18 April 2010

The Sunday Whip

Well, it's back to the action - of a sort. Attendance seemed a little sparse. I can't think why.

Anyway. Wednesday saw the usual waving through of the Business Motion, and a host of absentees: Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central), Malcolm Chisholm (Lab, Edinburgh North & Leith), Parliamentary Business Minister Bruce Crawford (Stirling), Margaret Curran (LAb, Glasgow Baillieston), Helen Eadie (Lab, Dunfermline East), Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Marlyn Glen (Lab, North East Scotland), Shadow Transport Minister Charlie Gordon (Glasgow Cathcart), Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Shadow Community Safety Minister James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen), Labour Deputy Leader Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok), Shadow Schools Minister Ken Macintosh (Eastwood), Stewart Maxwell (SNP, West of Scotland), Tom McCabe (Lab, Hamilton South), Shadow Education Secretary Des McNulty (Clydebank & Milngavie), John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West), Hugh O'Donnell (LD, Central Scotland), Irene Oldfather (Lab, Cunninghame South), Shadow Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife) and Jim Tolson (LD, Dunfermline West).

Now, it looks there like around a third of the Labour MSPs have skipped the session which does beg the question: if Labour can't be trusted to exercise the mandates they have properly, can they be trusted to exercise mandates in the Commons?

But I digress. What the MSPs who could be arsed to do what we pay them for were up to was the passage of the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Amendment Order 2010 by 95 to 0 with 13 LibDem abstentions, and a Government motion on the economic recovery plan.

First came the Labour amendment, which fell by 65 - SNP, Tory, Green, Margo and Peter Peacock (Lab, Highlands & Islands) to 43 (Lab/LD). A Tory amendment fell by 78 - SNP, Labour, Margo and LibDem Finance Spokesman Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick & Lauderdale) - to 18 (Tory/Green) with the remaining 12 LibDems abstaining. Incidentally, I've said it before and I'll say it again: the LibDems put their credibility at risk when their Finance Spokesman votes differently to the rest of the party on a motion about the economy. However, the LibDems got it back together for their amendment, which passed by 63 (everyone but the SNP) to 45. The amended motion passed by 61 (Labour/Tories/LibDems - what was that about the LibDems being different from the other two? - along with Margo) to two (Green) with 45 SNP abstentions:

That the Parliament notes the Scottish Government's response to the global recession through the Economic Recovery Plan and notes the three core themes of investing in innovation and industries of the future, strengthening education and skills, and supporting jobs and communities, and regrets that unemployment continues to rise in Scotland while falling in the United Kingdom as a whole.

Thursday, meanwhile, was a mixed bag. There were fewer absentees (though that wasn't difficult): Wendy Alexander (Lab, Paisley North), Bruce Crawford, Margaret Curran, Karen Gillon, Marlyn Glen, Cathy Jamieson, Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central), Ken Macintosh, Stewart Maxwell, LibDem Environment Spokesman Liam McArthur (Orkney), Tom McCabe, John Farquhar Munro, Irene Oldfather, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson (Banff & Buchan) and Labour Chief Whip David Stewart (Highlands & Islands).

First came that rare fiasco: the outright collapse of the LibDems' motion on supporting business. An SNP amendment fell by 68 (Lab/Con/LD/Green) votes to 44 (SNP) with Margo abstaining. A Tory amendment fell by 96 to 16 with Margo abstaining. So far, so grim: neither party with an amendment managed to get support beyond their party. The LibDem motion did succeed in doing so, but still fell by 62 (SNP/Con/Green) to 50 (Lab/LD) with Margo abstaining. Accordingly, MSPs voted not to tke any position on supporting business.

Then came the LibDem motion on fuel prices: an SNP amendment passed by 60 (SNP/Con) votes to 38 (Labour/Green) with 15 (LD/Margo) abstentions. The Tory amendment fell by 96 to 16 with Margo abstaining (not a good dy for Tory amendments, it seems), while the amended LibDem motion passed by 73 (SNP/Con/LD) to 38 (Lab/Green) with Margo abstaining:

That the Parliament notes the AA report of 8 April 2010 that indicates that the average price of petrol in the United Kingdom has reached an all-time high and is likely to rise still further; recognises the high premium over the national average paid for fuel at filling stations in remote rural and, particularly, island communities; regrets the damaging financial and social impact that this has on individuals and businesses in these areas; further regrets the lack of progress that has been made on efforts to find a mechanism to reduce the price of fuel in specified remote rural and island areas of Scotland, and calls on the Scottish Government to hold urgent discussions with the UK Government and the European Commission to construct a mechanism, including consideration of a fair fuel regulator, under the EU energy products directive or otherwise, to reduce the fuel price differential between remote rural and island communities and urban areas of the UK.

Finally, there was consensus achieved with the SNP motion on an action plan for Gaelic, with a Labour amendment, a Tory amendment (so some joy for them) and the amended motion all being waved through:

That the Parliament recognises that Gaelic is more than a language and, as such, it strengthens and enriches many aspects of Scotland's social, cultural and economic life; also recognises that the current condition of Gaelic needs urgent attention; welcomes the programme of action provided by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, which is designed to achieve the outcome of increasing the number of Gaelic speakers and bring renewed attention to the important place that Gaelic holds in Scotland; calls on the Scottish Government to keep the funding for Bòrd na Gàidhlig under review in light of the Gaelic language targets, and recommends that the Parliament and Bòrd na Gàidhlig pay close attention to the New Zealand Government's successful initiatives to increase the numbers of Maori language speakers.

And that's another week gone. Next week includes a Government debate on transmission charging (a change to lob eggs at Labour), Labour business (a chance to lob eggs back at the SNP), the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Bill (sod the dogs, what about the owners?) and a debate on progress towards 18-week referral to treatment.

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