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The Sunday Whip

19/09/2010

Another quiet week, as while Parliament sat for its full working week, no motions were moved on Thursday, doubtless to allow MSPs the chance to show devotion to the Pope. Frankly, I think this approach to business is a fairly crappy halfway house: if it was felt that there was no scope for substantive business with an actual motion at the end of it, then the sensible thing to do would be to drop the charade of Parliamentary proceedings altogether, let MSPs who wanted to pay homage do so in the knowledge that they were missing nothing, and let those who didn’t get on with casework and constituency business rather than simply going through the, er, motions. Even though there weren’t any motions to go through.

But I digress. There was an actual motion on Wednesday (as well as the nodding through of the Bureau motions) and there were 18 absentees for Decision Time: Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central), Rhona Brankin (Lab, Midlothian), Margaret Curran (Lab, Glasgow Baillieston), Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead (Moray), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), Tom McCabe (Lab, Hamilton South), Hugh O’Donnell (LD, Central Scotland), Shadow Climate Change Minister Cathy Peattie (Lab, Falkirk East), LibDem Chief Whip Mike Rumbles (West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine), LibDem Leader Tavish Scott (Shetland), Shirley-Anne Somerville (SNP, Lothians), Nicol Stephen (LD, Aberdeen South), Finance Secretary John Swinney (North Tayside), Dave Thompson (SNP, Highlands & Islands), Andrew Welsh (SNP, Angus) and Shadow Children’s Minister Karen Whitefield (Airdrie & Shotts).

The main business was the motion on the Government’s Drugs Strategy. A Labour amendment passed by 92 (SNP/Lab/LD) votes to 0 with 18 (Tory/Green) abstentions. A Tory amendment passed by 70 (SNP/Tory/LD) to 40 (Lab/Green), while a LibDem amendment was waved through. The final motion passed by 102 to 2 (the Greens) with six abstentions: Gavin Brown (Con, Lothians), Tory Finance Spokesman Derek Brownlee (South of Scotland), Alex Johnstone (Con, North East Scotland), Mary Scanlon (Con, Highlands & Islands), Tory Rural Affairs Spokesman John Scott (Ayr) and Tory Education Spokesperson Liz Smith (Mid Scotland & Fife). This is the most significant Tory split during the lifetime of the Parliament, and with drug policy having been a long-standing centrepiece of Annabel Goldie’s platform, is a sign that the party clearly has some thinking to do before it writes its 2011 Manifesto. But the motion that passed read:

That the Parliament recognises the progress that has been made in Scotland with the publishing of Scotland’s national drugs strategy, The Road to Recovery; notes that, with the change in emphasis to recovery, Scotland has slowly started the journey toward battling the damaging effects that substance abuse has on society; believes that more needs to be done in identifying models that work, including those delivered by voluntary and faith groups, removing discrimination and territorial barriers and rolling out best practice to ensure that the ethos of the drugs strategy is felt in every aspect of rehabilitation; notes the significant role that substance abuse plays in criminal activity and the complex needs of those in custody with substance addictions; believes that more needs to be done to ensure that prisons are drug free and every support is made available to those prisoners who want to become free of drugs; recognises the effectiveness of drug treatment and testing orders (DTTO) in providing intensive, specialist support to individuals involved in drug-related offending, and calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that DTTOs are available to all Scottish courts as required.

So that’s another week gone. Next week, there’s a Health & Sport Committee debate on Clinical Portal and Telehealth Development in NHS Scotland, Labour Business, and a Government debate on a Low Carbon Economy.

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