06 December 2009

The Sunday Whip

A mixed bag, this week. Wednesday was largely peaceful, Thursday, on the other hand, wasn't. It was, therefore, a typical Holyrood week. Even if it did involve a Cabinet reshuffle.

Wednesday saw the usual waving through of the Business Motions, and only one vote needed to be taken. There were, as you can imagine, quite a few absentees: for the SNP, Culture Minister-designate Fiona Hyslop (Lothian), Stewart Maxwell (West of Scotland), the FM himself, Alex Salmond (Gordon) and his Deputy and Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon (Glasgow Govan). For Labour, Wendy Alexander (Paisley North), Shadow Further & Higher Education Minister Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife), Bill Butler (Glasgow Anniesland), Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Shadow Schools Minister Ken Macintosh (Eastwood), Shadow Sport Minister Frank McAveety (Glasgow Shettleston) and Elaine Smith (Coatbridge & Chryston). The LibDems were minus John Farquhar Munro (Ross, Skye & Inverness West), Hugh O'Donnell (Central Scotland), Leader Tavish Scott (Shetland) and Culture Spokesman Iain Smith (North East Fife). Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians) was also elsewhere.

The only vote was on Labour's amendment to the SNP motion on violence against women. The amendment passed by 53 (Labour/LD/Green) to zero, with 59 SNP & Tory abstentions. A Tory amendment passed unanimously, as did the amended motion:

That the Parliament is pleased to reaffirm its commitment to ending violence against women; supports the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and its theme this year of Commit - Act - Demand: we can end violence against women!; celebrates the commitment of partners across Scotland, including the voluntary sector, local authorities, the police, NHS boards and others, to work together to end violence against women; acknowledges the importance of the shared understanding developed through the Safer Lives: Changed Lives strategic approach, and welcomes the progress that has been made to date on tackling violence against women in Scotland, including the groundbreaking work to involve young people who have experienced domestic abuse as expert advisers; regrets that a report on the implementation of the first round of single outcome agreements has not yet been published, given the concerns of Scottish Women's Aid about the level of provision across Scotland; believes that the strategy of protection, provision and prevention remains central to the tackling of violence against women; agrees that the Scottish Government should produce a joint statement from across its directorates to ensure that all its key policies are tested against their impact on women facing violence, and calls on the Scottish Government to consider, where practical, extending the principle of domestic violence courts throughout Scotland.

Following that, the Budget (Scotland) Act 2009 Amendment Order 2009 and Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003 (Designation of Participating Countries) (Scotland) (No. 3) Order 2009 were nodded through, and members were happy for the Health & Sport Committee to consider the Alcohol etc. (Scotland) Bill - which probably won't be overly favourable, given that the Opposition outnumber the SNP on there by five to three.

Thursday, meanwhile, began with a vote in the morning to confirm Mike Russell as a member of the Cabinet (interestingly, I don't recall any motion confirming that Fiona Hyslop is now a Junior Minister - has she actually been demoted, is a motion to this effect unnecessary, or was this an oversight?). Given the early vote, there were, again, a number of absentees: Tory Justice Spokesman Bill Aitken (Glasgow), Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central), Gavin Brown (Con, Lothians), Bill Butler, Tory Leader Annabel Goldie (West of Scotland), Shadow Transport Minister Charlie Gordon (Glasgow Cathcart), both Robin Harper (Green, Lothians) and his successor as Green Co-Convener Patrick Harvie (Glasgow), Margo MacDonald, Jamie McGrigor (Highlands & Islands), Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland), John Farquhar Munro, Hugh O'Donnell, Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South), Shadow Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife), Shadow Climate Change Minister Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East), Elaine Smith and Iain Smith. The new Education Secretary was confirmed in his post by 58 (SNP/Tory) votes to 0, with 52 Labour and LibDem abstentions.

In the afternoon came the LibDem motion on Education, which would have been a no-confidence vote in Fiona Hyslop had the FM not moved her out of harm's way 48 hours previously. There were far fewer absentees for Decision Time: Margo MacDonald, Tom McCabe (Lab, Hamilton South), Margaret Mitchell, John Farquhar Munro, Hugh O'Donnell, Irene Oldfather and Iain Smith.

The SNP amendment fell by 72 (Labour/Con/LD) votes to 47 (SNP) with two Green abstentions. The Labour amendment passed by 59 (Labour/LD/Green) votes to 47 (SNP) with 15 Tory abstentions. The Tory amendment fell by 106 (everyone but the Tories) to 15, and the amended motion passed by 57 (Labour/LD) votes to 50 - the SNP plus Tories Bill Aitken, Ted Brocklebank (Mid Scotland & Fife) and Jamie McGrigor - with 14 abstentions (the rest of the Tories, along with the Greens):

That the Parliament regrets that for the last two years the SNP government has presided over a series of failures on a range of education indicators, including teacher numbers and class sizes; believes that there are fundamental challenges that must be addressed in order to tackle the growing crisis in Scottish education; therefore calls on the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning to take immediate action to rebuild the bond of trust between central and local government and establish a constructive working relationship with local authorities so that schools can deliver the best possible outcomes for Scottish education and young people, to bring fresh impetus to the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence and the new national qualifications, providing teachers with the clarity, training and resources that they urgently require to implement the changes, and to focus on the key issue of teacher numbers, giving new teachers the career opportunities that they deserve and delivering effective workforce planning for the future, and calls on the Scottish Government to introduce a properly planned and resourced scheme for early retirement and more flexible winding down arrangements for older teachers, linked to guarantees that teachers released from the classroom will be replaced by post-probationary teachers.

Finally, there was an SNP motion and Labour amendment on Getting It Right For Every Child, both of which were nodded through:

That the Parliament supports the Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) approach; commends Highland and the other pathfinder programmes for their work in developing the approach; notes progress under the eCare framework to enable secure, targeted information sharing across Scotland; welcomes the report by the University of Edinburgh on progress to date, particularly with regard to the pathfinder programme in Highland; welcomes Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education's summary report on its first round of multi-agency children's services inspections as providing a clear and comprehensive picture of how children's services are operating across Scotland; encourages work to further develop and implement the GIRFEC approach as a means of public services and the third sector working with parents and communities to improve outcomes for children and deliver the Early Years Framework, Achieving our Potential, and Equally Well; recognises the scale of the challenge described in the HMIe report, How well do we protect Scotland's children?, which states that almost half of the 30 councils inspected were assessed as weak or unsatisfactory in relation to the assessment of risks and needs; further acknowledges that the report highlights the need for improved information sharing in relation to child protection, and calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that sufficient resources are available for the effective delivery of the Early Years Framework, Achieving our Potential and Equally Well.

So a consensual end to the week. Next week, there are Government debates on Further Powers for the Scottish Parliament and Climate Change, along with Labour business on Thursday morning. Bunfights all round?


subrosa said...

Ah you never disappoint. Thanks.

Julie said...

I think the SNP really needs to give up on smaller classroom sizes, and instead concentrate on making more permanent teaching posts. That would go a good way to achieving better results and better discipline in classrooms. It's doable. They also need to choke back on the numbers of teachers that they are training, because there just aren't the jobs for them out there.