08 November 2009

The Sunday Whip

This was something of a busy week, and not great for the Government, but they've had far worse.

On Wednesday, there were a lot of absences (perhaps the Parliament should just have moved lock, stock and barrel to Glasgow North East) - 26 in all:

Wendy Alexander (Lab, Paisley North), Shadow Health Secretary Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton), Rhona Brankin (Lab, Midlothian), Willie Coffey (SNP, Kilmarnock & Loudoun), Angela Constance (SNP, Livingston), Cathie Craigie (Lab, Cumbernauld & Kilsyth), Nigel Don (SNP, North East Scotland), Bob Doris (SNP, Glasgow), Helen Eadie (Lab, Dunfermline East), LibDem Health Spokesman Ross Finnie (West of Scotland), Joe FitzPatrick (SNP, Dundee West), George Foulkes (Lab, Lothians), Kenneth Gibson (SNP, Cunninghame North), Jamie Hepburn (SNP, Central Scotland, on paternity leave), Shadow Housing Secretary Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Bill Kidd (SNP, Glasgow), Marilyn Livingstone (Lab, Kirkcaldy), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), Shadow Schools Minister Ken Macintosh (Eastwood), Stewart Maxwell, (SNP, West of Scotland), Anne McLaughlin (SNP, Glasgow), Duncan McNeil (Lab, Greenock & Inverclyde), Shadow Culture Minister Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin), Margaret Mitchell (Con, Central Scotland), Hugh O'Donnell (LD, Central Scotland), Irene Oldfather (Lab, Cunninghame South) and Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson (Banff & Buchan).

Whew! Anyway, aside from the nodding through of the Business Motions, they missed the Government motion on Scotland's National Parks. The Labour amendment was waved through, but the Tory amendment saw a tied vote, at 51 (SNP/Tory) to 51 (Lab/LD/Green). As always, the Presiding Officer used his casting vote against the amendment - the convention has it that the PO votes in favour of the status quo, which, in practice, means voting against everything. The LibDem amendment, however, passed by 65 (SNP/Tory/LD) votes to 37 (Labour/Green), and the amended moton was nodded through:

That the Parliament commends the contribution that Scotland's two national parks make to sustainable social and economic development and to delivering the Greener Scotland agenda; notes the outcome of the National Parks Strategic Review, and welcomes the proposal to set up a National Parks Strategy group; believes that it should explore the potential for establishing new national parks, including in marine and coastal areas; celebrates the success of the boards of the National Parks in giving a voice to local people in managing their own environment, and calls for early consideration to be given to increasing the directly elected presence on boards.

Following that, the Public Appointments and Public Bodies etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 (Amendment of Specified Authorities) Order 2009 was passed without dissent.

Thursday, meanwhile, was far busier, but there were still 25 absences:

Wendy Alexander, Shadow Further & Higher Education Minister Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife), Malcolm Chisholm (Lab, Edinburgh North & Leith), Cathie Craigie, Bob Doris, Patricia Ferguson (Lab, Glasgow Maryhill), Joe FitzPatrick, Hugh Henry (Lab, Paisley South), Jamie Hepburn, Cathy Jamieson, Alex Johnstone (Con, North East Scotland), Shadow Finance Secretary Andy Kerr (East Kilbride), Labour Deputy Leader Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok), Marilyn Livingstone, Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central), Anne McLaughlin, Shadow Local Government Secretary Michael McMahon (Hamilton North & Bellshill), Stuart McMillan (SNP, West of Scotland), Duncan McNeil, Pauline McNeill, Hugh O'Donnell, Mike Pringle (LD, Edinburgh South), LibDem Chief Whip Mike Rumbles (Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine), Shadow Childrens' Minister Karen Whitefield (Airdrie & Shotts) and Shadow Finance Minister David Whitton (Strathkelvin & Bearsden).

First came the votes on the Tory Supporting Families motion. The SNP amendment was amended without dissent by Labour and the LibDems, but the amended amendment, and the motion itself, passed by 87 (SNP/Labour/LD/Greens) to 15 (Tories) with one abstention (yup, Margo was back):

That the Parliament considers that the family is the natural building block of our society; notes the significant pressures facing families in Scotland today arising from relationship breakdown, poverty, unemployment and substance abuse; believes that the Scottish Government should focus on addressing the impact of the recession and take steps to ease the burden on families; recognises that long-term relationships provide stability in many families and acknowledges the status of marriage in society; believes that the needs and best interests of the child should always be at the centre of policies to support and promote stable families and reflect the reality of family life in Scotland; urges the Scottish Government to prioritise support for parents and extended families, ensuring that evaluation of these services is geared towards improving the quality and range of support that can be offered, and notes the valuable role of the voluntary sector in the delivery of services to children, parents and families, particularly those in vulnerable or disadvantaged circumstances.

Then came the Minimum Pricing on Alcohol motion, again by the Tories. The SNP amendment fell by 58 (Lab/Con/LD) votes to 45 (SNP/Greens/Margo). The Labour amendment fell by 70 (SNP/Con/LD) to 33 (Labour/Greens/Margo). The LibDem amendment fell by 74 votes (SNP/Labour/Greens) to 29 (Con/LD/Margo) and the motion fell by 74 (SNP/Labour/Greens) to 28 (Con/LD) with one Margo-shaped abstention. Accordingly, no position was taken on the matter.

Then came the Autumn Fisheries negotiation motion put forward by the Government. Labour and Tory amendments were waved through, but a LibDem amendment fell by 87 (SNP/Labour/Tory) votes to 14 (LD/Margo) with two Green abstentions. The amended motion passed by 100 (the Big 4) to one (Margo) with the Greens abstaining:

That the Parliament notes the Scottish Government's commitment to secure a fair deal at the forthcoming EU fisheries negotiations and to continue seeking radical and urgent changes to EU regulations to help cut discards and improve fisheries conservation and the industry's profitability; calls for Scotland's fishermen's growing reputation for innovative fisheries conservation to be given due recognition, and notes the European Commission Green Paper on the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, which recognises the failures of the Common Fisheries Policy; welcomes the meeting of Inter Regional Advisory Council members, stakeholders and fisheries ministers from across the United Kingdom in Edinburgh this week; notes the growing support for ecosystem-based regional fisheries management amongst fisheries experts and interests, and agrees that the Scottish Government should put in place effective measures to support Scottish fishing communities in light of the outcomes of last year's fisheries negotiations and the ongoing recession, and believes that, in that context, a more regionally responsible approach to fisheries management is required and that, in order to achieve this, the Scottish Government and HM Government must work together in the interests of a sustainable Scottish fishing industry.

Following that, various Committee reshuffles were nodded through. What a week! And what a week for everyone to be out on the stump. Next week, the five MSPs who'll be present will discuss Government motions on Scotland's Historic Environment, the Central Scotland Green Network and Community Fire Safety. But really, we all know that the heat will be on in Glasgow North East...

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