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The Sunday Whip

31/10/2010

What a week! I don’t know what it did to the MSPs but it took quite a bit of following, as the Supreme Court lobbed a hand grenade into proceedings and MSPs had to tear up standing orders and sit after 7p.m.

Anyway. Matters were rather taken up by the Criminal Procedure (Legal Assistance, Detention and Appeals) (Scotland) Bill, which was dragged, kicking and screaming, through the entire legislative process in one day. A handful of MSPs missed the entire day’s proceedings: Margaret Curran (Lab, Glasgow Baillieston), Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Jim Hume (LD, South of Scotland), Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Enterprise Minister Jim Mather (Argyll & Bute), Public Health Minister Shona Robison (Dundee East) and Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston), and there was the usual to-ing and fro-ing.

To the Bill. Stage 1 passed by 111 (the Big 4) to 3 (the Greens and Margo). Stage 2 saw the Bill go to a Committee of the Whole Parliament, and a number of amendments, most of which were moved by the LibDems.

The first to go to a vote was Amendment 2, which fell by 100 – the SNP, Labour, Tories plus John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West) to 18 – the LibDems, Greens, Margo and Sandra White (SNP, Glasgow). Next was Amendment 4, falling by 102 (SNP/Lab/Con) to 18 (LD/Green/Margo). Amendment 7 fell by 102 to 17 (the same party split), while Amendment 8 fell by 102 to 18 and Amendment 9 fell by 101 to 18. Amendment 10 fell by 61 (SNP/Con) to 18 (LD/Green/Margo) with 41 Labour abstentions.

After this, the Tories had two amendments – 24 and 25, both of which fell by 63 (SNP/LD/Green/Margo) to 57 (Lab/Con). The LibDems had two more amendments, neither of which were successful: 26 fell by 101 to 18 with Christine Grahame (SNP, South of Scotland) abstaining. One last throw of the dice, 27, fell by 61 to 18 with 41 Labour abstentions.

And that was it, the Committee of the Whole Parliament meeting was closed and the meeting of Parliament re-opened (I know, I know). Decision Time began with one other matter – a Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee report on ministerial appointments to public bodies. The motion was waved through:

That the Parliament agrees that the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s 6th Report, 2010 (Session 3): Draft Revised Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland (SP Paper 491), together with the Official Report of the Parliament’s debate on the report, should form the Parliament’s response to the consultation by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland.

Following that, we returned to the Bill, which passed by 97 (SNP/Lab/Con) to 18 (LD/Green/Margo). Finally, a number of SSIs were waved through:

Revised Code of Conduct for Councillors for the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000

Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010

Prohibited Procedures on Protected Animals (Exemptions) (Scotland) Regulations 2010

So that was a marathon session completed. Thursday was sane by comparison, but there were a number of absentees, which proved crucial to proceedings: Shadow Further & Higher Education Minister Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife), Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Baker (North East Scotland), Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central), Rhona Brankin (Lab, Midlothian), Margaret Curran, Karen Gillon, Trish Godman (Lab, West Renfrewshire), Tory Leader Annabel Goldie (West of Scotland), Labour Group Leader Iain Gray (East Lothian), Hugh Henry (Lab. Paisley South), Jim Hume, Labour Group Deputy Leader Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok), Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central), Jim Mather, Frank McAveety (Lab, Glasgow Shettleston), Duncan McNeil (Lab, Greenock & Inverclyde), Shadow Culture Minister Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin), Irene Oldfather (Lab, Cunninghame South), Shadow Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife), Shadow Public Health Minister Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland & Fife) and Shirley-Anne Somerville. Is Oban that tough to get to?

Anyway. First came a LibDem motion on support for business. An SNP amendment passed by 45 (SNP) to 43 (Lab/LD!) with 18 abstentions (Con/Green/Margo) – a mark of how Labour’s lack of organisation cost them what should have been an easy hit. This pre-empted the Tory amendment, and the amended motion passed by 60 (SNP/Con) to 44 (Lab/LD), with three abstentions (Greens and Margo):

That the Parliament commends the vital role that small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) play in the Scottish economy and their importance in building economic recovery; recognises that the full savings due to that sector as a result of revaluation have been passed to businesses, and recognises that the general trend of the revaluation has been to reduce the tax burden for SMEs and that the total savings for the 87,500 SME properties that saw bills fall was £124 million.

Then came the LibDem motion on renewable energy. A Labour amendment was waved through, and an SNP amendment faced a Green amendment of its own, which passed by 48 (SNP/Green/Margo) to 30 (Con/LD) with 29 Labour abstentions. The amended amendment then passed by 77 (SNP/Lab/Green/Margo) to 30 (Con/LD), as did the motion:

That the Parliament notes Scotland’s massive renewable energy resources and the opportunities to turn Scotland into Europe’s clean green energy powerhouse; notes the UK Government’s proposals that would result in Scotland’s Fossil Fuel Levy fund helping to form part of a wider UK green investment bank fund that is due to be established in 2013-14; notes the lack of detail underlying that commitment and the risk that this could delay vital funding for the renewables sector in Scotland for several years; calls urgently on the UK Government to release these funds and place them in the control of the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament in a way that can be rapidly deployed to support Scotland’s renewable energy sector; believes that the green investment bank should be established as soon as possible and should be based in Edinburgh, and further believes that, by cutting the money available to the green investment bank, replacing a small proportion of this cut with money already set aside for investment in Scotland and then further cutting the Scottish block grant if this money is actually spent in Scotland, the UK Government is attempting a transparent act of sleight-of-hand that the Scottish Liberal Democrats should be ashamed to support.

Finally there came a Government motion on the young carers strategy, which was waved through:

That the Parliament welcomes the publication, in July 2010, of the carers and young carers strategy for Scotland for 2010 to 2015, Caring Together and Getting It Right For Young Carers; notes that this strategy has been produced jointly with COSLA and informed by a wide range of stakeholders; recognises the importance of providing effective and timely support to Scotland’s estimated 657,000 unpaid carers in order to sustain them in their vital role in caring for relatives or friends affected by disability, illness or substance misuse, a role that benefits their families, local communities, Scottish society and the economy, and agrees that young carers should be relieved of inappropriate caring roles and supported to be children and young people first and foremost.

So that was a heavy week. Next week, Stage 3 of the Housing Bill, Stage 1 of the Historic Environment Bill, and Labour business.

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