24 January 2010

The Sunday Whip

This was, arguably, a successful week for the Government, with a number of rare occurrences out there for seasoned Holyrood watchers.

Firstly, Wednesday saw Stage 1 of the Budget (Scotland) (No. 4) Bill and a full attendance (the first in almost a year). It passed the first hurdle by 64 (SNP/Con/Margo) votes to 46 (Labour) with 18 (LD/Green) abstentions. The Business Motions and Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 (Modification of Enactments) Order 2010 were waved through.

Thursday, meanwhile, saw that other rare beast, the pre-empted amendment. There were five absentees: Rhona Brankin (Lab, Midlothian), George Foulkes (Lab, Lothians), Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central) and Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians).

They missed two votes, on the Tory motion on prescription charges. The SNP amendment passed by 49 (SNP/Green) votes to 32 (Con/LD) with 42 (Labour) abstentions. This blew the Labour and LibDem amendments out of the water (as they sought to alter text that had already been deleted by the SNP amendment), and the amended motion passed by the same figure:

That the Parliament recognises that the progress towards abolishing prescription charges is already benefiting all those patients with long-term conditions and on low incomes who are not entitled to exemption and ensuring that fewer patients face having to choose between buying their prescriptions or paying for other necessities and that total abolition is the simplest and fairest way of ensuring that nobody in Scotland has to make such a choice and that healthcare is free at the point of use.

Following that, a Government motion and Labour amendment on Scotland's water rescue review passed without dissent:

That the Parliament welcomes the findings of Paddy Tomkins' Independent Review of Open Water and Flood Rescue in Scotland, which examined the arrangements and protocols for inland water rescue in Scotland, and believes that the report's recommendations should be carefully considered and acted on in order to strengthen multi-agency arrangements and ensure that an effective and proportionate response capability exists across Scotland that includes adequate equipment and training being made available to staff required to attend water and flood incidents.

So that was that: a big week which could have been more dramatic than it turned out to be. Next week sees Stage 3 of the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill on Wednesday, followed by Labour business and a Government debate on the Skills Strategy the following day. The big kahuna, Stage 3 of the Budget, comes on 3 February. Squeaky bum time? We'll find out over the next two weeks...

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