02 May 2010

The Sunday Whip

One gets the feeling that our MSPs are a little distracted, given how much of this post is going to be taken up by a list of absences rather than anything more substantive. I can't think why.

Anyway. Wednesday saw a huge 34 absences, to the extent that I'm going to have to break them down:

For the SNP: Schools Minister Keith Brown (Ochil), Angela Constance (Livingston), Bob Doris (Glasgow), Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop (Lothians), Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead (Moray), Public Health Minister Shona Robison (Dundee East), Andrew Welsh (Angus) and Sandra White (Glasgow).

For Labour: Wendy Alexander (Paisley North), Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central), Margaret Curran (Glasgow Baillieston, not having cast a single vote since Parliament returned from its Spring recess), Marlyn Glen (North East Scotland), Rhoda Grant (Highlands & Islands), Hugh Henry (Paisley South), Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley, and like Ms Curran, absent from any vote since the Easter break), Deputy Leader Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok), Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy), Shadow Sport Minister Frank McAveety (Glasgow Shettleston), Tom McCabe (Hamilton South), Shadow Culture Minister Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin), Shadow Housing Minister Mary Mulligan (Linlithgow), Shadow Environment Minister Elaine Murray (Dumfries), Shadow Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife), Peter Peacock (Highlands & Islands) and Shadow Finance Minister David Whitton (Strathkelvin & Bearsden).

Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) and John Lamont (Roxburgh & Berwickshire) were absent for the Tories. Both are prospective dual mandate politicians (funny, that), though unlike their Labour counterparts, they did at least manage to put in some form of appearance as recently as last week.

For the LibDems: Local Government Spokesperson Alison McInnes (North East Scotland), John Farquhar Munro (Ross, Skye & Inverness West), Hugh O'Donnell (Central Scotland), Education Spokesperson Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West), Nicol Stephen (Aberdeen South) and Jim Tolson (Dunfermline West).

Both Greens were present (making Robin Harper the only Westminster candidate MSP to turn up this week), but Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians) was not.

Along with the usual quiet agreement to the Business Motion, they missed the amendments to, and passage of, the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Bill. This was an exercise in consensus with no votes being required. However, Stage 1 of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill did face a vote, but passed by 92 votes to 2, with only the Greens against.

Following that, we had the usual unspoken agreement to an SSI:

That the Parliament agrees that the Census (Scotland) Order 2010 to the extent that it relates to the following particulars in Schedule 2—

(a) item 1;

(b) in item 2, the words "and, as the case may be, where there are 5 or fewer persons in the household, the relationship of each of the previous persons mentioned in the return and where there are 6 or more persons in the household, the relationship of the sixth and subsequent persons to the two previously mentioned persons in the return";

(c) item 7;

(d) in item 8, the words "and, if not born in the United Kingdom, month and year of most recent arrival to live in the United Kingdom";

(e) items 9,10,12,14,17,18,19,20;

(f) in item 21, the words "on a Government sponsored training scheme;"

(g) items 22,27,28,30,31,33,34;

and items 1,2,3 and 4 of Schedule 3 to the Order, be approved.

Thursday's programme was more crowded, even if the Chamber wasn't. The absences were as follows.

For the SNP: Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock & Loudoun), Angela Constance, Joe FitzPatrick (Dundee West), Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North), Jamie Hepburn (Central Scotland), Fiona Hyslop, Richard Lochhead, Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow), FM Alex Salmond (Gordon) and Andrew Welsh.

For Labour: Wendy Alexander, Rhona Brankin (Midlothian), Cathie Craigie (Cumbernauld & Kilsyth), Margaret Curran, Helen Eadie (Dunfermline East), Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill), Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Marlyn Glen, Rhoda Grant, Hugh Henry, Cathy Jamieson, Shadow Community Safety Minister James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen), Marilyn Livingstone, Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central), Peter Peacock, Shadow Climate Change Minister Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) and Shadow Public Health Minister Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland & Fife).

For the Tories, Alex Johnstone and John Lamont were joined on the absentee list by Rural Affairs Spokesman John Scott (Ayr). For the LibDems, the absentees were Environment Spokesman Liam McArthur (Orkney) and John Farquhar Munro. Neither of the Greens were absent, and Margo made an appearance today.

Anyway, onto the actual business. Today we saw two of those rare beasts, Green motions (typical - you wait ages, then two come along at once).

The first was on a Living Wage. An SNP amendment was rejected by 45 (Lab/LD/Green/Margo - John Park missed this one) to 37 with 13 Tory abstentions, while a Labour amendment fell by 67 to 29. A Tory amendment fell by 83 to 13 but the LibDem amendment passed by 64 (SNP/Tory/LD) to 32 (Lab/Green/Margo). The amended motion passed by 68 (SNP/Tories/LibDems/Greens/Margo, plus Labour's Pauline McNeill) to 28:

That the Parliament recognises that unacceptable levels of poverty and income inequality continue to blight Scotland; notes that the income of the richest 10% of people in Scotland is approximately the same as the total income of the poorest 50%; further notes that, among working-age adults, in-work poverty is still on the increase; believes that a more equal society would be a happier, healthier, safer and greener society and that this must become a core objective of government at all levels, and believes that, during the tight financial climate, public sector pay policy should be structured to ensure that those on lower incomes benefit more than those on higher incomes from pay changes.

Next came the motion on democratic reform. A Labour amendment fell by 67 to 29 while a Tory amendment fell by 54 (SNP/LD/Green/Margo) to 13 with 29 abstentions. The motion passed by 54 (SNP/LD/Green/Margo) to 41 (Lab/Tory) with Ted Brocklebank (Con, Mid Scotland & Fife) abstaining:

That the Parliament believes that the current UK general election must be the last to use the discredited first-past-the-post electoral system and that the single transferable vote is the best way to ensure that the public receive the democratic representation that they deserve in future.

Finally, there was a Government motion on changing lives: a confident, competent social care workforce. The Labour amendment was waved through, but a Tory amendment fell by 38 (the SNP plus Labour's Frank McAveety) to 13, with the remaining 45 MSPs (including Margo, who has to do this at least one whenever she's in) abstaining. The motion, however, passed unanimously:

That the Parliament recognises the significant contribution made to the lives of the people of Scotland by all those who work in social services, often in difficult and complex circumstances; agrees the need for a confident, competent and valued social services workforce to deliver safe, effective and personalised practice; notes the work that has been done following the review of social work services, Changing Lives; notes the finding from the performance inspections of the Social Work Inspection Agency that leadership is of critical importance in the performance of social work services; welcomes the focus on leadership being jointly taken forward by the Scottish Social Services Council and the four social services learning networks; endorses the need for political, operational and professional leadership and engagement to support and develop the social services workforce; while acknowledging the important role of the social work and social care workforce in supporting and protecting people across the whole age spectrum, notes the impact of changing demographics and, in particular, the increase in the older population on the demand for services, as indicated by the Social Work Inspection Agency report, Improving Social Work in Scotland, which estimates that by 2018 the number of people aged 85 and over will have increased by 40%, and calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that social care services are sufficiently prepared and resourced accordingly, taking into account the fact that many older people are themselves carers.

And that was the week that was. Next week, business has been cleverly arranged to the extent that it will consist of no debates, save Members' Business, and Question Time has been moved to Wednesday. They're all too busy to show up on Thursday, apparently...

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