24 May 2009

The Sunday Whip

This has been a rather busy week and I suppose the best way of describing it would be part consensual, part confrontational, so much so that the usual manner of dividing Parliamentary sitting days into 'quiet' and 'busy' doesn't quite stack up. Even the number of votes taken on Wednesday (13) belies the fact that there was only one item (needless to say, it was legislative) and a fair number of proposals were passed unanimously. So a bit of a mix. Similarly, there were 14 questions put at Decision Time on Thursday, only five of which went to a vote.

Anyway, we start with Wednesday, where barring the usual nodding through of the Bureau motions, the only item of Business was Stage 3 of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Bill, and the many, many amendments (PDF) that went with it.

As always, MSPs roamed, entering and leaving the Chamber at will, so there weren't all that many day-long absentees, but the ones who missed the whole afternoon were Trish Godman (Lab, West Renfrewshire), Labour's Shadow Transport Minister Des McNulty (Clydebank & Milngavie) and Shadow Economy and Skills Minister John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife), as well as Patrick Harvie (Green, Glasgow), John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West) and LibDem Leader Tavish Scott (Shetland). So bearing that in mind, here are the amendments that faced votes, and you'll see that the Bill got to 5:00 in a rather different state to how the Government would have preferred it:

LibDem Amendment 15 passed by 69 (Labour/Tory/LD) to 48 (SNP/Margo). The other absentees were Wendy Alexander (Lab, Paisley North), George Foulkes (Lab, Lothians), Robin Harper (Green, Lothians), Jack McConnell (Lab, Motherwell & Wishaw) and Margaret Mitchell (Con, Central Scotland).

LibDem Amendment 16 passed by 70 (Labour/Tory/LD/Green) to 47 (SNP) with Margo MacDonald abstaining. Wendy Alexander and Robin Harper had arrived in the Chamber, but Labour Shadow Childrens' Minister Karen Whitefield (Airdrie & Shotts) popped out.

The Government notched up a success with its own Amendment 2, which passed by 79 (everyone but Labour) to 42: George Foulkes, Margaret Mitchell and Karen Whitefield were all back in time for this one.

Things weren't so good for the Government on Labour's Amendment 18, however: it passed by 71 (Labour/Con/LD/Green) to 48 (SNP/Margo): Jamie McGrigor (Con, Highlands & Islands) and Mike Pringle (LD, Edinburgh South) both missed this one.

The form continued for Labour's Amendment 19, which passed by 73 (Lab/Con/LD/Green) to 47 (SNP): McGrigor and Pringle returned, and Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians) had wandered off.

The bad news intensified with Labour's Amendment 20, which passed by 72 (everyone but the SNP) to 47: Margo was back, but Wendy Alexander and Duncan McNeil (Lab, Greenock & Inverclyde) gave this one a miss.

If the Government had been hoping that they'd turn a corner with their own amendments, however, they were to be disappointed: Amendment 4 fell by 72 - Labour, the Tories, most of the LibDems and Margo - to 49 - the SNP, Robin Harper and Hugh O'Donnell (LD, Central Scotland). Wendy Alexander returned, as did Jack McConnell and Duncan McNeil, but it was Labour Shadow Sport Minister Frank McAveety (Glasgow Shettleston) who wandered off.

Things got slightly worse for Amendment 8, which fell by 73 - Labour, the Tories, LibDems and Alasdair Allan (SNP, Western Isles) - to 46 (the rest of the SNP) with two abstentions (Robin Harper and Margo MacDonald).

At least the brief wave of minor (accidental?) rebellions was over for Amendment 11, but that was as good as the Government got. The amendment still fell by 71 (Labour/Tories/LibDems) to 47 (SNP) with one (Green) abstention: Margo had gone walkabout again.

Amendment 12 fell by 69 (Labour/Tories/LibDems) to 46 (SNP) with one Green abstention. Schools Minister Keith Brown (Ochil) went AWOL, as did LibDem Environment Spokesman Liam McArthur (Orkney) and Labour's Shadow Housing Minister Mary Mulligan (Linlithgow), who was no doubt trying to work out which Parliamentary region she'd be in for the 2011 Election).

For the remainder of the session, Deputy Presiding Officer Alasdair Morgan (SNP, South of Scotland) took the Chair, so that was one vote fewer for the SNP at a time when, well, frankly, it didn't make the blindest bit of difference. LibDem Amendment 24 passed by 73 (everyone but the SNP) to 46: Keith Brown had come back, but so had Margo MacDonald, Frank McAveety and Mary Mulligan. But Jamie McGrigor performed another disappearing act. He didnt come back.

LibDem Amendment 25 also passed, by 74 (everyone but the SNP) to 46: Liam McArthur came back for this one.

Finally, the Government ended on a much-needed high note: its Amendment 14 passed by 77 (everyone but Labour) to 41: George Foulkes skipped this one, as did Labour's Shadow Community Safety Minister Paul Martin (Glasgow Springburn).

So on that basis, it's hard to imagine that the amended Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Bill, but that's what happened - a triumph for grudging consensus!

Anyway, with that bum-number out of the way, Thursday came with its heavy programme. Wendy Alexander missed it, as did Trish Godman, Patrick Harvie, Labour Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central), Margo MacDonald, Des McNulty, John Farquhar Munro, Irene Oldfather (Lab, Cunninghame South), Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston) and Nicol Stephen (LD, Aberdeen South).

First came the Labour motion on Student Hardship: and SNP motion fell by 71 votes (everyone but the SNP) to 47. The LibDem amendment fell by 103 (SNP/Labour/Conservative) votes to 15 (LibDem/Green), while the unscathed motion passed by 69 (most of Labour, all of the Tories, LibDems and Robin Harper) to 49 - the SNP plus Labour Shadow Finance Secretary Andy Kerr (East Kilbride) and Jack McConnell:

That the Parliament calls for a cross-party approach on tackling hardship among the poorest students in Scotland; believes that students have been severely let down by the SNP's broken promises, actions and inaction in power; further believes that the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning's efforts have been misplaced in focussing solely on reducing graduate debt rather than student hardship while student demand for hardship and childcare funds increases, commercial borrowing among students continues and student support levels in Scotland fall far behind the rest of the United Kingdom; notes the open letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning signed by NUS, the main opposition parties and student leaders across Scotland calling for the Scottish Government to increase levels of student support through increased loans and for a new direction from the Scottish Government; further notes that on the 12 March 2009, through motion S3M-3675 as amended, the Parliament rejected all of the proposals contained in the Supporting a Smarter Scotland consultation, which closed in April 2009, for not adequately addressing student hardship, and calls on the Scottish Government to work with the main opposition parties on their joint approach to tackling student hardship by using the available resources to provide £7,000 in support for the poorest students, a £500 increase in grant for the poorest students, an increase in support of £200 for all students through the non-means-tested loan and almost £2 million to discretionary funds for childcare and hardship funding.

Following that came the Labour motion on supporting employment in Scotland. The SNP motion passed by 103 (SNP/Labour/Conservative) votes to 15 (LibDem/Green), while the LibDem motion fell by 63 (SNP/Tories) to 55 (Labour/LibDems/Green), and the amended motion was waved through:

That the Parliament is concerned that 34,000 extra Scots were out of a job in the last year and that many live under the threat of redundancy; recognises that government support for business and individuals is vital in the current climate; calls on the Scottish Government to examine the ProAct scheme developed by the Welsh Assembly Government, which supports businesses on short-time working, to establish whether or not a scheme would benefit Scotland's economic recovery; further recognises the seriousness of the economic situation in Scotland; believes that the Scottish Government should bring forward a new and revised economic recovery programme prior to summer recess, and calls for such a plan to outline how the Scottish Government intends to deliver the extra 7,800 apprenticeship places agreed for 2009 and the 75,000 training places announced by the First Minister on 18 April 2009.

This was followed by a Government motion on aquaculture. The Green amendment was withdrawn before it could be put to a vote, while Labour, Tory and LibDem amendments were all waved through, along with the amended motion, proof that we all like aquaculture:

That the Parliament notes the publication of A Fresh Start - the renewed Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture and its key themes; promotes the continued development of an ambitious, sustainable, profitable, thriving and growing Scottish aquaculture industry; recognises the economic importance of the industry to Scotland as a whole and many coastal communities in particular; acknowledges the vital role to be played by aquaculture production, processing and associated businesses during the economic downturn; further recognises that, if the industry is to attract, retain and develop people for a long-term career in aquaculture, the Scottish Government must ensure that a range of suitable training opportunities are made available; supports efforts to promote the many positives of the industry and to advance the enviable international reputation of quality Scottish aquaculture products, built on high environmental standards and the principles of sustainable development; encourages Marine Scotland to work with others to deliver a transparent, streamlined and proportionate regulatory framework that encourages shellfish and finfish industries while at the same time ensuring that adverse impacts on biodiversity and other users of the marine and freshwater environment are minimised and managed; welcomes proactive and effective engagement with other aquaculture-producing countries through sharing knowledge and promoting best practice and Scotland's role as a major contributor to international cooperation on research; acknowledges the continued engagement of the shellfish and finfish industries and other stakeholders in the development and implementation of the Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture, and notes the importance of the 6,200 Scottish jobs supported by the aquaculture industry in maintaining the environmental, economic and social fabric in communities often located in Scotland's most remote and fragile areas.

Finally, an LCM on Coroners and Justice Bill was waved through, as were two SSIs: the Community Right to Buy (Definition of Excluded Land) (Scotland) Order 2009 and Local Government and Housing Act 1989 Amendment (Scotland) Order 2009, which was passed unanimously despite griping on the part of David McLetchie that the thing ever saw the light of day.

And that was this week. After the last fortnight, I will personally hunt down any MSP (I'm looking at Michael McMahon here) if they complain at the lack of legislation from the Government. It may produce lovely statistics, but good grief, it's a bastard to track on here!

1 comment:

Julie said...

And we all sit on our bums and read it after you've put in all the work!
Much appreciated! Btw, guess who's popping his head up for the Euro elections..