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The Sunday Whip

10/10/2010

It was only a matter of time: Stage 3 legislation has made it back to the Chamber and so we found ourselves with seventeen votes on Wednesday – light by legislative standards – and an unusually consensual Thursday, along with that rare beast, an SSI going to a vote.

Anyway, the Stage 3 Legal Services (Scotland) Bill debate on Wednesday saw a number of MSPs coming and going, but there were a number of all-day absentees: Tory Leader Annabel Goldie (West of Scotland), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), Stewart Maxwell (SNP, West of Scotland), Jack McConnell (Lab, Motherwell & Wishaw), Irene Oldfather (Lab, Cunninghame South), Shadow Climate Change Minister Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East), Public Health Minister Shona Robison (Dundee East, wearing her Sport Minister’s hat and attending the Commonwealth Games in Delhi), LibDem Leader Tavish Scott (Shetland) and Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston).

It was 17 of the amendments that went to a vote. The first was a Labour amendment (121). It passed by 89 to 29, with the SNP and Greens joining Labour, but the Tories and LibDems opposing. A Government amendment (8) passed by 102 (everyone but the LibDems) to 15. Then came three LibDem amendments (27A, 27B and 28A), which fell by 62 to 57, 62 to 56, then 62 to 57 respectively. On each occasion, Labour and the LibDems voted in favour, outvoted by the SNP, Tories and Greens.

After this came another Labour amendment (46A), which fell by 76 to 40 as no other party supported it. Another LibDem amendment (123) fell 61 to 56 as the support of the Labour party was not enough to overcome opposition from the others. A subsequent Labour amendment (133) fell by 69 to 40, again as a result of no other party supporting it. A Tory amendment (135) passed against the wishes of the Government by 67 to 44: Labour, the Tories and LibDems were in favour; the SNP and Greens were opposed. A subsequent Tory amendment fared less well, falling by 82 to 29 (only getting support from the Tories).

Then came an oddity in Tory amendment 145. I think it passed by 70 to 43. At least, that’s what the Official Report says, but the Official Report also says that the SNP, Labour and Greens voted for it, while the Tories and LibDems voted against. This is patently wrong: what I think probably happened is that Labour, the Tories and LibDems voted in favour, while the SNP voted against. I think the Greens voted against, but can’t be sure.

Anyway. An SNP amendment (97) passed by 85 to 29 (the SNP, Labour and Greens versus the Tories and LibDems). Then came another three LibDem amendments (146, 147 and 148), which fell by 100 to 13, 100 to 14 and 100 to 14 respectively: only the LibDems voted for them. A Labour amendment (152) passed by 85 (SNP/Labour/Greens) to 28 (Con/LD), while one last Tory amendment (156) fell by 99 to 15, with only the Tories in favour.

After all that, the Bill itself passed without dissent, as did the Business Motions.

On Thursday, however, there was a show of consensus – rare for an Opposition debate – and there were a number of absentees: Margo MacDonald, Jack McConnell, Cathy Peattie, Shona Robison, the FM Alex Salmond (probably in Delhi), Shadow Public Health Minister Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland & Fife), Elaine Smith, Shirley-Anne Somerville (SNP, Lothians), Jamie Stone (LD, Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross), Deputy FM Nicola Sturgeon (Glasgow Govan), Jim Tolson (LD, Dunfermline West) and John Wilson (SNP, Central Scotland).

A Labour motion on supported employment was waved through, as were the accompanying SNP and Tory amendments:

That the Parliament notes the Scottish Government’s policy that every public body should aim to have at least one contract with a supported factory or business, as set out in its Social Issues in Public Procurement guidance document in October 2007 and reiterated as part of the Scottish Sustainable Procurement Action Plan in October 2009; welcomes this approach as the most effective means of public policy support for the sector; regrets the lack of evidence that this policy has been effectively pursued over the last three years, and calls on the Scottish Government to set a timetable for every public body in Scotland for which it is responsible to have at least one contract with a supported factory or business; notes the recognition given to sustainability in the procurement reform programme and in particular the progress on community benefit clauses, and, in so doing, take account of the fact that there may be a small minority of public bodies that will face practical difficulties in achieving this aim, and, in addition, believes that main contractors should be actively encouraged, on a voluntary basis, to use supported employment organisations as subcontractors on public sector contracts.

Then, a Government debate on a Refresh of the Skills Strategy saw Labour and Tory amendments pass without dissent, but a LibDem amendment fell by 102 to 14 (no one else supported it). The motion still passed on the nod:

That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the refreshed Skills for Scotland skills strategy and agrees that the principles of flexibility, responsiveness and partnership working are critical to meeting Scotland’s skills needs and accelerating economic recovery; calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that there is sustained investment in skills training to meet the recognised demand for a well skilled, well trained workforce, and further calls on the Scottish Government to fully engage employers in the process of ensuring that the system is more demand-led and that publicly funded training matches far more closely the needs of employers.

Finally, the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 passed by 72 (SNP/Con/LD) votes to three – the Greens plus Shadow Finance Secretary Andy Kerr (East Kilbride) – while the remaining 41 Labour MSPs abstained.

So that was that. MSPs now have a two-week break. And after that epic, I sympathise.

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