23 November 2008

The Sunday Whip

Another topsy-turvy week this week, with the one point of contention coming on Wendesday afternoon, and literally everything else sailing through unchallenged.

Anyway, the Business motion was nodded through on Wednesday as per, so it came to the SNP motion on ID cards, which faced a LibDem amendment, which itself faced a Tory amendment. Labour played the 'half-assed boycott' card, choosing to abstain even though:

1. They didn't want the motion debated (tough luck, everyone else on the Bureau did, and the PO was happy enough, so there's no point in not engaging);

2. They don't think the Parliament should have a position on the matter (so why abstain when that doesn't actually block a motion?);

3. They were happy enough to take part in the debate (so why not vote?);

4. The tone of the Labour speeches had a pro-ID card tinge (so why not simply confirm the policy that was confirmed by the speeches as set down in the Official Report and vote on the actual principle?)

Now, even voting no wouldn't have stopped the motion going through, but the abstentionist policy seems utterly futile when, as I think Murdo Fraser pointed out once before, it effectively hands the SNP a majority of 12. It also seems hypocritical when, as Patrick Harvie pointed out on Wednesday, the last Executive was more than happy to discuss reserved matters.

But I digress. Firstly, there were quite a few absentees: Wendy Alexander (Lab, Paisley North), Gavin Brown (Con, Lothians), Cathie Craigie (Lab, Cumbernauld & Kilsyth), LibDem Health Spokesman Ross Finnie (West of Scotland), Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Lab, Clydesdale, maternity leave), Robin Harper (Green, Lothians), Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead (Moray), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), Michael Matheson (SNP, Falkirk West), Jamie McGrigor (Con, Highlands & Islands), David McLetchie (Con, Edinburgh Pentlands), Labour's Shadow Parliamentary Business Minister Michael McMahon (Hamilton North & Bellshill), Shadow Environment Minister Elaine Murray (Dumfries), Cathy Peattie (Lab, Falkirk East), Mike Pringle (LD, Edinburgh South), Alex Salmond, Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston), Shirley-Anne Somerville (SNP, Lothians), Nicol Stephen (LD, Aberdeen South), Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson (Banff & Buchan) and Karen Whitefield (Lab, Airdrie & Shotts).

With that out the way, the Tory amendment passed by 68 (SNP/Tory/LD) to 1 (Green) with 38 Labour abstentions. Bashir Ahmad (SNP, Glasgow) missed the amended LibDem amendment, but it still passed by 68 (SNP/Tory/LD/Green) to 0 with 38 abstentions, and he was back in the chamber for the amended motion, which passed by 69 to 0 with 38 abstentions:

That the Parliament notes that the UK Government's proposals for an ID card scheme are presently estimated by it to cost the public purse around £5 billion and considers that the scheme as proposed will not increase security, nor deter crime, and will have serious implications for the civil liberties of ordinary citizens; recognises that the UK Government has repeatedly shown itself to be incapable of keeping personal data securely and therefore cannot be trusted with what would be the most powerful, most expensive and most intrusive database in the world; further recognises the large-scale public and political opposition to the imposition of the ID card scheme; believes that the money for ID cards could more usefully be spent elsewhere, such as on improving border security or policing, and therefore calls on the UK Government to heed public opinion and cancel this wasteful government folly.

Following that, Members had absolutely no problem with the Clerk's office being closed on the 29th, 30th and 31st of December. Nor did they have any problems with the SSIs: the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 (Scheme of Assistance) Regulations 2008 and the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics (Scotland) Order 2008.

After that, Thursday was positively tranquil. A Government motion on looked-after children faced a Labour amendment, which itself faced a LibDem amendment. They were all nodded through:

That the Parliament agrees that it is unacceptable that outcomes for looked-after children and young people and care leavers across a range of indicators fall so far behind those of their peers and agrees to do everything possible to end discrimination and stigmatisation of those who have experienced the care system and to challenge all services to offer the best possible childhoods to the children and young people in their care to ensure that looked-after children and young people and care leavers are able to grow up into successful, responsible and happy adults; in that spirit recognises that looked-after children are among those considered as most vulnerable and therefore believes that integral to their success is for the Scottish Government to ensure that local authority funding for the care and safety of children more generally is properly protected, particularly in light of the recent worrying HM Inspectorate of Education report into child protection services in Aberdeen, and therefore calls on the Scottish Government to make a statement on that report and to revisit the Children's Services Bill consulted on in the previous parliamentary session and to work with local authorities and other partner agencies to ensure that appropriate early intervention and support is available across Scotland and that child protection practices are kept under immediate and continuous review.

Following that, there qas a Government motion on aquaculture, which faced amendments from Labour, the Tories and LibDems. They all passed without a problem:

That the Parliament notes the recent consultation, Scottish Aquaculture: A Fresh Start; supports the continued development of an ambitious, sustainable, thriving and growing Scottish aquaculture industry; recognises the economic importance of the industry to Scotland as a whole and many coastal communities in particular; supports efforts to advance the enviable international reputation of quality Scottish aquaculture products, built on high environmental standards and excellent health status when compared to competitor nations; further supports efforts to advance the enviable international reputation of Scotland's wild salmon stocks and, in light of the potential damage to the health and integrity of wild stocks caused by escaped farmed fish, believes that a robust commitment to reducing escapes and improved traceability must be a central element of the new Strategic Framework; recognises the continued threat posed by Gyrodactylus salaris to farmed and wild salmon stocks alike and, in light of the economic and ecological damage that an outbreak could cause, considers that further serious consideration must be given to measures aimed at reducing the likelihood of the parasite entering Scotland; welcomes the engagement of the shellfish and finfish industries and other stakeholders in the development of the new Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture, to be published in spring 2009; believes that the renewed strategy for Scottish aquaculture must be consistent with the provisions of the forthcoming Marine Bill and the EU Water Framework Directive; believes that Scotland can learn valuable lessons from its competitor nations with thriving aquaculture industries; further believes that Scottish aquaculture can maximise the opportunities presented by the current rapid expansion of the international industry to achieve genuinely sustainable growth, and therefore calls on the Scottish Government to take decisive action to streamline the regulatory burden, introduce a fair inspection regime, improve community and industry liaison, and encourage the development and retention of a skilled and qualified workforce in the aquaculture industry.

Then a Corporate Body motion on expenses didn't even face a debate, but still passed on the nod:

That the Parliament recognises that Members' staff salaries were last uprated in the financial year 2007-08 and in relation to the Resolution of the Parliament dated 12 June 2008 on the Expenses Scheme ("the Resolution")—

(i) amends the Schedule of Rates annexed as Annex 2 to the Resolution with immediate effect by deleting "£54,620" where it appears in line 2 and by inserting "£56,650" and

(ii) determines that all references to the Schedule of Rates and to the limit on entitlement to reimbursement of staff salary costs in paragraph (a) of the Resolution shall be read as references to the Schedule of Rates and limit on entitlement to reimbursement of staff salary costs as so amended.

So there you go. Let harmony reign!

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