12 October 2008

The Sunday Whip

This was something of a topsy-turvy week: in a largely consensual programme, the challenges came on Wednesday, rather than Thursday. Now, it could be because there were no real 'hot button' issues here; it could be that the banking crisis has stunned everyone into consensus, avoiding massive ding-dongs on trivial matters; or it could be that the half-term break is upon us, and no one could really be bothered. Or it could be all three.

Certainly the level of absentee-ism on Wednesday did nothing to disabuse people of the notion that people just weren't all that fussed. Missing the vote were Wendy Alexander (Lab, Paisley North), Bashir Ahmad (SNP, Glasgow), Jackie Baillie (Lab, Dumbarton), Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Rhona Brankin (Midlothian), Labour's Shadow Secretary for Nothing in Particular Margaret Curran (Glasgow Baillieston), Patricia Ferguson (Lab, Glasgow Maryhill), Joe FitzPatrick (SNP, Dundee West), George Foulkes (Lab, Lothians), Labour's Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Marilyn Livingstone (Lab, Kirkcaldy), Labour's Shadow Sport Minister Frank McAveety (Glasgow Shettleston), Irene Oldfather (Lab, Cunninghame South), Gil Paterson (SNP, West of Scotland), Shirley-Anne Somerville (SNP, Lothians) and Sandra White (SNP, Glasgow).

So the remaining MSPs nodded through the Business Motion. Then came the actual contentious issue of the day: the report by the Scottish Broadcasting Commission. A Labour amendment passed by 68 (Labour/Tory/LibDem) to one (Culture Minister Linda Fabiani, was this an accident or was she pissed off that Labour were messing with the motion in her name?) with 44 abstentions (the rest of the SNP, the Greens and Margo). A Tory amendment fell by 60 (the SNP, LibDems and Greens) to 16 (the Tories) with 37 abstentions (Labour and Margo). After that, it was plain sailing: the LibDem amendment, and the amended motion, both sailed through:

That the Parliament welcomes the Scottish Broadcasting Commission's final report and recognises the cross-party engagement that enabled the commission to carry out its work in a constructive and consensual fashion; notes that the report reflects the importance of broadcasting to the cultural and economic life of Scotland and accepts that the Parliament should take an active role in considering the broadcasting industry and services as they relate to Scotland; welcomes the key recommendation for the creation of a new public service Scottish digital network, which represents a major opportunity to develop Scotland's broadcasting industry; notes that the commission's recommendations require action by a range of parties; calls on the Scottish Government to respond positively to the report within its responsibilities; agrees with the commission that Scotland should not lose out on the obvious advantages of being part of the UK broadcasting framework, particularly in research and development of digital media platforms; believes that the Calman Commission should consider the role of the Parliament in playing an active role in scrutinising and promoting the broadcasting industry as it relates to Scotland, and notes with concern the proposals contained within Phase 2 of Ofcom's Second Public Service Broadcasting Review, which present a serious threat to the long-term viability of Scottish public service broadcasters, of Borders news programmes and of Scottish content programming and Gaelic language programmes on Channel 3.

After that, Parliament agreed unanimously that the Rural Affairs & Environment Committee should take a look at Stage 1 of the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Bill, and three SSIs were nodded through: the Freedom of Information (Relaxation of Statutory Prohibitions on Disclosure of Information) (Scotland) Order 2008, the Scottish Commission for Human Rights (Specification) Order 2008 and the Adults with Incapacity (Electronic Communications) (Scotland) Order 2008.

Thursday was the model of consensus: the Local Government & Communities Committee had a motion waved through:

That the Parliament notes the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Local Government and Communities Committee's 8th Report, 2008 (Session 3): Elections 2007 (SP Paper 120).

And with a Business Motion concerning proceedings for Jamie McGrigor's Scottish Register of Tartans Bill nodded through, all that remained was for the Bill itself to be considered. David Whitton's amendment was waved through, as was the amended Scottish Register of Tartans Bill at Decision Time.

And with that, the MSPs go on their hollybobs for a fortnight. So no Whips for a couple of weeks, but if you're very good, I might post a couple of dispatches from Perth for the SNP Conference.

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