02 April 2010

The Spring Whip

As promised on Sunday, here's the now traditional report card of the parties' attendance and cohesion in Parliament.

We start with what this time around we might consider to be a top five-and-a-half absentees. John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West) has missed 108 of the 114 votes to take place in Parliament since the new year - hardly surprising as the last vote he cast was on 21 January. It's been generally understood for some time that JFM is unwell and it was suggested the last time he was off for a sustained period that he didn't particularly wish to seek re-election and had to be cajoled into doing so. Questions really ought to be asked as to whether or not JFM is well enough to continue for the year of his term that he still has to serve: it's not fair on him that he should be in this position, and it's not fair on the people in the Western parts of the Highlands who find themselves, in effect, without a constituency MSP.

Second is Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), who missed 52 votes; third is LibDem Leader Tavish Scott (Shetland), who missed 35; Labour's Margaret Curran comes fourth (Glasgow Baillieston) with 31 votes, which does beg the question: if she can't attend to her first mandate effectively enough, what on earth is she playing at seeking a second mandate at Westminster?

Now let me explain the five and a half: we have a tie for fifth place, with Tom McCabe (Lab, Hamilton South) and Trish Godman (Lab, West Renfrewshire) both missing 28 votes (barring the 20 for which Godman was chairing proceedings). However, as we discussed on Sunday, there appears to be a convention by which if one Deputy Presiding Officer is in the chair for a vote, the other DPO takes no part in it, and all of Godman's missed votes are in accordance with that convention. In effect then, while she was neither in the chair nor voting, she can be accounted for and she was, ironically, discharging her duties effectively by staying above the fray.


The SNP have the best attendance rate of the four main parties at 97.52%.

Alasdair Morgan (South of Scotland) missed the most votes (20), all of which were on account of the convention which saw Trish Godman out of action. Next came FM Alex Salmond (Gordon), who missed 16, and Public Health Minister Shona Robison (Dundee East) who missed 14.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson (Banff & Buchan) missed nine votes, Parliamentary Business Minister Bruce Crawford (Stirling) missed seven, while Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead (Moray) missed six.

Christine Grahame (South of Scotland), Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop (Lothians), Housing Minister Alex Neil (Central Scotland) and Gil Paterson (West of Scotland) all missed five votes, while Andrew Welsh (Angus) missed four.

Schools Minister Keith Brown (Ochil), Angela Constance (Livingston), Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing (Inverness East, Nairn & Lochaber), Stewart Maxwell (West of Scotland) and Shirley-Anne Somerville (Lothians) all missed three.

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham (Perth), Christopher Harvie (Mid Scotland & Fife), Children's Minister Adam Ingram (South of Scotland), Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill (Lothians), Enterprise Minister Jim Mather (Argyll & Bute), Education Secretary Mike Russell (South of Scotland), Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Glasgow Govan) and Finance Secretary John Swinney (North Tayside) all missed two votes.

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North), Michael Matheson (Falkirk West), Ian McKee (Lothians), Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow) and Stuart McMillan (West of Scotland) all missed only one.

In terms of cohesion, it makes sense to discount the contrived split on the climate change motion the other week and apart from that act of political sidestepping, the SNP achieved a cohesion rate of 99.77% - lower than usual, as there have been twelve votes against the party line. Kenneth Gibson and Christopher Harvie have gone against the whips twice, while Chief Whip (!) Brian Adam (Aberdeen North), Angela Constance, Bruce Crawford, Kenny MacAskill. Jim Mather, Stuart McMillan, Alasdair Morgan and John Wilson (Central Scotland) have all done so once. Given the lack of resignations, I'd suspect that most of those were accidental.


Labour's attendance rate is a grim 93.38%. Aside from Curran, McCabe and Godman, there's a lengthy list of absences, most of which are multiple. Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South) missed 21 votes, George Foulkes (Lothians), Group Leader Iain Gray (East Lothian) and Duncan McNeil (Greenock & Inverclyde) all missed 19.

Shadow Housing Minister Mary Mulligan (Linlithgow) missed 16, Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley) missed 15, Elaine Smith (Coatbridge & Chryston) missed 13, Deputy Leader Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok), missed 11 and Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald missed ten.

Rhona Brankin (Midlothian), Bill Butler (Glasgow Anniesland), Shadow Transport Minister Charlie Gordon (Glasgow Cathcart) and Jack McConnell (Motherwell & Wishaw) all missed nine votes while Shadow Further & Higher Education Minister Claire Baker missed eight.

Shadow Health Secretary Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton), Marlyn Glen (North East Scotland) and Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy) missed seven votes; Peter Peacock (Highlands & Islands) missed six.

Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Rhoda Grant (Highlands & Islands), Shadow Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife), Shadow Climate Change Minister Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) and Shadow Finance Minister David Whitton (Strathkelvin & Bearsden) all missed five votes.

Wendy Alexander (Paisley North) and Hugh Henry (Paisley South) both missed four votes while Shadow Public Health Minister Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland & Fife) missed three.

Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill), Chief Whip David Stewart (Highlands & Islands) and Shadow Children's Minister Karen Whitefield (Airdrie & Shotts) missed two votes; Shadow Schools Minister Ken Macintosh (Eastwood), Shadow Culture Minister Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin) and Shadow Education Secretary Des McNulty (Clydebank & Milngavie) all missed one.

Labour's cohesion rate is 99.84%, with a total of eight rebellions, four of which were undertaken by Tom McCabe, who was at odds with the party's motion the Scottish newspaper industry. The other four one-time rebels were Rhona Brankin, Peter Peacock, Richard Simpson and Karen Whitefield.


The Conservatives' usually decent attendance record has slipped somewhat to 91.89% this time around. Party Leader Annabel Goldie (West of Scotland) missed the most votes (23), with Gavin Brown (Lothians) missing 21, John Lamont (Roxburgh & Berwickshire, and another prospective dual mandate parliamentarian who isn't doing his first mandate any justice) missing 19 and Ted Brocklebank (Mid Scotland & Fife) missing 17. Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) missed 16 votes while Jamie McGrigor (Highlands & Islands) missed 14.

Deputy Leader Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland & Fife), Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) and Health Spokesperson Mary Scanlon (Highlands & Islands) all missed eight votes, while Chief Whip David McLetchie (Edinburgh Pentlands) missed seven. Jackson Carlaw (West of Scotland) missed four votes, and Finance Spokesman Derek Brownlee (South of Scotland), Nanette Milne (North East Scotland) and Rural Affairs Spokesman John Scott (Ayr) all missed one.

The Tories have experienced no rebellions.

Liberal Democrats

The presence (or rather, lack of it) of John Farquhar Munro in the LibDem group was always going to warp the party's attendance rate, which comes in at a dire 87.45%, though even if he were discounted, it still comes in at a distinctly uninspiring 92.92%.

Besides JFM and Tavish Scott, Mike Pringle (Edinburgh South) has missed 16 votes, Nicol Stephen (Aberdeen South) has missed 15, Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross) has missed 12 and Education Spokesperson Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West) has missed 10.

Health Spokesman Ross Finnie (West of Scotland) has missed nine votes, Environment Spokesman Liam McArthur (Orkney) and Chief Whip Mike Rumbles have missed six, while Finance Spokesman Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick & Lauderdale) and Jim Tolson (Dunfermline West) have missed four. Local Government Spokesperson Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) has missed three votes, while Hugh O'Donnell (Central Scotland) has missed one.

The LibDems have experience four rebellions, giving them a cohesion rate of 99.75%. Hugh O'Donnell, Mike Pringle, Iain Smith and Nicol Stephen are the one-time rebels.

Greens and Margo

The Greens have a 100% attendance and cohesion rate, while Margo's attendance rate comes in at 54.39%. Of course, she has something of a mission in the remaining twelve months of her term: the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill. Her record for turning up might look pretty patchy, but she's obviously getting ready for a last throw of the parliamentary dice. Whatever the outcome, it's difficult to see her wanting to carry on beyond 2011.

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