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The Sunday Whip

19/12/2010

The week was somewhat put out of joint by the weather – at least, it was if the number of absences is any indicator – though it’s notable that the vote to confirm Angela Constance as a Junior Minister was the dog that didn’t bark: her appointment was actually the first in this Parliament not even to require a vote. Clearly the Opposition felt that it had claimed its scalp and that pushing matters any further was unwise. If this is the case, they were probably right.

But I digress. What we did have on Wednesday was Stage 3 of the Forth Crossing Bill. There were quite a few absentees for this: Rhona Brankin (Lab, Midlothian), Cathie Craigie (Lab, Cumbernauld & Kilsyth), Aileen Campbell (SNP, South of Scotland, on maternity leave), Margaret Curran (Lab, Glasgow Baillieston), George Foulkes (Lab, Lothians), Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale), Rhoda Grant (Lab, Highlands & Islands), Jim Hume (LD, South of Scotland), Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), LibDem Environment Spokesman Liam McArthur (Orkney), LibDem Local Government Spokesperson Alison McInnes (North East Scotland), Irene Oldfather (Lab, Cunninghame South), Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston) and Dave Thompson (SNP, Highlands & Islands).

They didn’t miss much that required their presence: only two of the amendments – both of which came from the LibDems – went to a vote. Amendment 2 fell by 93 (SNP/Lab/Con) votes to 13 (LD/Greens), while Amendment 3 fell by 94 to 14, with Labour’s Shadow Environment Minister Elaine Murray (Dumfries) voting in favour of the amendment.

The Bill itself passed, by 108 to 3, with only the Greens and the LibDems’ Education Spokesperson Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West) opposing it.

That wasn’t the only piece of legislation though: Bill Butler’s Damages (Scotland) Bill proceeded unimpeded through Stage 1.

Thursday was a little busier, and as such, there were fewer empty seats in the Chamber: Aileen Campbell, Rhoda Grant, Jim Hume, Margo MacDonald, Liam McArthur, Alison McInnes, John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West), Irene Oldfather, Mike Rumbles (LD, West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine), Elaine Smith, Margaret Smith and Jamie Stone (LD, Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross).

They missed a Labour motion on Winter resilience, which attracted a surprising amount of consensus. SNP and Tory amendments passed without dissent, but a LibDem amendment fell by 62 (SNP/Con) votes to nine with 44 (Labour/Green) abstentions. The amended motion, however, passed unanimously:

That the Parliament acknowledges that lessons have to be learned about how the Scottish Government and its agencies react to exceptional weather conditions; considers that MSPs must now look ahead and work together to ensure that all possible measures are taken to prevent the experience of recent weeks, which saw older people trapped in their homes, schools shut, people stranded on roads, businesses losing money, diesel and food supplies running low, mail undelivered and bins not collected; calls on the Scottish Government to improve communications, ensure closer and effective liaison with all appropriate organisations and consider more robust planning exercises, and, while acknowledging that severe weather will cause disruption and delays, believes that Scotland needs to keep moving regardless of the weather conditions; acknowledges the significant efforts made by a wide range of public service workers, voluntary organisations and people across Scotland to maintain essential services, support their neighbours and keep communities moving through the extreme conditions, and further calls on the Scottish Government to give consideration to a traffic-light style graded system of severe weather warnings.

The Government motion on the antisocial behaviour framework, however, ripped the consensus apart: a Labour amendment fell by 73 (everyone but Labour) to 42, while a Tory amendment passed by 71 (SNP/Con/LD) to 42 (Lab) with two Green abstentions. A LibDem amendment, meanwhile, fell by 104 (SNP/Lab/Con) votes to 11 (LD/Green). The motion itself, however, passed, by 73 to 42:

That the Parliament notes the publication of the first annual report of progress made in implementing the antisocial behaviour framework, Promoting Positive Outcomes: Working Together to Prevent Antisocial Behaviour in Scotland, which shifts the emphasis onto prevention and early, effective intervention while recognising that enforcement measures are appropriate in some circumstances; welcomes the support for this approach from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE), the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS), the Chief Fire Officers Association in Scotland (CFOAS), the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA), the Association of Directors of Social Work (ADSW), the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), Youthlink, the Judicial Studies Committee, Victim Support Scotland, Safeguarding Communities Reducing Offending (SACRO), the Scottish Youth Parliament, academia and the third sector; further welcomes the ¬£20 million being invested in Scotland’s communities through the Cashback for Communities initiative, which provides free activities for young people, and further notes that, while progress is being made across a range of areas in improving community safety, the public must continue to be encouraged to report antisocial behaviour and that where examples of good practice exist these should be replicated as widely as possible.

And following that acronym-laden motion, MSPs agreed to amend the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee’s remit to take into account the change in portfolios that came with the mini-reshuffle – a quiet end to the week.

Surprisingly, there’s still a little more Parliamentary business to come before the Christmas break, though looking at the schedule – an Equal Opps Committee report, Stage 1 of the Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill and a debate on violence against women which surely has to achieve consensus – next week isn’t likely to be challenging.

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