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The Belated Whip

06/12/2010

Well, it took a while but the striking feature of this week’s votes wasn’t the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill, but the weather, which hit attendance hard and actually killed off Thursday’s Members’ Debate. The conditions continue to wreak havoc and I suspect this coming week will be similar.

But first, Wednesday. There were 25 missing MSPs. For the SNP, Aileen Campbell (South of Scotland), Parliamentary Business Minister Bruce Crawford (Stirling), Christopher Harvie (Mid Scotland & Fife), Stewart Maxwell (West of Scotland), Public Health Minister Shona Robison (Dundee East), Shirley-Anne Somerville (Lothians), Finance Secretary John Swinney (North Tayside), Andrew Welsh (Angus) and John Wilson (Central Scotland). For Labour, Shadow Further & Higher Education Minister Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife), Margaret Curran (Glasgow Baillieston), George Foulkes (Lothians), Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Tom McCabe (Hamilton South), Jack McConnell (Motherwell & Wishaw), Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South), Elaine Smith (Coatbridge & Chryston) and Shadow Children’s Minister Karen Whitefield (Airdrie & Shotts). For the Tories, Deputy Leader Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland & Fife), Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) and Education Spokesperson Liz Smith (Mid Scotland & Fife). Finally, for the LibDems, John Farquhar Munro (Ross, Skye & Inverness West), Hugh O’Donnell (Central Scotland), Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross) and Jim Tolson (Dunfermline West).

The first thing they missed was an SNP motion on the annual fisheries negotiations. Labour and Tory motions were waved through, but the LibDem amendment and the amended motion both passed by 63 (SNP/Con/LD) to 0 with 39 (Labour/Green) abstentions, with Margo giving this one a miss:

That the Parliament notes efforts to secure a fair outcome in the forthcoming EU fisheries negotiations; believes that any deal must respect the need to harvest fish stocks sustainably in the interests of Scotland’s fishermen and coastal communities and recognise Scotland’s fishing industry’s contribution to fisheries conservation; expresses concern at the significant cuts to effort and quotas for key stocks being proposed by the European Commission; urges the Scottish Government to take forward its catch quota proposals only with the full and active involvement of the Scottish fishing industry at every stage, and calls on the European Commission to support these efforts to reduce wasteful discards.

Then came the big one: the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill. It fell by 85 votes to 16 with two abstentions. It’s worth noting that the Greens and Margo voted in favour, while the Big 4 parties voted primarily against it. Though this was a matter of conscience and there was a free vote, the weight of the vote probably allows us to categorise those who voted in favour (with the obvious exception of Harper, Harvie and MacDonald) as rebels. Who were they? From the SNP, Christine Grahame (South of Scotland), Bill Kidd (Glasgow), Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead (Moray), Ian McKee (Lothians), Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow), Sandra White (Glasgow) and Bill Wilson (West of Scotland) all voted in favour. Shadow Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife) was the only Labour MSP to vote in favour, though Shadow Transport Minister Charlie Gordon (Glasgow Cathcart) abstained. No Tories at all backed the Bill, but Jackson Carlaw (West of Scotland) abstained. For the LibDems, Jim Hume (South of Scotland) voted in favour, as did Environment Spokesman Liam McArthur (Orkney), Finance Spokesman Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick & Lauderdale) and Culture Spokesman Iain Smith (North East Fife).

After that, we went back to normal service, with the unanimous passing of SSIs: the Budget (Scotland) Act 2010 Amendment (No 2) Order, the Fishing Boats (EU Electronic Reporting) (Scotland) Scheme 2010 and the Official Statistics (Scotland) Amendment Order 2010. The last decision of the day was to agree the formation of a Committee to analyse the Scotland Bill wending its way through Westminster.

Thursday was when the wintry conditions hit, and that took its toll on proceedings with a stonking 37 absentees. For the SNP, Aileen Campbell, Angela Constance (Livingston), Christopher Harvie, Andrew Welsh and John Wilson were missing. For Labour, Claire Baker, Shadow Sport Minister Bill Butler (Glasgow Anniesland), Cathy Craigie (Cumbernauld & Kilsyth), Margaret Curran, Helen Eadie (Dunfermline East), Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill), Hugh Henry (Paisley South), Cathy Jamieson, Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy), Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central), Tom McCabe, Jack McConnell, Shadow Local Government Secretary Michael McMahon (Hamilton North & Bellshill), Duncan McNeil (Greenock & Inverclyde), Irene Oldfather, John Park, Shadow Climate Change Minister Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East), Elaine Smith, David Stewart (Highlands & Islands) and Karen Whitefield were all incommunicado. For the Tories, Ted Brocklebank (Mid Scotland & Fife), Murdo Fraser, Party Leader Annabel Goldie (West of Scotland), Alex Johnstone, Nanette Milne (North East Scotland), Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) and Liz Smith were out of range. For the LibDems, it was John Farquhar Munro, Hugh O’Donnell, Party Leader Tavish Scott (Shetland) and Jamie Stone who were missing. So the Greens were the only ones with a full compliment, but Margo was elsewhere.

The main event was a LibDem motion on the economy. This faced an SNP amendment, which in turn faced a Tory amendment. This passed by 63 (SNP/Con/LD) votes to 28 (Lab/Green), while the amended amendment passed by 51 (SNP/Con) to 40 (Lab/LD/Green). A Labour amendment fell by 63 to 28, and the motion then passed by 51 to 39, with Wendy Alexander (Lab, Paisley North) missing this last vote:

That the Parliament believes that creating jobs and strengthening the economy is central to Scotland’s future prosperity; further believes that for Scotland to meet a goal of being one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial economies in the world it needs to build sustainable economic recovery; notes the work already undertaken by the Scottish Government on reforming the Enterprise networks and decluttering the delivery landscape, reducing duplication and driving up effectiveness and efficiency; further notes the ongoing Inquiry by the Economy, Enterprise and Tourism Committee on the Enterprise Network and the contribution it is making, and calls on the Scottish Government to consider its conclusions; calls on the Scottish Government to pay particular focus to improving Scotland’s record on exporting and internationalisation of businesses, and also calls on the Scottish Government to focus on improving the business start-up rate.

Finally, MSPs were all happy to agree Stage 1 of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill.

So that was that, and we’re ready for a quiet week to come: an Equal Opportunities Committee debate on the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003; Stage 1 of the Property Factors (Scotland) Bill, a debate on the Scotland Bill and a European and External Relations Committee Debate on the Treaty of Lisbon, along with statements on Future Budget Planning Assumptions, and the Local Government Finance Settlement. I don’t see much scope for handbags, but there are a few gems for the connoisseurs there, I think.

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