01 November 2009

The Sunday Whip

The return to business at Holyrood was relatively quiet and broadly successful for the Government - doubtless energies are being conserved for the more severe battles to come. On Wednesday, the only matter to be decided save the Business Motions was the Teaching Council (Scotland) Act 1965 Modification Order 2009. This, like the Business Motions, was waved through.

Thursday saw a little more meat and quite a few absences: Labour's Shadow Climate Change Minister Cathie Craigie (Falkirk East), Helen Eadie (Lab, Dunfermline East), Patricia Ferguson (Lab, Glasgow Maryhill), Labour's Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Hugh Henry (Lab, Paisley South), Labour's Shadow Housing Secretary Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Nanette Milne (Con, North East Scotland), Hugh O'Donnell (LD, Central Scotland), Labour's Shadow Public Health Minister Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland & Fife), Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston), and Labour's Shadow Finance Minister David Whitton (Strathkelvin & Bearsden).

They missed the waving through of the Marine (Scotland) Bill and its Financial Resolution. The only votes came on the SNP motion on the Scottish economy.

First came a Labour amendment, which fell by 67 votes to 48 with two abstentions. Voting against were the SNP, Tories, Margo, and four of the LibDems: Health Spokesman Ross Finnie (West of Scotland), Environment Spokesman Liam McArthur (Orkney), Finance Spokesman Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick & Lauderdale) and Culture Spokesman Iain Smith (North East Fife). The remaining LibDems voted in favour along with Labour, and the Greens abstained. I'm afraid I do not know whether the LibDem position on this vote was simply miscommunicated or whether a free vote was allowed, but the sight of the Finance Spokesman facing away from the Leader (and the majority of the Group) on an economic issue doesn't bode well. Similarly, the majority of Group members voting for an amendment that would render their own amendment incompetent is - well, it's a rather unorthodox tactic, let's just put it like that. I've slagged the LibDems off enough for one day.

Anyway. Next came the Tory amendment, which passed by 64 (SNP/Tory/Green) votes to 52 (Labour/LD) with one abstention (Margo). The LibDem amendment may as well have been struck off as it fell by 99 (SNP/Labour/Tory) votes to 18 (LD/Green/Margo), but was still less unsuccessful than the Green amendment, which fell by 114 (SNP/Labour/Tory/LD) votes to 3 (Green/Margo). The amended motion passed by 62 (SNP/Tory) votes to 54 (Labour/LD/Green) with one abstention (Guess who!):

That the Parliament recognises the impact of the recession on Scotland and notes the actions that the Scottish Government is taking to support jobs and communities, strengthen education and skills and invest in innovation and industries of the future to ensure that the nation is both protected from the worst of the downturn and well placed to take advantage of any recovery; further recognises the need to support existing and new businesses to create jobs; regrets the historic underperformance of the Scottish economy in new business creation; welcomes the positive and timely impact of the significant business rate reductions for small and medium-sized businesses and the Town Centre Regeneration Fund, and calls on the Scottish Government to work with all other levels of government and with the business community to do more to help raise the level of new business start-ups in Scotland.

So that was that. Next week we've got a debate on National Parks on Wednesday, Tory business on Thursday morning, and a debate on the Autumn Fisheries Negotiations on Thursday afternoon. Let's see what happens...


subrosa said...

Many thanks Will. Lots of labour MSP's absent on Thursday right enough. Iain Gray has no control at all by the looks of it,

Will said...

Well, what's noticeable for me is that had the parties opposing the final motion been at full strength, they could have voted the motion down, by 64 votes to 63. Though that would have led to Parliament taking no position, which would have reflected rather poorly. Nevertheless, poor organisation caused Labour to miss an opportunity.

Ted Harvey said...

Err… isn’t the amended motion as passed a pointless, meaningless and utterly ineffectual bit of soya-substitute mince? It is a crudely lashed together list of impact-free platitudes; Holyrood needs beware as this is the kind of posturing that only a ‘wee pretendy parliament’ would countenance as real business.

The only matter of any significance was reference to the Town Centre Regeneration Fund – if ever there was one, this is a piece of wee local pork barrel politics with utterly no evidence base to it.

Most of Scotland’s traditional smaller town centres cannot be ‘regenerated’, they need to be completely reinvented and restructured – and silly, tokenistic and totally underfunded initiatives like the Town Centre Regeneration Fund will do no more than pander to innately conservative and inward-looking local interests. There is not a shred of evidence that this Fund will change anything and one can reasonably anticipate that it will be a complete waste of tax payers’ money.

Anonymous said...

Great write-up, Will. (And sorry to be stupid, but who was the abstainer?) The fisheries debate should be interesting: nationalist turf and room for discomfiture there.

Anonymous said...

Labour's Shadow Climate Change Minister Cathie Craigie (Falkirk East) an intersting promotion for Ms Craigie

Will said...

Ted, most of the motions - to be perfectly blunt - are just pointless, whatever the outcome. They're effectively meaningless and boil down to little more than glorified graffiti. If the SNP wins a motion, it'll be self-congratulatory, if Labour and/or the LibDems win, it'll hark back to the, ahem, 'glory days' (ho ho) of 1999-2007 and lambast the SNP for being awful. It's all rather pointless and this motion is just the latest in a long line of motions which, franky, have little or no bearing on, well, anything.

BoT - the abstainer was Margo MacDonald. 99 times out of 100, if there's one abstention, it's Margo. It's her party piece. :)