21 September 2008

The Sunday Whip

This was possibly the quietest week in terms of votes, and the most sucessful week for the Government at Decision Time, for some time. Perhaps everyone had the stuffing knocked out of them by the implosion of HBOS. Anyway. Following the wave-through of the Business Motions, Wednesday saw a Committee debate, with its usual consensual outcome, as just one motion was put to the Chamber, and passed without dissent:

That the Parliament notes the conclusions and recommendations contained in the European and External Relations Committee's 3rd Report, 2008 (Session 3): Inquiry into International Development (SP Paper 134).

Thursday saw a little more activity but not much, and the subject matter was perhaps overshadowed somewhat. The Finance Secretary John Swinney (North Tayside) was busy trying to pick up the pieces of a national bank. For Labour, Shadow Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio Margaret Curran (Glasgow Baillieston) had already locked herself in a room where she could develop policy; Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill) was missing, as was Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), which is bad really as she was and still is the Shadow Minister for Rural Development, and the debate focused un hill farming; new Leader Iain Gray (East Lothian) was no doubt busy putting his Shadow Cabinet together; James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen) was absent, and Deputy Leader Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok) was probably sitting with Iain Gray; Shadow Sport Minister Frank McAveety (Glasgow Shettleston) was missing, as was Jack McConnell (Motherwell & Wishaw), while Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin) was probably sitting in her office wondering what wrong she'd done to deserve the Shadow Culture Secretary post. Nicol Stephen (LD, Aberdeen South) was elsewhere, as was Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians).

Anyway, the votes took place on a Government motion about hill farms and less favoured areas. The Labour amendment fell by 62 (SNP/Tory) votes to 54 (Labour/LibDem/Green). The Tory amendment passed by 79 (everyone but Labour) votes to 37. The LibDem amendment fell by 64 (SNP/Tory/Green) votes to 52 (Labour/LibDem), while the amended motion passed by 78 votes (most of the SNP Group, the Tories, the LibDems and Greens) to 37 (labour), with Christopher Harvie (SNP, Mid Scotland & Fife) abstaining:

That the Parliament recognises the valuable contribution made by farmers on Scotland's hills and other remote areas to food production, environmental management and our rural economy; notes the publication of the Scottish Agricultural College's report, Farming's Retreat from the Hills, funded by the Scottish Government, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh's report on its Inquiry into Scotland's Hills and Islands as well as other recent publications highlighting the challenges and opportunities facing the sector, and welcomes the publication on 18 September 2008 of the Scottish Government's consultation on the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme and its commitment to work in partnership with stakeholders to consider the range of relevant economic, social and environmental issues with the aim of securing a sustainable future for agriculture on our hills and in our more remote communities; notes the burden of increased costs for hill farmers and crofters, notably fertilisers, fuel and transport, coupled with the ongoing challenges of farming on some of the most disadvantaged land in Europe, and therefore agrees with the Royal Society of Edinburgh's report in condemning the UK Government's policy of ending direct support for Scottish producers after 2013.

Following this, another Committee report motion was waved through:

That the Parliament notes the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee's 6th Report, 2008 (Session 3): Growing Pains - can we achieve a 50% growth in tourist revenue by 2015? (SP Paper 141).

So this week went quietly, mainly as everyone's attention was just up the Royal Mile at HBOS. Next week, there's a debate on Foot & Mouth Disease, "Independent Business" (so Margo MacDonald may well have to show up as they'll be her motions) and by the end of the week we should see the passage of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Bill. Let's see what that cavalcade of whimsy brings...

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