25 May 2008

The Sunday Whip

A strange week this one, with things not necessarily going the way you'd expect. Wednesday was a prime example of this: the substantive votes just got nodded through, but the Business Motion didn't. The shenanigans were missed by Kenneth Gibson (SNP, Cunninghame North), Margo MacDonald, Liam McArthur (LibDem, Orkney), Tom McCabe (Lab, Hamilton South), Margaret Mitchell (Con, Central Scotland), John Scott (Tory Rural Affairs Spokesman and MSP for Ayr), and LibDem Leader Nicol Stephen. They didn't get to look on as LibDem Business Manager Robert Brown proposed an amendment, which got slapped down by 62 (SNP/Tory/Green) votes to 15 with 44 abstentions: the LibDems got backing by Labour Shadow Higher Education Minister Claire Baker, but the rest of her party sat on the fence. Baker joined her party colleagues there for the vote on the Business Motion itself, which passed by 62 to 14 with 45 abstentions.

Anyway, with that out of the way, consensus could break out: an SNP motion on Hepatitis C faced amendments from Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Both of these, and the amended motion went through without dissent:

That the Parliament recognises the leading role that Scotland is taking in tackling hepatitis C as a significant public health issue; commends the hard work undertaken by those staff involved in delivering 40 out of 41 action points in Phase I of the Scottish Government's Hepatitis C Action Plan and welcomes the launch of the Scottish Government Hepatitis C Phase II Action Plan, backed by funding of £43 million on 19 May 2008 as a significant step forward in seeking to prevent hepatitis C and working to raise awareness among professionals, the public and those at risk of infection and in delivering testing, treatment, support and care services to those affected by the disease, and considers that this will enable NHS boards and others identified in the plan to deliver on the actions set out to improve hepatitis C services for patients and others in Scotland.

Thursday, on the other hand, was a bit rougher for the Government, at least at first. Tory Leader Annabel Goldie, Iain Gray (Labour's Shadow Finance Secretary and MSP for East Lothian), Lewis Macdonald (Labour's Shadow Energy Minister and MSP for Aberdeen Central), Margo MacDonald, Mary Mulligan (Labour's Shadow Children's Minister and MSP for Linlithgow), Cathy Peattie (Lab, Falkirk East), John Scott and Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston) all missed the afternoon's votes.

These started with a set of votes for a Labour motion on the Government's Skills Strategy. A Government motion fell, by 71 votes (the three main Opposition parties) to 47 (the SNP) with two Green abstentions. The Tory amendment passed by 71 to 47 with two abstentions, though the Opposition attempt to encircle the SNP stuttered on the LibDem amendment, which fell by 63 (SNP/Tory/Green) votes to 57 (Labour/LibDems). However, the opposition prevailed on the amended motion: Labour's Shadow Public Health Minister Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland & Fife) missed this one vote, but he wasn't needed - with the Tory and LibDem help, Labour's motion passed by 70 to 47 with two abstentions:

That the Parliament notes that the Scottish Government's skills strategy was rejected by the Parliament on 12 September 2007; recognises the importance of skills development and utilisation in growing Scotland's economy; voices concern at the decision of the Scottish Government to move away from supporting adult apprenticeships in vital areas such as the tourism, IT and retail sectors without consultation with work-based training providers; calls on the Scottish Government to provide the Parliament, with immediate effect, the evidence to support these moves, and further calls on the Scottish Government to bring forward a revised skills strategy immediately after the summer recess containing detailed information about the level at which its 50,000 training places are being set, its targets for apprenticeships and the performance indicators used to measure success and details of how access will be provided to high quality vocational education for all school pupils aged 14 or above.

After that, consensus returned: a Labourmotion on the Scottish Ambulance Service, along with an SNP amendment, which itself had a LibDem amendment, all got waved through:

That the Parliament welcomes the improved performance demonstrated by the Scottish Ambulance Service in recent months, particularly in relation to responding more quickly to life threatening calls; congratulates the staff of the Scottish Ambulance Service for their efforts in achieving this improvement for patients; acknowledges the need to ensure that the Scottish Ambulance Service continues to improve across a range of indicators and that it effectively consults staff and communicates with the public about the service it provides for them, and calls on the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing to make a full statement to the Parliament, at the earliest opportunity, on the operation of the Scottish Ambulance Service, specifically the use of single person crews, the deployment of rapid response vehicles, ambulance response times, rates of assaults on ambulance crews and the impact of journey length on patient safety.

Following that came the Government motion on Wildlife Crime, moved by the Solicitor General. A Labour amendment was waved through, but the LibDem amendment shattered the peace that had developed, and was dismissed by 102 (SNP/Labour/Tories) to 16 (LibDems) with two Green abstentions. Despite this, the motion still passed without any further dissent:

That the Parliament welcomes the report, Natural Justice: A Joint Thematic Inspection of the Arrangements in Scotland for Preventing, Investigating and Prosecuting Wildlife Crime, by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland and the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland; commends the recommendations in the report, the implementation of which will bring to bear the full professional expertise of the agencies who investigate, detect and prosecute those involved in wildlife crime; looks forward to the development of a strong and effective partnership for action against wildlife crime, working to a new agreed strategy on wildlife crime and co-ordinating the fight against the abuse of Scotland's vital natural heritage; supports in full the recommendations of the Tomkins report, and calls on the Scottish Government to produce an action plan on tackling wildlife crime, including a timetable for the implementation of the report.

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