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The Sunday Whip

26/09/2010

A mixed week for the Government, and a return to the traditional pattern of Wednesday-related consensus and the customary Thursday of partisan bunfights.

And indeed, Wednesday saw nothing move to a vote: MSPs acknowledged a report by the Health & Sport Committee entitled Clinical portal and telehealth development in NHS Scotland, then went on to approve the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Designation, Transitional and Consequential Provisions (Scotland) Order 2002 Modification Order 2010, the Cairngorms National Park Designation, Transitional and Consequential Provisions (Scotland) Order 2003 Modification Order 2010 and the Cairngorms National Park Elections (Scotland) Amendment Order 2010.

Thursday was far busier, and there were only six absentees: Rhona Brankin (Lab, Midlothian), Tory Deputy Leader Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland & Fife), Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), Jamie Stone (LD, Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross) and Finance Secretary John Swinney (North Tayside).

The first set of votes was on a Labour motion regarding the future of forensic services in Scotland. An SNP amendment fell by 74 (Lab/Con/LD) votes to 48 (SNP/Green). The Tory amendment passed by 76 (everyone but the SNP) to one – Enterprise Minister Jim Mather (Argyll & Bute) – with the other 45 SNP MSPs present abstaining. The LibDem amendment passed by 76 to 46 and the amended motion passed by 74 to 0 with 48 abstentions:

That the Parliament recognises the importance of a national forensic service which is able to serve the needs of the whole country; acknowledges the key role of forensic services and speedy access to evidence for the detection of those responsible for crimes and the prevention of further offences; notes the consultation by the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) on a number of options for the future of forensic services in Scotland; believes that the recommendation for the future structure of the service which has now been made by the SPSA Board to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice should be made public immediately; further believes that Option 3, which would result in the closure of the laboratories in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and that Option 4, which would see their services very significantly reduced, would be detrimental to very many communities in Scotland; accordingly believes that Option 2 should be the basis on which services are developed; acknowledges the concerns raised about the loss of specialist jobs; further notes the concerns of local communities and the police about the proposed changes; believes that decisions on the future of the national forensic service should be driven by the quality of the services needed and provided; regrets the history of inadequate consultation and consideration by the SPSA over the structure of the service; deplores the way in which the SPSA regarded the closure of regional services as a foregone conclusion, and considers that the controversy surrounding the issue serves as a warning as to the dangers of dogmatic centralisation

Then came the Government motion on the low-carbon economy for Scotland. A Labour amendment was waved through, but a Tory amendment fell by 63 (SNP/LD/Green) to 57 (most of the Labour Group and the Tories) with two abstentions – Marlyn Glen (North East Scotland) and Elaine Smith (Coatbridge & Chryston). The LibDem amendment passed by 75 – made up of all the SNP MSPs, save for Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) who missed this vote, the LibDems and Tories – to 0 with 46 Labour and Green abstentions. The Green amendment then fell by 120 votes to 2, but the amended motion passed without argument:

That the Parliament acknowledges that Scotland is continuing to develop a national consensus and determination to play a full role in developing the technologies, skills and expertise to build a low-carbon economy; welcomes the job opportunities associated with the further development of low-carbon technologies and acknowledges the need for skills development; notes that the net effect of these and other initiatives has been to position Scotland as a preferred international destination for low-carbon investment; believes that the Scottish Government should use its powers to the full in support of the development of low-carbon technologies in energy, transport and housing and in the promotion of existing technologies, such as combined heat and power and microgeneration, in order to underpin Scotland’s recovery from economic recession; welcomes the announcement by Ofgem of a review of the charging arrangements for gas and electricity transmission networks and hopes that this will pave the way to removing barriers to the development of Scotland’s renewable energy industry, and believes that the UK Government’s plans for a Green Investment Bank to fund low-carbon transport and energy schemes and a Green Deal to overhaul the energy efficiency of homes and small businesses will benefit Scotland’s efforts to build a low-carbon economy.

And of course, the week’s Bureau motions were waved through as per. Next week, we have the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s debate on the Calman Commission, followed by The Scottish Parliament (Disqualification) Order 2010 on Wednesday, then Tory business on Thursday morning followed by a Government debate on Administrative Justice and the future of tribunals after lunch.

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