25 January 2009

The Sunday Whip

Another quiet one, this week: seems we're all saving our energies for the Budget Bunfight next week.

Anyway, the only substantive item of business on Wednesday - aside from the waved through Business Motion - was a Government motion on the CAP Healthcheck. The absentees were: Jackie Baillie (Lab, Dumbarton), Cathie Craigie (Lab, Cumbernauld & Kilsyth), Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio Margaret Curran (Glasgow Baillieston), Labour's Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale, on maternity leave), Hugh Henry (Paisley North), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), Jack McConnell (Lab, Motherwell & Wishaw), Environment Minister Mike Russell (South of Scotland), Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston, who was thought to be in a hidey-hole with Osama bin Laden, Elvis, Lord Lucan and Shergar, but has since surfaced in the form of a press release to hail proposed improvements to a pair of railway bridges in Coatbridge though as yet has not seen fit to return to the Chamber), Finance Secretary John Swinney (North Tayside) and Shadow Deputy Finance Minister David Whitton (Lab, Strathkelvin & Bearsden).

They missed the Labour and Tory amendments being waved through, and a LibDem amendment passing by 53 votes (Labour and most of the LibDems) to two - LibDem Justice Spokesman Robert Brown (Glasgow) and Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead (Moray), both of whom, I suspect, goofed - with 62 (SNP/Tory/Green) abstentions.

The Green amendment, which was missed by Jamie McGrigor (Con, Highlands & Islands), fared far worse: it fell by 76 (SNP/Tory/LibDem) votes to three - the Greens and Labour Deputy Leader Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok), who I assume was also a member of the Wrong Button Club - with 37 Labour abstentions. But the amended motion was waved through:

That the Parliament, noting the recent agreement in the Council of Ministers on the European Commission's legislative proposals for the Health Check of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), acknowledges the Scottish Government's commitment to work with stakeholders on how key aspects of the proposals should be implemented in Scotland and on the longer-term implementation of CAP in Scotland and believes that future decisions must reflect the distinctiveness of agriculture in Scotland and support a dynamic and competitive industry with farmers playing their full part in achieving the Scottish Government's purpose of sustainable economic growth through food production and the environmental management of our agricultural land, combined with the delivery of other economic and social public goods; calls on the Scottish Government to work constructively with UK ministers to ensure that the United Kingdom's negotiating strategy delivers the right framework for rural Scotland, including support for farming and crofting in fragile rural areas, to ensure that new policy mechanisms are in place to maintain habitat programmes, following the loss of set-aside provisions, and to continue a bull hire scheme; considers that greater levels of food production and increased self-sufficiency are becoming increasingly important; therefore encourages policy makers to work towards future support being linked to the active farming of land; notes with concern evidence of serious difficulties experienced by farmers and crofters in accessing monies under the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP); recognises the Scottish Government's commitment to review the Rural Priorities scheme, and calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that the review is sufficiently wide-ranging to cover all aspects of the structure of the SRDP as well as the application process for payments to resolve urgently the problems with the operation and implementation of the programme.

Thursday was relatively quiet as well, by recent standards, and the absentee list reflects that: Labour Shadow Education Secretary Rhona Brankin (Midlothian), Cathie Craigie, Margaret Curran, Karen Gillon, Labour Shadow Health Secretary Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Shadow Finance Secretary Andy Kerr (East Kilbride), Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill (Lothians, now where could he have been, I wonder?), Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central), Margo MacDonald, Jack McConnell, Elaine Smith and Labour's Shadow Children's Minister Karen Whitefield (Airdrie & Shotts).

They missed the waving through of Stage 3 of the Scottish Parliamentary Pensions Bill.

The main point of contention on the day was the debate on the Government's response to the Scottish Council of Economic Advisers Annual Report. The Labour amendment was waved through, but the Tory one faced a vote, and passed by 98 (SNP/Labour/Tory) votes to 18 (LibDems/Greens). The LibDem amendment, which was missed by John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West), fell, by 48 (SNP/Green) votes to 15, with 52 (Labour/Tory) abstentions. And the amended motion itself was passed, by 98 (SNP/Labour/Tory) votes to 2 (Greens) with 16 LibDem abstentions:

That the Parliament notes the recommendations made in the First Annual Report of the Scottish Council of Economic Advisers: December 2008 and the Scottish Government's response to those recommendations in the context of its action to help businesses and households, support jobs and investment and ensure Scotland is well positioned to take advantage of any recovery; calls on the Scottish Government to establish a formal link between the Council of Economic Advisers and the National Economic Forum to ensure that the work of the two bodies is coordinated to be of maximum benefit to the Scottish people, and in particular notes the commitment to an independent assessment of the full economic costs and abatement potential of the various energy options, including nuclear power, which are open to Scotland.

Following that, the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Bill passed Stage 1 without any challenge, and the Bill got its Financial Resolution without dissent.

That's your lot. Now, get ready for the biggie...

No comments: