02 November 2008

The Sunday Whip

Admit it, you've not quite known what to do with yourselves the last two weeks, have you? I know I've been wandering about in a daze. And if any of you even think about saying that that's a normal state of affairs for me, then there'll be trouble!

Anyway. This has been a very successful week for the Government, though there has been lots of oddness about it. So read on, kids, for this is the week of the most sparsely populated Chamber at Decision Time since the Election; the amendment with the lowest number of MSPs supporting it certainly in this Session of the Parliament and perhaps in its nine-year history; a possible Register of Interests situation; that all-too-rare beast, a Green amendment; and a challenge to the Business Motion.

So, with this post sufficiently hyped up, Wednesday delivered a rather thin atmosphere on account of the number of absentees. And seeing as most of them were from Labour, I'll only mention the party affiliation of the one who wasn't:

Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton), Shadow Education Secretary Rhona Brankin (Midlothian), Bill Butler (Glasgow Anniesland), Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North & Leith), Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Being Locked In A Darkened Room Margaret Curran (Glasgow Baillieston), Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill), Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale, on maternity leave), Marlyn Glen (North East Scotland), Trish Godman (West Renfrewshire), Shadow Finance Secretary Andy Kerr (East Kilbride), Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy), Shadow Transport Minister Des McNulty (Clydebank & Milngavie), Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South), Shadow Economy & Skills Minister John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife, serving a three-match ban for violent conduct), Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East), Elaine Smith (Coatbridge & Chryston) and LibDem Culture Spokesman Iain Smith (North East Fife).

So what did they miss? Well, they missed the LibDems quibble over a Business Motion inserting a statement informing MSPs of the Teacher Emplyment Working Group Report. Their complaints fell on deaf ears as the motion passed by 65 (SNP/Tory Green votes) to 45 (Labour/LibDem) with one (Margo!) abstention.

The other Business Motion, setting out the schedule for next week, passed on the nod, as did a motion setting out the timetable for the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Bill.

At Decision Time proper, there was a Government motion on the British-Irish Council up for a vote. The Labour amendment fell by 65 (SNP/LD/Green/Margo) to 46 (Labour/Tory) votes, and the motion itself passed by 65 (the same combination) to 30 (Labour's depleted ranks) with 16 Tory abstentions:

That the Parliament acknowledges the successful summit meeting of the British-Irish Council at Hopetoun House; notes the outcomes of the summit in relation to demography, energy and the ongoing business of the Council; notes also that the Council gave consideration to the global economic situation; believes that the Council is an invaluable forum for strengthening intergovernmental relationships; supports the Scottish ministers' proposal to lead a workstream on renewable energy, and encourages them to continue to support the Council in addressing issues of real and common concern.

Following that, it was SSI time, and the Mental Health (England and Wales Cross-border transfer: patients subject to requirements other than detention) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 was waved through.

But if the Chamber seemed empty on Wednesday, it was in fact a bustling hive of activity compared to the ghost town that was Thursday's Chamber. Assuming that Stewart Stevenson simply sat on his hands rather than actually leaving the Chamber during the HBOS vote, then a staggering 24 MSPs were missing - 18.6% of the full number - and 22 of those were Labour. The ones that weren't were Willie Coffey (SNP, Kilmarnock & Loudoun) and Iain Smith. The Labour absentees were:

Shadow Schools Minister Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife), Rhona Brankin, Bill Butler, Cathie Craigie (Cumbernauld & Kilsyth), Helen Eadie (Dunfermline West), Patricia Ferguson, Karen Gillon, Marlyn Glen, Trish Godman, James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen), Andy Kerr, Deputy Leader Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok), Marilyn Livingstone, Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central), Tom McCabe (Hamilton South), Jack McConnell (Motherwell & Wishaw), Duncan McNeil (Greenock & Inverclyde), Des McNulty, Irene Oldfather, John Park, Cathy Peattie and Elaine Smith.

First came the LibDem motion on the rising cost of living, which faced a rather biting amendment lodged by the SNP. Said amendment passed by 64 (SNP/Tory/Green) votes to 40 (Labour/LibDem/Margo), and the amended motion itself went through by 65 votes to 38 with one abstention. Voting in favour were the SNP, Tories, Greens and John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West), who either pressed the wrong button or is severely hacked off with his party. Labour joined the rest of the LibDems in opposing the motion, with Margo briefly returnng to her beloved fence. Anyway, the amended motion - which should cause JFM's face to go red - was as follows:

That the Parliament notes with grave concern the rise in the cost of living and the impact of the credit crunch on families, individuals and small businesses in Scotland; agrees that the Scottish Government should use all of the levers at its disposal to give practical help; calls on the Liberal Democrats to set out in detail the £800 million of cuts to public services that they would make to fund their proposal on income tax and believes that until these cuts are identified and are open to scrutiny the Liberal Democrats and their proposal have no credibility, and further believes that, as part of the forthcoming budget process, the Liberal Democrats should bring forward detailed proposals of where they believe cuts should be made.

Ouch! However, the two feuding forces kissed and made up for the LibDems' HBOS motion. Now, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson (Banff & Buchan) sat this one out, and I assume that the Register of Interests comes into play. Now, it's not overly clear that he did actually have to sit on his hands: I'd have thought that he would have but after reading the Code of Conduct and the Interests of Members of the Scottish Parliament Act 2006 and Section 39 of the Scotland Act, I'm not so sure. But, given this entry in his Register, he probably did the right thing:

I own ordinary shares in HBOS plc, a clearing bank. These shares have a market value of £440,000. As of 4 April 2008 these shares have a market value of £229,200.

I imagine that those shares now have a market value of two and sixpence. Nevertheless, we proceed. The Tory amendment fell, by 87 (everyone but the Conservatives) to 16. Then came the Green amendment, which fell by 100 (Big 4) votes to three (Greens and Margo). I cannot confirm this, but I suspect that this is the lowest number of MSPs to vote in favour of any amendment or motion to come before the Chamber ever. It is certainly the lowest level of support for anything at Decision Time in Session 3. So with Patrick Harvie smarting somewhat from that dubious honour, the motion itself (untouched by amendments) came to a vote, and passed by 61 (SNP/LD/Margo) votes to 40 (Labour/Tories) with two (Green) abstentions:

That the Parliament gives a general welcome to the measures taken by the UK and other governments to tackle the current banking crisis; considers, however, that the recapitalisation plans announced by HM Treasury in October 2008 have fundamentally changed the landscape under which competition rules were waived to enable a merger between Lloyds TSB and Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS); further considers that inconsistent statements have come from the UK Treasury about whether or not the banks would independently have access to the recapitalisation funds; believes that this ambiguity is not serving anyone's interests in the present environment; further believes that losing HBOS corporate headquarters and jobs in Edinburgh would seriously jeopardise the city's position as a financial centre; sees no reason why HBOS should not be able to access UK Treasury recapitalisation and, therefore, liquidity funding on the same independent basis as other major banks, and, with this in mind, considers it a very real possibility that an independent HBOS solution could be found that may well be in the best interests of shareholders, employees, customers and the Scottish economy at large.

Following this, there was an outbreak of consensus surrounding a Government motion on "non-native invasive species" (aren't all invasive species invasive, or am I missing something?): the Labour and LibDem amendments were waved through, as was the amended motion:

That the Parliament welcomes the Invasive Non-Native Species Framework Strategy for Great Britain; notes that this is one of the first comprehensive strategies on invasive non-native species to be developed in Europe; further welcomes the Scottish Government's commitment to work in partnership with governments and organisations across these islands to implement the strategy; acknowledges that continued efforts are required by all partners to progress the key actions of the strategy; asks the Scottish Government to review existing legislation and report back to the Parliament on whether it considers that current legislation requires to be strengthened to ensure that the issue of non-native species is addressed more effectively; recognises that prevention and early intervention are vital in protecting native species, habitats and ecosystems, and therefore calls on the Scottish Government to work with local organisations with a remit for the protection of Scotland's natural environment to find ways to expedite the timeous implementation of measures at a local level and to report back to the Parliament with the findings.

And that's your lot. Talking about coming back from the recess with a bang...

1 comment:

northbritain said...

Obviously non-native species can be termed 'invasive' by the fact that they are not native.

However, the invasive in this sense refers to species that upset the native ecosystem.

For example, Grey Squirrels usurping Red Squrrels; Ruddy Duck usurping White-headed Duck; American Mink killing off Water Vole; Spanish Bluebell usurping our native Bluebell.

Other non-native species can be termed non-invasive because our ecosystem has learned to cope with them.

Rabbit, Mute Swan, Edible Dormouse, Canada Goose.

That's before you consider species like wolf, wild boar, lynx, brown bear that should be part of the ecosystem in Scotland.

Although their re-introduction might affect farmers, it wouldn't be termed invasive in that sense.

Do you think our politicans understand the differences?