23 May 2010

The Sunday Whip

This was a relatively tranquil week, with the sweet-smelling flowers of consensus blooming around Holyrood. So much so that no votes at all were taken on Wednesday: MSPs noted the Local Government & Communities Committee's Report on the Local Government Finance Inquiry, then agreed four SSIs: the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 (Automatic Listing) (Specified Criteria) Order 2010, the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 (Relevant Offences) (Modification) Order 2010, the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 (Modification of Regulated Work with Children) Order 2010 and the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 (Modification of Regulated Work with Adults) Order 2010.

Even Thursday was relatively harmonious, and there were thirteen absentees: Wendy Alexander (Lab, Paisley North), Shadow Health Secretary Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton), Margaret Curran (Lab, Glasgow Baillieston), Rhoda Grant (Lab, Highlands & Islands), Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Shadow Finance Secretary Andy Kerr (East Kilbride), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), LibDem Local Government Spokesperson Alison McInnes (North East Scotland), John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West), LibDem Leader Tavish Scott (Shetland), LibDem Education Spokesperson Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West), Nicol Stephen (LD, Aberdeen South) and Jamie Stone (LD, Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross).

Anyway. First came Labour's motion on the Protection of Workers. The SNP amendment was waved through, but the Tory amendment was defeated by 59 (SNP, LibDems and Greens) to 16, with the 40 Labour MSPs abstaining. The LibDem amendment passed by 73 (SNP, Tories and LibDems) to 0 with 42 abstentions. The amended motion then passed on the nod:

That the Parliament believes that further measures need to be taken to deter violence against shop workers and other workers delivering a service to the public; notes with concern the finding of the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2008-09 that, of those adults who had jobs involving contact with the general public, 35% had experienced either verbal abuse or physical abuse; recognises that there has been a 78% increase in violence and abuse against Scottish shop workers over the last three years, according to Retailers Against Crime; welcomes the Freedom from Fear campaign organised by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), which seeks to make shops and shopping areas safer for staff and customers; acknowledges the efforts of the trade union movement as a whole to highlight the continuing problems of violence for those workers with direct contact with the public; recognises that there have been year-on-year increases in prosecutions under the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005; believes that the Parliament and the Scottish Government should take further action to ensure that workers can carry out their duties without facing violence or intimidation by accepting that a comprehensive approach to changing Scotland's relationship with alcohol is required, which includes effective enforcement of existing laws and innovative, evidence-based policies; recognises that attacks on public sector workers are treated with gravity under existing law, and believes that effective prosecution through the courts of such offences and the further development of non-legislative measures, including evidence sharing and partnership working, are an appropriate response to violence against workers delivering a public service.

Then came the Government motion on High Speed Rail. A Labour amendment passed by 99 (everyone but the Tories) to 16, which pre-empted the Tory amendment. A LibDem amendment then fell by 87 (SNP/Labour) to 28 (Tories/LibDems/Greens). The motion itself passed without dissent:

That the Parliament welcomes the work of High Speed Two, Greengauge21, the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee and Network Rail, among others, which have developed the case for high-speed rail in the United Kingdom during the last year; notes the strong economic and environmental case for extending high-speed rail to Scotland; notes the opportunity to engage with the new Westminster administration to secure Scotland's place in a UK high-speed rail network, and supports work to bring high-speed rail to Scotland at the earliest opportunity, as well as supporting interim steps to reduce rail journey times between Scotland and London.

Finally, MSPs agreed to an SNP Committee reshuffle.

And that was that. Next week, we see Stage 1 of the Forth Crossing Bill, Tory Business (a chance for the new frontbenchers to step up, perhaps?) and a Government debate on Progress Towards 18 Week Referral to Treatment.

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