20 June 2010

The Sunday Whip

It's been a while since we've had a week that adheres so tightly to the general Holyrood formula: total consensus on a Wednesday, followed by the opposition building a consensus around the common interest of lobbing a quick egg at the Government. But this is what we got this week.

Wednesday saw no votes taken at all: the Business Motion was waved through, as were the general principles of the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Bill and its accompanying financial resolution, a motion putting the Education Committee in charge of the Autism (Scotland) Bill at Stage 1 and a Tory committee substitute reshuffle. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

Thursday was busier, and saw only five absentees: LibDem Health Spokesman Ross Finnie (West of Scotland), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), a disgraced Frank McAveety (Lab, Glasgow Shettleston and now, it seems, Manila West), John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West) and LibDem Culture Spokesman Iain Smith (North East Fife).

First came the Labour motion on Schools. The SNP amendment fell by 74 (Lab/Con/LD) votes to 49 (SNP/Green), while the Tory amendment fell by 107 to 16. The LibDem amendment passed by 74 to 47 with two Green abstentions, as did the amended motion:

That the Parliament notes with concern the reduction in the numbers of teachers and classroom assistants since 2007 and the sharp rise in the proportion of newly qualified teachers who cannot obtain permanent or even temporary employment; further notes the widespread disquiet that exists among teachers and parents over the lack of preparedness for implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence and, in particular, the lack of clarity over new qualification arrangements; recognises that the Curriculum for Excellence is a wide-ranging reform with significant resource implications; calls on the Scottish Government to reach an early agreement with local authorities and teachers organisations that guarantees the necessary preparation time and resources for successful implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence, and notes that the Scottish Government's package of education failures includes the abandonment of SNP election commitments to reduce class sizes in P1 to P3 to 18, dump student debt and match brick for brick the previous administration's school building programme.

Then came the Government's Poverty Framework motion. A Labour amendment fell by 76 (SNP/Con/LD) votes to 45 with two abstentions, while the LibDem amendment passed by 59 - most of the Labour group, the LibDems and Greens to one - Labour's Shadow Housing Minister Mary Mulligan (Linlithgow) - with 63 SNP and Tory abstentions (Margo, it seems was in the Chamber in spirit, at least). The amended motion then passed by 60 (Labour/LD/Green) votes to one - Bill Aitken (Con, Glasgow) with 62 SNP and Tory abstentions:

That the Parliament notes the continuing approach set out in the Scottish Government's poverty and income inequality framework, Achieving our Potential, to take long-term measures to tackle drivers of poverty and income inequality in Scotland, to maximise the potential for people to work, to make work pay for those who can and to support those who cannot work and those who are experiencing poverty now; recognises the need to focus on those people and communities who experience longer-term persistent poverty; supports the need to streamline the welfare system while ensuring that reforms provide better protection for, and do not further disadvantage, vulnerable people, particularly in these challenging times, and believes that the Scottish Government should introduce a fairer pay policy that gives a real-terms pay increase to those on the lowest wages in the public sector while paying no bonuses to higher earning staff in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

So that was another week. Next week, there's Stage 1 of the Housing (Scotland) Bill, LibDem business and a Government debate on the Independent Review of Sheriff and Jury Procedures.

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