08 February 2009

The Sunday Whip

Well, after last week's stramash, this week turned out to be a rather good one for the Government. We know about Wednesday: the Budget (Scotland) (No. 3) Bill passed through the Parliament at Warp Factor 9, with members waving through an amended Business Motion, a motion to treat the Bill as an Emergency Bill and Stage 1 of the legislation. At that point, MSPs formed a Committee of the Whole Parliament, which waved through Stage 2 of the Bill. Following that rapid transformeation, MSPs then reverted from being a giant Committee to being the Parliament once again.

Following the Stage 3 debate, MSPs waved through a Business Motion and voted 123-2 in favour of the Budget (Scotland) (No. 3) Bill, as we know. The missing MSPs were Jackson Carlaw (Con, West of Scotland), Labour's Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale) and Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston).

After that solitary vote, MSPs waved through a motion to suspend part of the Standing Orders next Wednesday, as well as the following SSIs:

Town and Country Planning (Grounds for Declining to Follow Recommendations) (Scotland) Regulations 2009

Town and Country Planning (Hierarchy of Developments) (Scotland) Regulations 2009

Town and Country Planning (Amount of Fixed Penalty) (Scotland) Regulations 2009

Prohibited Procedures on Protected Animals (Exemptions) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2009

Fun, fun, fun. Anyway, Thursday went well too: missing were Jackson Carlaw, Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary without Portfolio Margaret Curran (Lab, Glasgow Baillieston), Karen Gillon, James Kelly (Lab, Glasgow Rutherglen), Tory Rural Affairs Spokesman John Scott (Ayr) and Elaine Smith.

First came the LibDem motion on Borrowing Powers for the Scottish Parliament: a Labour amendment fell by 80 (everyone but Labour) to 42, while a Tory one fell by 64 (SNP/LibDems/Margo) to 16 (Tories/Greens) with 42 (Labour) abstentions. The untouched motion passed by 66 (SNP/LibDems/Greens/Margo) to 0 with 56 (Lab/Con) abstentions:

That the Parliament believes that the acquisition of borrowing powers would enhance the autonomy and accountability of the Scottish Parliament and improve the Scottish Government's ability to respond to changing economic circumstances; notes that borrowing powers would allow the Scottish Government to phase the funding of major capital projects such as the new Forth Replacement Crossing sensibly and efficiently, and therefore welcomes the Scottish Government's commitment to give permission for civil servants to engage fully with the Commission on Scottish Devolution to assist the delivery of borrowing powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Next came the LibDem motion on a financial sector jobs task force, in which a Labour amendment, a Tory amendment and the motion itself were all waved through:

That the Parliament notes the importance of the financial services industry to the Scottish economy; believes that the Financial Services Advisory Board (FiSAB), set up to be the custodian and advocate of the strategy for the industry in Scotland during a time of economic boom, should now be given more powers and a new purpose to focus on protection for this major Scottish industry during the current banking crisis and recession; notes the Scottish Government's commitment that FiSAB should be adapted to deal with the challenges in the sector and should meet more frequently than the present position of twice a year; believes that there should be continued workforce representation at the meetings in the shape of the recognised trade unions, and calls for the urgent formation of a finance sector jobs taskforce within FiSAB to work proactively to help the staff with essential skills who are losing their jobs and for ministers to report to the Parliament on its work and for such reports to include the latest estimate of the number of jobs in the financial sector in Scotland, direct and indirect.

The last act of business came with a Government motion on the Early Years Framework. A Labour amendment to the motion fell by 61 (SNP/Tory) votes to 45 (Labour/Greens/Margo) with 16 LibDem abstentions. Tory and LibDem amendments were nodded through, as was the amended motion:

That the Parliament recognises that getting the early years right is key to delivering improved outcomes for children and young people and a key opportunity to shape a more successful Scotland; notes the publication of The Early Years Framework and the vision it sets out for giving children the best start in life, including a focus on parenting, early intervention, meeting the needs of children and parents and play; further recognises the challenges in shifting to prevention and early intervention while also supporting children who need help now, and calls on national and local government to work together with external agencies and the voluntary sector to address these challenges in partnership during the implementation of the framework which should include greater emphasis on the development of parenting skills and harnessing the excellent work of voluntary sector groups that provide these services.

So all in all, a decent week for the Government.

One final word: as we know, these votes were the final Parliamentary acts carried out by the late Bashir Ahmad. It is my understanding, looking through the records I keep, that there have been 260 votes taken up to this point in Session 3 of the Scottish Parliament. Bashir was present for 257 of them - an attendance rate of 98.85%. That's a credit to the commitment of the man and his successor will have a hard act to follow.


Ted Harvey said...

If they really were absent from the budget debate, I can’t help wondering what was so important as to justify the absence of the likes of Tom Kelly (Labour Rutherglen Glasgow)… and of course Labour ‘Shadow Cabinet Secretary without Portfolio’ Margaret Curran. Maybe they had to attend some meeting or other with the Westminster Labour MPs who are reportedly yet again running a ‘return some devolved powers to us’ campaign? (the campaign basis seems to be same as before, i.e. ‘because we need to have the powers back to again ensure that Westminster Labour views always trump whatever you lot back in the kailyard ever say’).

By the way, I today ‘properly’ read the hard print edition of Scotland on Sunday for the first in a couple of years. It is dreadful – an utter and dreary editorial bias seems to run through everything. The negativity is especially grinding and almost dismaying to read.

It struck me that it has become a slightly up-market version of what the Sunday Post was like in the late 1970s. Warner’s diatribe on how the recession is gonna all be the fault of Obama and Brown, oh and Clinton, is just risible (not a mention of Major, Lawson, Bush, Greenspan etc, etc. – funny how they are all of the discredited right wing adherents fraternity). But there again it seems possible that this stuff is not at all written as serious commentary and more like the coffee break outpourings of one of those bores at a business conference who decides to spout forth his unsolicited views on politics and the world in general.

Will said...

Ted, for the record, I should point out that they were not absent for the Budget - or at least, they were present for the vote. They missed Thursday's votes and, frankly, their absence didn't really affect the course of events.

And I can't remember the last time I bought an SoS - glad to see I'm missing very little.

Ted Harvey said...

Will, thanks for the clarification:-)