retention of DNA samples and fingerprints; recognises the extensive powers already available to the police in monitoring sex offenders and ensuring public safety, and notes the Scottish Government's liaison with the Home Office as disclosure pilots progress in four English police areas and the Scottish Government's proposal to monitor the outcomes of these pilots to determine what lessons there might be for Scotland, and welcomes the Scottish Government's proposal to write to the Convener of the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee to report progress on each of the 33 recommendations made by the Justice 2 Sub-committee report J2SC/S2/06/R1.

But this was a prelude to the main event, the Stage 3 vote on the Graduate Endowment Aboliton (Scotland) Bill. Now, with the amendments to the Bill passed, all that remained was the motion required to pass the Bill, and opoosition parties have this infuriating habit of tacking non-binding parliamentary graffiti onto the thing, when if they really want the X or Y that they're asking for to happen, they could just as easily table amendments to the actual Bill so that they become, well, law!

But my rant notwithstanding, the Tories were the first to try and scribble on the Bill's front cover. They failed: the amendment fell by 65 (SNP/LibDem/Green) votes to 63 (Labour/Tories/Margo). A Labour attmept fell in exactly the same way, while a LibDem attempt was successful, passing by 66 (SNP/LibDem/Green/Margo) votes to 16 (Tories) with 46 (Labour) abstentions. The amended motion then passed, taking the Bill with it. 67 MSPs voted in favour of the Bill: the SNP, LibDems, Greens, Margo, and Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston). The other 61 - the rest of the Labour group and all the Tories - voted against. Nevertheless, Parliament resolved:

That the Parliament agrees that the Graduate Endowment Abolition (Scotland) Bill be passed and, in so doing, calls on the Scottish Ministers, when taking forward their consultation on student support later this year, to consider a number of wider options to improve financial support for students, including specific reference to the development of a new minimum income guarantee.

As a matter of interest, next week sees that rare beast, a debate led by one of the Committees, but it's the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, so it's one for the Process People. Can't wait!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...






Hope you Fifers will take heed of this treachery at election time!