27 September 2009

The Sunday Whip

A Could-Be-Worse week at Holyrood for the Government, with a bloody nose on teacher numbers, but otherwise generally quite quiet and broadly successful.

Wednesday saw the usual waving through of the Business Motion, with a Committee motion getting noted through as well: everyone was happy to note the Public Petitions Committee's Third Report: Inquiry into the Public Petitions Process.

Thursday saw a little more meat, but there were nine absences: Margaret Curran (Lab, Glasgow Baillieston), Charlie Gordon (Lab, Glasgow Cathcart), Jamie Hepburn (SNP, Central Scotland), Labour's Shadow Health Secretary Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothian), LibDem Environment Spokesman Liam McArthur (Orkney), Hugh O'Donnell (LD, Central Scotland), LibDem Leader Tavish Scott (Shetland), and Jim Tolson (LD, Dunfermline West).

They missed a rather predictable outcome to Labour's motion on teacher numbers: the SNP amendment feel by 73 (everyone else) to 46. The Tory amendment passed by 70 - most of Labour, the Tories and LibDems - to 49 - the SNP, Greens and Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston). The LibDem amendment passed by 73 (everyone but the SNP) to 46, and the amended motion passed by 70 (Labour - minus Smith - the Tories and LibDems) to 48 (SNP and Greens) with one abstention (Smith):

That the Parliament notes the most recent reduction in the number of teachers employed in Scotland revealed by the September 2009 public sector employment figures; further notes that this follows on from the Teachers in Scotland 2008 census, which showed that the number of teachers fell by nearly 1,000 on the previous year, and asks how this can be reconciled with the SNP's manifesto pledge and concordat commitment to maintain teacher numbers in the face of falling school rolls in order to cut class sizes; raises concern about the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence in the face of falling teacher numbers; acknowledges that the previous administration increased the number of teachers by 4,600 between 1999 and 2007; notes the continued reduction in the number of full-time equivalent nursery teachers as shown in the Scottish Government's Pre-school and Childcare Statistics 2009; highlights with concern the Times Educational Supplement Scotland survey, published in August 2009, suggesting that only 15% of this year's newly qualified teachers had secured full-time permanent work at the start of the school term as well as the General Teaching Council Scotland follow up survey suggesting that, even half way through the 2008-09 school year, only around a third of the previous year's probationary teachers had found full-time permanent posts; believes that the Scottish Government has precipitated a teacher jobs crisis, forcing many of the most qualified new teachers in Scotland's history to look elsewhere in the United Kingdom or beyond for suitable employment; believes that this represents an appalling loss of talent to Scotland's education system and a gross betrayal of those enticed to train as teachers as well as those who voted SNP due to its election pledges on schools, and therefore calls on the SNP government to publish detailed plans of how it will deliver on its manifesto and concordat commitments on teacher numbers; considers that the universal provision of free school meals in P1 to P3 will impact on the ability of councils to recruit and retain teachers, and believes that head teachers should have much greater say in the recruitment of teachers and other staff in their schools.

Following this came the motion on Child Protection. A LibDem amendment to the SNP amendment was waved through, and the amended amendment passed by 58 (SNP/LibDems) to 43 (Labour) with 18 (Tory/Green) abstentions. The Tory amendment was then waved through, and the amended motion passed by 74 (SNP/Tory/LD) votes to 43 (Labour) with two Green abstentions:

That the Parliament notes with concern the 23% of local authority child protection services in Scotland that scored weak or unsatisfactory in at least one of the reference quality indicators, reported in the Summary of Indicative Quality Indicator Results from HMIE Inspections, published on 17 September 2009; welcomes the fact that 77% of authorities have achieved positive child protection reports; recognises the immensely valuable contribution made by those professionals working in frontline child protection services; recognises that further improvement is necessary and will be informed by the second round of inspections now underway; looks forward to HMIE's summary report that will provide the most comprehensive national picture of child protection that Scotland has ever had, which, taken together with the findings of the recent significant case review into the death of Brandon Muir, will feed into the national review of child protection guidance; encourages measures to address the increasing prevalence of substance misuse and its impact on children within the framework of Road to Recovery; encourages the promotion of the Getting it Right for Every Child approach, and looks forward to public consultation on the review of national child protection guidance that will address assessment of risk and information sharing for all children, including those suffering from parental substance misuse, domestic abuse and other risks to their safety and wellbeing; recognises the initiative taken by the previous administration in tackling this problem by bringing together a series of actions contained in the Hidden Harm report; calls on the Scottish Government to take effective action to identify and focus on those children who are at risk, particularly as a result of living with parents or carers who are alcohol or substance abusers; calls on the Scottish Government to report to the Parliament within three months and thereafter periodically on the progress made on this, in building on the recommendations of Hidden Harm and in the follow-up inspection work by HMIE, and looks for a child-centred approach to child protection that has the welfare and best interests of children at its heart, and further calls on the Scottish Government to acknowledge the concern about the growing number of parents in society who lack the necessary skills to bring up their children responsibly and to address this issue as a matter of urgency.

After that, Stage 1 of the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill was passed by 102 (SNP, Labour, most of the LibDems and the Greens) to 16 (Tories) with one abstention: John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West), and the Financial Resolution was waved through.

So another week in Holyrood passed. Next week looks to be relatively stable as well.


Bucket of Tongues said...

Who writes these motions? Long-winded isn't the word. They need some judicious toughening and editing.

(Sorry, I'm an English teacher).

Will said...

Ah, the amendments are the driving force behind the length. What used to happen is the old Executive would produce a motion, then the SNP would propose an amendment which basically deleted the entire substantive text of the motion, and replaced it with something that meant the exact opposite. The Tories would do the same, but the way the amendment had to be worded (e.g. 'delete from "notes" to end and insert...') meant that if the SNP one were agreed to, the Tory one would be automatically ruled out as the text it was deleting had already been, er, deleted.

So what happens now is that rather than deleting or replacing text, amendments add a point with amendments that begin 'insert at end...' (or Labour replaces the text and the other parties then stick bits on afterwards). So if the amendments get passed, then we end up with the epics that find their way into the Official Report. Sadly, the authors of the motion and the amendments tend to put their partisan point ahead of good writing - overlooking the possibility that good writing might make people more receptive to their point - and the Presiding Officer doesn't select amendments according to the quality of the prose...