25 April 2010

The Sunday Whip

It seems that the election is beginning to take its toll on proceedings at Holyrood, and I would like to take this opportunity to remind MSPs that it's no good asking for mandates for their colleagues, when they can't fulfil their own. Now, all parties are up to this at the moment, but some (and, yes, I am looking at Labour and the Liberal Democrats here) are up to it more than others.

Anyway. Wednesday saw the usual nodding through of the Business Motion and a host of absentees: Shadow Further & Higher Education Minister Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife), Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Baker (North East Scotland), Rhona Brankin (Lab, Midlothian), LibDem Justice Spokesman Robert Brown (Glasgow), Margaret Curran (Lab, Glasgow Baillieston), Marlyn Glen (Lab, North East Scotland), Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Deputy Leader of the Opposition Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), Shadow Sports Minister Frank McAveety (Glasgow Shettleston), Jack McConnell (Motherwell & Wishaw), John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West), Shadow Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife), Mike Pringle (LD, Edinburgh South), Public Health Minister Shona Robison (Dundee East), LibDem Education Spokesperson Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West), Nicol Stephen (LD, Aberdeen South), Jamie Stone (LD, Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross) and Jim Tolson (LD, Dunfermline West).

They missed an SNP motion on transmission charges. The Labour amendment - which was missed by Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central) - fell by 71 (SNP/Con/LD) to 35 with two Green abstentions. The Tory amendment - which was missed by Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson (Banff & Buchan) - fell by 54 (SNP/LD) to 52 (Lab/Con) with two abstentions. The LibDem amendment passed by 71 (SNP/Con/LD) to 0 with 38 abstentions (did I mention that I get annoyed by this whole business of forcing a vote only to abstain?), and the motion passed by 57 (SNP/LD/Green) to 0 with 52 abstentions:

That the Parliament opposes the existing locational approach to charging electricity generators for access and use of the GB grid system applied by National Grid and Ofgem that results in areas with the greatest renewables potential facing the highest charges in the United Kingdom; agrees that locational charging is a barrier to delivering renewable energy generation from Scotland, impacts on investment decisions and the growth of the Scottish energy sector and undermines delivery of a balanced, diverse and sustainable energy mix that helps to meet the challenge of climate change through moving to a low-carbon energy generation mix; supports the Scottish Government in continuing to work with industry, utilities, academia and environmentalist and business organisations to address the issue of high transmission charges; welcomes the work now in hand to develop and deliver options for change to the transmission charging regime that will help deliver Scotland's energy potential and ensure security of energy supply; recognises also that the current system of charging threatens efforts to develop and deploy large-scale carbon capture and storage technology; believes that it now is essential that an urgent review of the locational charging regime be carried out, and urges the Scottish Government to work with any incoming UK administration to help ensure that such a review gets underway before the end of 2010.

Thursday, meanwhile, saw the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Bill reach its final stage, and a Labour motion on the Economy.

The whole day was missed by Wendy Alexander (Lab, Paisley North), Rhona Brankin, Bill Butler (Lab, Glasgow Anniesland), Cathie Craigie (Lab, Cumbernauld & Kilsyth), Margaret Curran, Joe FitzPatrick (SNP, Dundee West), Kenneth Gibson (SNP, Cunninghame North), Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Marlyn Glen, Cathy Jamieson, John Lamont (Con, Roxburgh & Berwickshire), Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central), Tom McCabe (Hamilton South), John Farquhar Munro, Peter Peacock (Highlands & Islands), Shona Robison, Margaret Smith, Nicol Stephen and Shadow Children's Minister Karen Whitefield (Airdrie & Shotts).

Only one amendment (appropriately titled 'Amendment 1', and raised by Labour) to the Bill went to a vote - the others were waved through. Trish Godman (Lab, West Renfrewshire) was in the chair for this, so Alasdair Morgan (SNP, South of Scotland) was paired for it, while Jim Hume (LD, South of Scotland), Alex Johnstone (Con, North East Scotland), Shadow Community Safety Minister James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen), Margo MacDonald, Jamie McGrigor (Con, Highlands & Islands), Mike Pringle, FM Alex Salmond (Gordon) and LibDem Leader Tavish Scott (Shetland) missed the vote. It passed, by 57 (everyone but the SNP) to 42. The Bill was waved through at Decision Time.

Then came the Economy motion, where the election reared its ugly head and everything was thrown out - I saw this coming: of course Parliamentary co-operation was going to be eroded! Anyway. The SNP amendment fell by 64 (Lab/Con/LD/Green) to 44 with Margo abstaining. The Tory amendment fell by 49 (Lab/LD/Green) to 15 with 45 abstentions (SNP & Margo). The LibDem amendment fell by 93 - the SNP, most of Labour, though Duncan McNeil (Greenock & Inverclyde) missed this one, the Tories and the Greens - to 14 - the LibDems plus Shadow Culture Minister Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin) with Margo abstaining. And the Labour motion fell by 61 (SNP, Tories and Greens) to 34 with 14 abstentions (LibDems and Margo). So the Parliament took no position in the end.

And that was this week. Next week, the Parliament will take no position on the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Bill and the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill. MSPs will not vote in favour of anything relating to the Green Party Business on Thursday morning, or agree on the Government's Social Care debate.

Is this the New Politics?

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