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The Sunday Whip

03/10/2010

An unusually consensual week, with only two divisions called in the Chamber. Also, we got something of an increasingly rare occurrence in the Parliament: a pre-empted amendment, so this week was one for the connoisseurs of Holyrood proceedings.

Anyway, Wednesday was consensual to a T, with MSPs waving through the Business Motions, acknowledging the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s Report on the recommendations of the Commission on Scottish Devolution regarding Scottish Parliament procedures then approving the Scottish Parliament (Disqualification) Order 2010 and the Public Appointments and Public Bodies etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 (Treatment of Office or Body as Specified Authority) (No.2) Order 2010 without so much of a murmur of dissent.

Thursday saw a little (but not much) more action, with seven absentees: Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Marlyn Glen (Lab, North East Scotland, standing down next year), Rhoda Grant (Lab, Highlands & Islands), Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), LibDem Local Government Spokesperson Alison McInnes (North East Scotland), Shadow Cabinet Secretary without Portfolio John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife) and Public Health Minister Shona Robison (Dundee East).

They missed a Tory motion on Higher Education. First up came an SNP amendment which passed by 63 (SNP/LD/Green) to 58 (Lab/Con/Margo). This is what pre-empted the Labour and LibDem amendments (note that the Liberal Democrats voted to pre-empt their own amendment), so MSPs went straight to the amended motion, which passed by 62 (the SNP, most of the LibDems and both Greens) to 17 – the Tories plus John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West), with 42 (Labour/Margo) abstentions:

That the Parliament welcomes the firm consensus against any introduction of up-front fees in Scotland; notes the ongoing Independent Review of Higher Education and Student Finance in England and Wales; recognises that the Scottish Government will need to consider any potential impact on Scottish universities, and further recognises the Scottish Government’s intention to publish a green paper on higher education to explore these issues further.

Finally came an outbreak of total consensus on administrative justice and the future of tribunals: the SNP motion, along with the Labour and Tory amendments were all passed on the nod:

That the Parliament believes that justice delivered by tribunals is an integral part of the Scottish justice system; welcomes the Lord Chancellor’s invitation to the Scottish Ministers to consider with him proposals to devolve responsibility for tribunals operating in Scotland; further notes and welcomes moves to create an integrated Scottish tribunal service; in doing so, recognises that any forthcoming proposals from the Scottish Government for reform of the tribunals system should be consulted on widely, including with those currently involved in the operation of tribunals, as well as trade unions, Citizens Advice Scotland and other organisations that support those taking cases to tribunals, and further notes that the Lord Chancellor has emphasised that any transfer of powers should seek to preserve the benefits of existing arrangements.

So that was another week. Next week, we have Stage 3 of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, Labour Party business on Thursday morning, followed by a debate on a Refresh of the Skills Strategy – so I’m expecting a series of bunfights on Thursday.

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