22 March 2009

The Sunday Whip

A couple of defeats this week for the Government but nothing too problematic, so the only note-worthy events were the challenged Business Motion and the first LCM to be forced to a vote since the Election.

Anyway. The only thing to be challenged on Wednesday was the Business Motion, and this was missed by Brian Adam (SNP, Aberdeen North), Jackie Baillie (Lab, Dumbarton), Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Rhona Brankin (Midlothian), Angela Constance (SNP, Livingston), George Foulkes (Lab, Lothians), Labour Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Marilyn Livingstone (Lab, Kirkcaldy), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), Stewart Maxwell (SNP, West of Scotland), Margaret Mitchell (Con, Central Scotland), Labour's Shadow Economy Minister John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife), Cathy Peattie (Lab, Falkirk East) and Andrew Welsh (SNP, Angus). The motion passed by 97 (SNP/Labour/Tories) to 18 (LibDems/Greens). Everything else went through on the nod, including a set of motions to muck about with some of the Committee remits, a motion to set a timetable for Stage 1 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill and a clutch of SSIs:

Budget (Scotland) Acts 2007 and 2008 Amendment Order 2009

Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 (Minimum Frequency of Inspections) Order 2009

Regulation of Care (Fitness to Register, Provide and Manage Care Services) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2009

Representation of the People (Postal Voting for Local Government Elections) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2009

Thursday was far busier, there were only five absentees: Jackie Baillie, Karen Gillon, Marilyn Livingstone, Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston) and Andrew Welsh.

The first item of business was a Labour motion on forestry, which faced amendments from the SNP, Tories and LibDems. Everything was waved through:

That the Parliament notes the unanimous recommendation of the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee that the Scottish Government drop proposals for leasing up to 25% of the Forestry Commission estate for a period of 75 years; notes that the Forestry Commission makes a major contribution to the economy of Scotland and can also make a major contribution towards helping Scotland meet its climate change targets; welcomes the decision of the Scottish Government to amend the Climate Change Bill to remove the relevant clauses; calls on the Scottish Government to bring forward its review of the operation of the Scotland Rural Development Programme urgently, including reviewing the level awarded for grants, and to pursue proposals for joint ventures to deliver renewables projects in the Forestry Commission estate; considers that all forestry proposals in future must be part of an integrated land-use strategy, and further calls on the Scottish Government to introduce a comprehensive sustainable land-use strategy, taking into account the strategic economic, social and environmental impacts and benefits of forestry, agriculture, recreation and other land uses and setting out, where appropriate, the contribution each can make in dealing with the consequences of climate change.

Following that came the Labour motion on police numbers. A Tory amendment to the SNP amendment fell, by 61 (Lab/LD/Green/Margo) votes to 16 (the Tories) with 46 SNP abstentions. The SNP amendment then fell by 60 (Lab/LD/Greens) to 47 (SNP/Margo) with 16 Tory abstentions. This was followed by a LibDem amendment, which fell by 65 (SNP/Con/Green/Margo) votes to 58 (Labour/LibDems). The motion itself remained untouched and passed without dissent:

That the Parliament believes that the Scottish Government must ensure that there are 17,265 full-time equivalent police officers by March 2011, calculated on the basis currently used by the Chief Statistician in the reporting of the official Police Officer Quarterly Strength Statistics, for the SNP's stated manifesto pledge for 1,000 more police officers to be met.

After this came the Government's Science in Scotland motion. This began with a Labour amendment, which fell by 64 (SNP/most of the LibDems/Greens/Margo) to 58 (Lab/Con) with one abstention: Hugh O'Donnell (LD, Central Scotland). The Tory amendment, however, got through by 77 (everyone but the SNP) to 46 (the SNP). A LibDem amendment was waved through, as was the amended motion:

That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Scottish Government's strategic framework for science, Science for Scotland, on 27 November 2008; agrees with its vision for Scotland as a nation of world-class scientific achievement, a magnet for talent and for investment and a powerhouse of technology, innovation, enterprise and increasing sustainable economic growth; supports the strong message that Science for Scotland sends out to Scotland and the world about this vision; agrees that maintaining a strong science base in Scotland is vital because it will underpin economic growth, help improve public services, enhance quality of life and help solve the world's most pressing problems; notes the detailed ambitions and commitments made around the five themes of Science for Scotland about developing individuals, scientific research, economic and business demand, international profile and connections in Scotland and government; further notes that Science for Scotland calls to action many bodies and sectors of the economy and asks them to work with the Scottish Government to help progress the aspirations of Science for Scotland, further notes the concern that some secondary schools in Scotland are reducing the availability of SQA Highers and Advanced Higher courses in science subjects; regrets that, although half a million women in the United Kingdom are qualified in either science, engineering or technology, less than a third work in those sectors, noting in particular the high fall-off rate at postdoctoral research level; calls on the Scottish Government to include within its strategy for science specific action to improve the participation and employment of women in the science sector and asks the Scottish Government to monitor and report to the Parliament on the progress being made.

Finally, following the apparent departure of Anne McLaughlin (SNP, Glasgow) and Nanette Milne (Con, North East Scotland), the LCM on the UK Parliament's Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill was passed by 118 (the Big 4) to 2 (the Greens), with Margo MacDonald reverting to type following what I can only assume was a nasty case of Abstention Withdrawl.

Remember, kids, the best way to quit Abstention is not to start in the first place - a lesson learned too late for poor Margo!

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