13 September 2009

The Sunday Whip

This was a quiet week, with consensus being a broad part of proceedings. Indeed, there were only two exceptions all week, both of which fell on the Wednesday - a reverse of the way things tend to pan out in Holyrood.

After the quiet passage of the Business Motions came the motion from the Education Committee to annul the Children's Hearings Legal Representation (Scotland) Amendment Rules 2009. This had only just come through the Committee by a vote of four (the Labour and LibDem members) to three (the SNP members, with Andrew Welsh sitting in for Kenneth Gibson), with one abstention, in the form of the Tory member. Things took a different turn in the Chamber, however: with Labour's Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale) and Jamie Stone (LD, Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross) both absent, the motion fell (and so the SSI was saved) by 65 (SNP, Tory, Green) votes to 60 (Labour and the LibDems) with one abstention (Margo).

Following that came the Government motion on dementia strategy (those more churlish than I would suggest that MSPs ought to be subject to a dementia strategy rather than devising one). The Labour amendment saw the challenge: it saw a tied vote at 62 to 62 with two abstentions. Voting in favour were Labour, the LibDems, Margo, and strangely, Tory Leader Annabel Goldie (West of Scotland), who - probably by accident (serving only to strengthen those churlish folks' case) - found herself at odds with the rest of her party. The SNP and the remaining Tories voted against, and the Greens abstained. With the vote tied, the Presiding Officer was obliged to use his casting vote in favour of the status quo and against the amendment. It therefore fell.

The LibDem amendment was waved through, as was the motion:

That the Parliament recognises the work that is being taken forward by the Scottish Government to establish dementia as a national priority, working in partnership with the NHS, local government, voluntary sector organisations such as Alzheimer's Scotland, the Scottish Dementia Working Group, regulatory and scrutiny bodies including the Mental Welfare Commission, the Social Work Inspection Agency and the Care Commission and experts from the Dementia Services Development Centre at the University of Stirling, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Nursing to improve the care, treatment and support available to those with dementia and their carers and calls on the Scottish Government to work with these stakeholders to ensure that the highest standards of care are achieved for those with dementia in care homes, in the community and in hospital and to publish a dementia strategy for Scotland no later than April 2010.

Thursday saw a return to consensus. A Government motion on the fire and rescue framework was nodded through along with accompanying Labour and LibDem amendments:

That the Parliament welcomes the Scottish Government's commitment to a fire and rescue service that is modern and effective, with the principal aim of reducing risk, effectively responding to incidents and improving the safety of local communities; notes that the consultation document, Draft Fire and Rescue Framework for Scotland 2009, has been developed in a spirit of partnership with COSLA and all key stakeholders, and notes that the Scottish Government is committed to working with local government to protect the public from fire and to reduce Scotland's poor record of fire fatalities and recognises the tremendous contribution and crucial role played by firefighters in Scotland and the need for consistent and rigorous enforcement of health and safety standards in fire and rescue services right across Scotland; recognises the vital work of fire and rescue services across Scotland, including the contribution of those firefighters on the retained duty system who provide a flexible and cost effective community service, particularly in rural, remote and island parts of Scotland; welcomes local flexibility in service delivery but notes the concerns of the Fire Brigades Union Scotland at the lack of strategic direction for the fire and rescue services, supported by clear and enforceable standards and responsibilities, and calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that the Fire and Rescue Advisory Unit and the Ministerial Advisory Group work effectively with fire and rescue authorities to deliver effective compliance with agreed and consistent objectives under the national framework.

And the Finance Committee's motion was also passed without dissent:

That the Parliament notes the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Finance Committee's 2nd Report 2009 (Session 3): Strategic Budget Scrutiny (SP Paper 283).

Next week, I'm expecting more of the same: there's a Health & Sport Committee report being discussed on Wednesday, and a Scottish Road Safety Framework debate on Thursday afternoon. Thursday morning sees a debate on Diageo, and one would hope for consensus. If it's not forthcoming, then that would reflect poorly on politicians, I suspect.

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