28 February 2010

The Sunday Whip

MSPs are back after their half-term break - we find it best to give them one: they concentrate less and start behaving badly if we don't.

Anyway, Wednesday could, in the scheme of things have gone better for the Government, but could have gone worse. Certainly, Nicola Sturgeon's speech was a morale-booster, but the votes didn't go completely as the SNP would have liked.

The Business Motions were waved through as usual, so MSPs were left to chew the fat (so to speak) on a Government motion on preventing obesity in Scotland.

Skipping this one were Shadow Further & Higher Education Minister Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife), Bill Butler (Lab, Glasgow Anniesland), Margaret Curran (Glasgow Baillieston), Tory Leader Annabel Goldie (West of Scotland), Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop (Lothians), John Lamont (Con, Roxburgh & Berwickshire), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), Tom McCabe (Lab, Hamilton South), Jack McConnell (Lab, Motherwell & Wishaw), John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West), Irene Oldfather (Lab, Cunninghame South) and Shadow Children's Minister Karen Whitefield (Airdrie & Shotts).

They missed a Labour amendment being passed by 70 (everyone but the SNP) votes to 46, and the LibDem amendment being waved through. The amended motion passed by 70 to 1 - Chris Harvie (SNP, Mid Scotland & Fife) - with 45 abstentions (the rest of the SNP Group):

That the Parliament, while recognising the role of individual responsibility and choice, welcomes the Scottish Government's commitment to take action to prevent overweight and obesity as set out in the recent publication, Preventing Overweight and Obesity in Scotland: A Route Map Towards Healthy Weight, to support a cross-government approach that will guide future work and to welcome the establishment of a joint governmental leadership group to ensure and oversee progress, but regrets that the Scottish Government is failing to meet the SNP manifesto pledges to ensure that every pupil has two hours of quality PE each week delivered by specialist PE teachers and for children to be given free, year-round access to council swimming pools.

Thursday went better for the Government, however, though the Chamber was far quieter, with the following MSPs missing: Gavin Brown (Con, Lothians), Bill Butler, Margaret Curran, Marlyn Glen (Lab, North East Scotland), Labour Group Leader Iain Gray (East Lothian), Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Marilyn Livingstone (Lab, Kirkcaldy), Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central), Margo MacDonald, Shadow Housing Minister Mary Mulligan (Linlithgow), John Farquhar Munro, Irene Oldfather, Gil Paterson (SNP, West of Scotland), LibDem Chief Whip Mike Rumbles (West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine) and Shadow Finance Minister David Whitton (Strathkelvin & Bearsden).

The first thing they missed was a LibDem motion on education. The SNP amendment was waved through, but the Labour amendment fell by 77 (everyone but Labour) votes to 35. The Tory amendment and the amended motion then passed without dissent:

That the Parliament supports the full and effective implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence; notes the ongoing concerns of teaching unions, education academics and parents' organisations about the lack of clarity and the impact of education budget cuts and reduced teacher numbers and training places on implementation plans; agrees that it is essential that the new curriculum and assessment arrangements, including literacy and numeracy tests, are properly resourced over the full four years and that teachers are given the required continuing professional development and support; believes that if this cannot be guaranteed then the Scottish Government must be prepared to give the implementation process more time; recommends that the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning take advice about the timetable from the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board with a view to making a final decision about the timetable for the introduction of the new curriculum within a reasonable timeframe over the next few months, and further seeks an assurance from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning that the reform of the exam system accompanying the Curriculum for Excellence will provide sufficient academic rigour and skills-based testing so as to ensure the highest possible standards of attainment in Scottish schools.

Then came a second LibDem motion, this time on justice. A Tory amendment to the SNP amendment - this vote was missed by Kenneth Gibson (SNP, Cunninghame North) - passed by 60 (SNP/Con) to 16 (LD/Green) with 35 Labour abstentions, and the amended SNP amendment passed by 61 to 16 with 35 abstentions. This pre-empted the Labour amendment so we went straight to the amended motion, which passed by 61 to 16 with 35 abstentions:

That the Parliament recognises that firearms legislation is reserved and that Strathclyde Police is entitled to exercise operational discretion over the use of Tasers under this reserved legislation and notes the role of local police authorities and joint boards in scrutinising Scottish police forces; further notes that in 2006-07 there were 12,974 recorded assaults on police officers across Scotland, which was an increase of 58% between 2000-01 and 2006-07; believes that Tasers provide a less lethal option than firearms where police officers are facing violent or armed suspects and need to incapacitate them, and awaits the results of the pilot being run in Strathclyde, which sees 30 police officers being armed with Tasers after appropriate training.

Finally, there came a Government motion on the Brian Pack inquiry: Labour and Tory amendments went through without argument, but the LibDem amendment fell by 98 (everyone but the LibDems) to 14, though the motion was still nodded through:

That the Parliament notes the publication of the Interim Report by the Inquiry into Future Support for Agriculture in Scotland; acknowledges the considerable work that has gone into producing this comprehensive and considered report, and welcomes the inquiry's continuing commitment to extensive stakeholder engagement on the future application of the Common Agricultural Policy in Scotland; recognises the need for any future framework to ensure a sustainable farming sector within vibrant rural communities; acknowledges the challenges posed by climate change and food security, and calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that there is a clear focus on the supply of healthy, affordable food produced as locally as possible with good environmental stewardship, while noting that as Scotland moves to an area-based payment scheme there will be redistribution of existing support, and therefore encourages the Scottish Government to ensure that the process of redistribution is as equitable as possible and takes particular account of the Less Favoured Areas.

And that was this week. Next week sees the Final Stage of the Ure Elder Fund Transfer and Dissolution Bill, Government debates on regeneration and education, and Labour business. Let's see what comes up...

1 comment:

BellgroveBelle said...

Curran skipped out early on Wednesday to attend an event in my ward. Not in Baillieston; it was actually held in Springburn constituency! It did involve an east end group though.