10 July 2010

The Summer Whip

MSPs are now off on their hollybobs, after a chaotic term which saw the General Election campaign and its aftermath dominating proceedings, to the extent that two key pieces of legislation were crammed into the last week, as discussed at Scots Law News:

The procedure in the Scottish Parliament last week means that those affected by legislation in their day to day lives can take little comfort in the scrutiny of legislation given by parliamentarians. That the 230 Stage 3 amendments to the Crofting Bill were dealt with in under 3 hours; and the nearly 200 amendments considered at Stage 3 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill were dealt with in similar time; and that speeches on what can be technical and important amendments are limited to 1 minute duration, with divisions taking either 30 seconds or 1 minute, does not reflect well on the Scottish Parliament - and it is astonishing that in those circumstances that problems of the type that arose in relation to Peter Peacock's amendment 93 do not occur more frequently.

More worryingly, I fear that this phenomenon could get worse as we are now less than nine months away from dissolution (unless the next election gets moved to avoid clashing with Nick Clegg's AV referendum). Is this Parliament simply going to peter out, or should we be braced for Lidl Legislation, with laws passed at the speed expected of cashiers scanning goods at the budget supermarket's checkout? We shall see.

But for now, let's look at the figures from the term just gone.

The big absentees

As always, we begin by reviewing the Top 5 absentees, and it comes as no surprise that John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West) comes first, having missed 104 votes. I've said it before and I'll say it again: ill health is ill health, but the people of his constituency who voted for him (or at least for a Liberal Democrat representative) have lost out here: they've had no one representing their interests. But Munro cannot be blamed - rather, the system that can allow this to happen has once again been shown up as deficient. Second is Mike Pringle (LD, Edinburgh South) having missed 49 votes, most of them last week.

In joint third place are new Westminster Labour MPs Margaret Curran (Glasgow Baillieston in Holyrood, Glasgow East in Westminster) and Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley and now Kilmarnock & Loudoun as well), who missed 43 votes in the process of seeking or exercising their new mandates. Fifth was Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), missing forty votes.


The SNP have, as usual, the best attendance rate of the Big 4, at 96.5%. Leaving aside Alasdair Morgan's Deputy Presiding Officer duties, the First Minister missed 18 votes, Stewart Maxwell (West of Scotland) missed 16, while Joe FitzPatrick (Dundee West) and Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) missed 14.

Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop (Lothians) missed 13 votes, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson (Banff & Buchan) missed 12, while Parliamentary Business Minister Bruce Crawford (Stirling), Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead (Moray) and Andrew Welsh (Angus) missed 11.

Angela Constance (Livingston) and Public Health Minister Shona Robison missed ten votes, Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock & Loudoun), Jamie Hepburn (Central Scotland) and Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow) missed nine.

Ian McKee (Lothians) and Dave Thompson (Ross, Skye & Inverness West) missed six votes, Linda Fabiani (Central Scotland) missed three and Education Secretary Mike Russell and Finance Secretary John Swinney (North Tayside) missed two.

Schools Minister Keith Brown (Ochil), Bob Doris (Glasgow), Bill Kidd (Glasgow), Tricia Marwick (Central Fife), Enterprise Minister Jim Mather (Argyll & Bute), Gil Paterson (West of Scotland), Shirley-Anne Somerville (Lothians) and Sandra White (Glasgow) all missed one vote.

Also, the SNP have the highest cohesion rate, at 99.91%: Christine Grahame (South of Scotland) differed from the group on two occasions, with Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill (Edinburgh East & Musselburgh), Alasdair Morgan (South of Scotland) and Gil Paterson doing so on one occasion.


Labour's record is grim, though by no means the worst, with an attendance rate of 89.14%.

Aside from their presence in the Top 5, Marlyn Glen (North East Scotland) has missed 35 votes, Wendy Alexander (Paisley North) has missed 28 and Tom McCabe (Hamilton South) has missed 26.

Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central) has missed 24 votes, while Rhona Brankin (Midlothian), who will be standing down next year, and Jack McConnell (Motherwell & Wishaw) who now has a peerage (though most of his absences pre-date it) missed 23. Rhoda Grant (Highlands & Islands) missed 20 votes.

Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South) missed 17 votes, Group Leader Iain Gray (East Lothian) missed 16, while Cathie Craigie (Cumbernauld & Kilsyth), Helen Eadie (Dunfermline East), Shadow Community Safety Minister James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen), Peter Peacock and Chief Whip David Stewart (both Highlands & Islands) all missed 15 votes.

Hugh Henry (Paisley South) missed 14 votes, while Deputy Leader Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok) and Frank McAveety (Glasgow Shettleston) missed 13. Shadow Schools Minister Ken Macintosh (Eastwood) and Shadow Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife) missed 11 votes.

Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy) and Shadow Public Health Minister Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland & Fife) missed ten votes, while Shadow Further & Higher Education Minister Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife), Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill) and Shadow Climate Change Minister Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) missed nine. Shadow Transport Minister Charlie Gordon (Glasgow Cathcart) and Duncan McNeil (Greenock & Inverclyde) missed eight.

Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central), Shadow Finance Secretary Andy Kerr (East Kilbride) and Shadow Children's Minister Karen Whitefield (Airdrie & Shotts) missed seven votes; Shadow Sport Minister Bill Butler (Glasgow Anniesland), Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North & Leith) and Shadow Education Secretary Des McNulty (Clydebank & Milngavie) missed five, while Shadow Health Secretary Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton), Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Baker (North East Scotland) and Shadow Culture Minister Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin) missed four votes.

This left George Foulkes (Lothians), Shadow Housing Minister Mary Mulligan (Linlithgow), Shadow Environment Minister Elaine Murray (Dumfries), Elaine Smith (Coatbridge & Chryston) and Shadow Finance Minister David Whitton (Strathkelvin & Bearsden), who missed one vote.

The cohesion rate wasn't good either, but again, wasn't the worst, at 99.77%. Frank McAveety and Pauline McNeill have both broken with the group on two occasions, while Wendy Alexander, Malcolm Chisholm, Helen Eadie, Business Manager Paul Martin (Glasgow Springburn), Mary Mulligan, Peter Peacock and Karen Whitefield have all done so once.


They have a solid attendance rate this term - 96.22%. Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland), who was trying to unseat Sir Robert Smith in West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine a couple of months ago, was the most absent Tory, having missed twenty votes. Next came new Justice Spokesman John Lamont (Roxburgh & Berwickshire) - who was trying to unseat Michael Moore (I wonder how he feels about Moore being Secretary of State for Scotland in the Coalition government?) - and Rural Affairs Spokesman John Scott (Ayr), who missed fifteen votes. Gavin Brown (Lothians) and Leader Annabel Goldie (West of Scotland) missed seven.

Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) missed four votes, new Education Spokesperson Liz Smith (Mid Scotland & Fife) missed two, while Ted Brocklebank (Mid Scotland & Fife) and Jamie McGrigor (Highlands & Islands) missed one.

The cohesion rate is also quite decent, at 99.78, with Bill Aitken (Glasgow), Ted Brocklebank, Jamie McGrigor and Margaret Mitchell voting against their Whip on one occasion.

Liberal Democrats

The LibDems have the worst attendance rate of any party at 83.25%, though in fairness to them, that is skewed by John Farquhar Munro's absence and Mike Pringle missing the bulk of last week's business didn't help matters. Nevertheless, attendance across the board isn't great: Education Spokesperson Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West) missed 31 votes, while Tavish Scott (Shetland) is the Party Leader most likely to be absent, having missed 21 votes, a number matched by his predecessor Nicol Stephen (Aberdeen South). Business Manager Mike Rumbles (West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine) has missed twenty.

Environment Spokesman Liam McArthur (Orkney) has missed 16 votes, Jim Tolson (Dunfermline West) has missed 12 and Local Government Spokesperson Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) has missed ten.

Culture Spokesperson Iain Smith (North East Fife) and Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross) missed eight votes; Health Spokesman Ross Finnie (West of Scotland) and Hugh O'Donnell (Central Scotland) missed seven; Justice Spokesman Robert Brown (Glasgow) missed four votes and Jim Hume (South of Scotland) missed one.

Their cohesion rate is also the lowest, at 99.68%, though again, this is sensitive due to the comparatively small size of the group and the level of absenteeism. Alison McInnes voted against the whip twice, while Jim Hume, Finance Spokesman Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick & Lauderdale) and Margaret Smith did so once.

Greens and Margo

The Greens may lose their normal 100% attendance but retain overall top spot, with an attendance rate of 97.9%, generated by Robin Harper (Lothians) missing three votes and Co-Convener Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) missing two. They haven't split with each other at any point this term.

Meanwhile, a first: Margo MacDonald (Lothians) is not in the Top 5 absentees. Her 35 missed votes put her in joint 6th place with Marlyn Glen. And the 70.59% attendance rate, while rather low, is higher than average for her, but being around for the big Stage 3 debate on Wednesday probably helped. She's like the Parliamentary equivalent of the good crockery - only out on special occasions.

No comments: