15 March 2009

The Sunday Whip

A busy week, mainly due to the volume of legislation passing through the Chamber.

Starting with Wednesday, all the amendments to the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill were waved through, along with the Business motions and the eminently sensible suggestion that the Justice Committee take charge of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill.

That meant that there was only one vote taken on Wednesday, and there were a number of absentees for it: Wendy Alexander (Lab, Paisley North), Labour's Shadow Eduation Secretary Rhona Brankin (Midlothian), Cathie Craigie (Lab, Cumbernauld & Kilsyth), Marlyn Glen (Lab, North East Scotland), Trish Godman (Lab, West Renfrewshire), Robin Harper (Green, Lothians), Hugh Henry (Lab, Paisley South), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), Stewart Maxwell (SNP, West of Scotland), LibDem Local Government Spokesperson Alison McInnes (North East Scotland), Labour's Shadow Parliamentary Business Minister Michael McMahon (Hamilton North & Bellshill), Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston), LibDem Education Spokesperson Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West) and Nicol Stephen (LibDem, Aberdeen South).

They missed the passage of the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill by 98 votes (everyone but the Tories) to 16.

Thursday, however, was a different animal, primarily thanks to the many amendments to the Health Boards (Membership and Elections) (Scotland) Bill. In the afternoon session, Trish Godman and Alasdair Morgan (SNP, South of Scotland) missed all the votes: they each had spells in the Chair. Also absent were Cathie Craigie, Marlyn Glen, Rhoda Grant (Lab, Highlands & Islands), Labour's Shadow Finance Secretary Andy Kerr (East Kilbride), Labour's Deputy Leader Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok), Peter Peacock (Lab, Highlands & Islands), Nicol Stephen, David Stewart (Lab, Highlands & Islands) and Finance Secretary John Swinney (North Tayside).

The first amendment, which was also missed by Alex Salmond, was Bill Butler's amendment which would have allowed for a small majority of elected Board members. It fell, by 77 (SNP/Tory/LibDem/Green) votes to 38 (Labour) with one absention (guess who!).

The second - Amendment 12 - was lodged by Helen Eadie and would have given Holyrood a say in when Councillor members of the Boards are dismissed. It too fell, by 63 votes (SNP/Tory/Green) votes to 54 (Labour/LibDems/Margo).

It was sometime between the that amendment and the next one - Amendment 2 - that Labour's Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale) left the fray. Amendment 2 came from the Government and got rid of the need for personal identifiers in all-postal elections. It passed by 61 (SNP, all but one of the Tories and Margo) to 55 (Labour/LibDems/Greens plus Glasgow Tory Bill Aitken).

After this, we were denied the presence of Margo MacDonald and Tom McCabe (Lab, Hamilton South). The fourth amendment - Amendment 3 - came from Ross Finnie and would have raised the voting age for Health Board elections to 18. Finnie attempted to withdraw it but the issue was pressed. It still fell, by 62 votes (SNP/LibDems/Greens) to 52 (Labour/Tories).

The last amendment to be voted on - Amendment 4 - was also missed by Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Rhona Brankin (Midlothian), emerged from the Government and provided for anyone who was entitled to vote in a local Council election to be entitled to vote in a Health Board election for the same area. It passed by 97 (everyone but the Tories) to 16 (the Conservatives).

The amended Bill was passed unanimously at Decision Time.

Speaking of which, the votes on the morning's motions were taken at 5pm as usual. Missing this were Cathie Craigie, Karen Gillon, Marlyn Glen, Rhoda Grant, Andy Kerr, Margo MacDonald, Stewart Maxwell, Peter Peacock, Nicol Stephen and David Stewart. First came a LibDem motion on Aberdeen Crossrail. An SNP amendment fell by 72 (everyone but the SNP) to 46 (the SNP), while a Labour amendment passed by 72 to 46. The Tory amendment got the SNP out of jail somewhat, and passed by 62 (the SNP and Conservatives) to 56 (Labour/LibDems/Greens), as did the amended motion:

That the Parliament affirms its support for the Aberdeen Crossrail project, a vital infrastructure link for the region and for the wider national transport network in Scotland, which would provide a frequent cross-city rail service; notes the comments of NESTRANS, previously chaired by Alison McInnes MSP, in its regional transport strategy, that "it is clear that improved rail services can only realistically be delivered on an incremental basis and in a way that capitalises on existing planned investment"; welcomes the recent improvements to the timetable, meaning that there is now a significantly better service north of Aberdeen than was the case when Nicol Stephen MSP and Tavish Scott MSP were ministers for transport; considers that proposals contained in the Strategic Transport Projects Review to improve services north and south of Aberdeen must be progressed as a priority as a key means of securing better crossrail services; welcomes the forthcoming opening of Laurencekirk station and considers that plans to open Kintore station should now be taken forward; further considers that local agencies should work together to build strong cases for the opening of stations at Newtonhill and Altens; notes with regret the very poor stewardship of rail projects under successive Liberal Democrat transport ministers, notably the significant cost overruns and delays that blighted the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line and the managerial paralysis at the heart of the Edinburgh Airport Rail Link, and regrets the additional investment for projects such as Aberdeen Crossrail that has been lost as a result of this mismanagement.

Following that came the LibDem motion on a Minimum Income Guarantee for Students. The SNP's amendment fell by 72 to 46. Labour's passed by 56 (Labour, the Tories and, rather embarrassingly, Brian Adam, the SNP's Chief Whip and MSP for Aberdeen North) to 47 (the rest of the SNP - was this a massive revolt involving the entire Cabinet or did Brian Adam just press the wrong button? - and the Greens) with 15 LibDem abstentions. The LibDem amendment passed by 70 (Labour/Tories/LibDems) to 48 (SNP and Greens, with Brian Adam remembering just who he was the Whip for this time):

That the Parliament recognises the importance of the higher and further education sector; notes the outcome of the New Horizons: responding to the challenges of the 21st century report and the need to involve key stakeholders in discussions about the funding of the university sector; believes that Scotland's students have been let down by the SNP government's failure to deliver on its manifesto pledge to dump student debt; notes the Supporting a Smarter Scotland consultation on student support and rejects all of its proposals for not adequately addressing student hardship; expresses serious concern at reports of childcare and hardship funds being stretched to breaking point across colleges and universities in Scotland; recognises the calls of the NUS and other student representatives for a £7,000 minimum income guarantee but believes that a £7,000 minimum income for all students in Scotland is unachievable with the funds allocated for student support by the Scottish Government in this spending review period, and calls on the Scottish Government to come forward with new proposals that focus the available resources at the poorest students to genuinely address student hardship in Scotland.

And that was this week. Next week we have, among other matters, Stage 1 of Patrick Harvie's Offences (Aggravation By Prejudice) (Scotland) Bill, and if I'm reporting divisions on that then this blog might just declare open war on MSPs who vote against it. I will intend to cause offence, and it will be aggravated by their prejudice. See how they like it!

1 comment:

Grogipher said...

"I will intend to cause offence, and it will be aggravated by their prejudice. See how they like it!"

Hear hear!