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The Christmas Whip


Scary, isn’t it? The next of these overviews will be The Dissolution Whip. Still, let’s focus on the Autumn term, and the busiest term since the last election, with a Session Record 129 votes being taken either by the Parliament or a Committee of the Whole Parliament.

Anyway. We start, as we always have done, with the Top 5 absentees. Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians) comes first with a staggering 90 votes missed (she can’t be standing again next year, surely?). Next came Margaret Curran (Lab, Glasgow Baillieston) who missed 67. Shadow Rural Development Minister Karen Gillon (Clydesdale) missed 59 while Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley) missed 55. Elaine Smith (Lab, Coatbridge & Chryston).


The SNP’s attendance record, while strong, is not as solid as it has been in previous terms: 95.42%. Public Health Minister Shona Robison (Dundee East) missed thirty five votes (many of which were while, as Sport Minister, she was in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games), as did Shirley-Anne Somerville (Lothians). The FM Alex Salmond (Gordon) missed thirty one, while towards the end of term, Aileen Campbell (South of Scotland) went on maternity leave and missed thirty. Finance Secretary John Swinney (North Tayside) went on paternity leave and missed 23.

Enterprise Minister Jim Mather (Argyll & Bute, standing down next year) and Stewart Maxwell (West of Scotland) missed 19 votes; Andrew Welsh (Angus, also standing down next year) missed ten. Christopher Harvie (Mid Scotland & Fife, standing down), Michael Matheson (Falkirk West) and John Wilson (Central Scotland, effectively de-selected) missed nine.

Dave Thompson (Highlands & Islands) missed six votes; Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead (Moray) and Deputy FM Nicola Sturgeon (Glasgow Govan) missed five. The recently-appointed Skills Minister Angela Constance (Livingston) and the now former Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson (Banff & Buchan) missed four.

Parliamentary Business Minister Bruce Crawford (Stirling) and Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) missed three votes, while Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing (Inverness East, Nairn & Lochaber), Jamie Hepburn (Central Scotland) and Children’s Minister Adam Ingram (South of Scotland) missed two votes each.

The new Transport Minister Keith Brown (Ochil), Joe FitzPatrick (Dundee West), Bill Kidd (Glasgow, effectively de-selected), Tricia Marwick (Central Fife), Ian McKee (Lothians, standing down) and Sandra White (Glasgow) all missed one vote.

Nor was the Group as cohesive as usual, though this owes much to the free vote on the End of Life (Assistance) Bill: 99.74%. Ian McKee diverged from the Group on four occasions (three of which were due to his proposed amendments to the Alcohol etc. Bill); Christine Grahame (South of Scotland) and Sandra White went their own way on two occasions, while Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham (Perth), Jamie Hepburn, Bill Kidd, Richard Lochhead, Jim Mather, Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow, also effectively de-selected) and Bill Wilson (West of Scotland, and unsuccessfully moving region) all diverged once.


Accounting as the party does for four of the top five absentees, being the only party to have MSPs sitting in the Commons as well (and let’s not forget that Margaret Curran is now a Shadow Work & Pensions Minister), it’s no wonder that Labour’s attendance rate is just 88.97%.

Besides the top five, Jack McConnell (Motherwell & Wishaw, standing down to spend more time with his peerage) has missed forty votes; Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South) has missed 38; Shadow Climate Change Minister Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) has missed 27 while Shadow Further & Higher Education Minister Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife) and Rhona Brankin (Midlothian, standing down) have each missed 23.

Tom McCabe (Hamilton South) has missed 17 votes; Shadow Enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central) has missed 16; Cathie Craigie (Cumbernauld & Kilsyth) and Helen Eadie (Dunfermline East) have missed 15; Rhoda Grant (Highlands & Islands) and Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy) have missed 14.

Shadow Public Health Minister Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland & Fife) missed 13 votes, Hugh Henry (Paisley South) missed 12; George Foulkes (Lothians; standing down) and Shadow Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio John Park (Mid Scotland & Fife) missed 11. Leader of the Opposition Iain Gray (East Lothian), David Stewart (Highlands & Islands) and Shadow Children’s Minister Karen Whitefield (Airdrie & Shotts) missed ten votes.

Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Baker (North East Scotland), Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central) and Duncan McNeil (Greenock & Inverclyde) missed nine votes apiece; Marlyn Glen (North East Scotland, standing down), Frank McAveety (Glasgow Shettleston) and Shadow Culture Minister Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin) all missed seven votes.

Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill), Trish Godman (West Renfrewshire, standing down and not counting the 49 missed when either in the Chair or paired with her fellow DPO Alasdair Morgan), Shadow Finance Secretary Andy Kerr (East Kilbride), Deputy Leader of the Opposition Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok), Shadow Education Secretary Des McNulty (Clydebank & Milngavie) and Shadow Housing Minister Mary Mulligan (Linlithgow) all missed six votes.

Shadow Sport Minister Bill Butler (Glasgow Anniesland) missed five votes; Wendy Alexander (Paisley North) and Shadow Local Government Secretary Michael McMahon (Hamilton North & Bellshill) each missed four, while Shadow Parliamentary Business Manager Paul Martin (Glasgow Springburn) and Shadow Finance Minister David Whitton (Strathkelvin & Bearsden) both missed one vote.

The group had a cohesion rate of 99.75% – this marking the first time they’ve topped the pile on this score – with Wendy Alexander, Marlyn Glen and John Park breaking ranks twice, and Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North & Leith), George Foulkes, Trish Godman, Shadow Transport Minister Charlie Gordon (Glasgow Cathcart), Andy Kerr, Shadow Environment Minister Elaine Murray (Dumfries), and Elaine Smith all doing so once.


The Tories’ attendance rate is the best of the Big 4 at 95.51%, though Party Leader Annabel Goldie (West of Scotland) has missed 26 votes and her Deputy, Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland & Fife) has missed 20. Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) and Education Spokesperson Elizabeth Smith have both missed seven votes, while David McLetchie (Edinburgh Pentlands) and Nanette Milne (North East Scotland) have both missed five.

Ted Brocklebank (Mid Scotland & Fife, standing down), Gavin Brown (Lothians), Jackson Carlaw (West of Scotland) and Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) have each missed four votes, while Jamie McGrigor (Highlands & Islands) and Rural Affairs Spokesman John Scott (Ayr) have both missed three.

However, the Tories have proven to be the least cohesive of the parties, at 99.29%. Gavin Brown, Finance Spokesman Derek Brownlee (South of Scotland), Alex Johnstone, Mary Scanlon (Highlands & Islands), John Scott and Elizabeth Smith have departed from the script twice; Jackson Carlaw and Margaret Mitchell have done so on one occasion each.

Liberal Democrats

The LibDems have an attendance rate of just 90.28%. Not great, but far higher than last term. John Farquhar Munro (Ross, Skye & Inverness West, standing down) missed 36 votes; Jim Hume (South of Scotland) missed thirty; Leader Tavish Scott (Shetland) missed 28 while Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross, standing down) missed 24 and Nicol Stephen (Aberdeen South, standing down, heading for the Lords) missed sixteen.

Local Government Spokesperson Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) and Mike Rumbles (West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine) have both missed fourteen votes; Hugh O’Donnell (Central Scotland) missed eleven; Environment Spokesman Liam McArthur (Orkney) missed ten and Education Spokesperson Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West) missed six.

Jim Tolson (Dunfermline West) missed five; Justice Spokesperson Robert Brown (Glasgow, effectively de-selected) missed two, while Mike Pringle (Edinburgh South), Finance Spokesman Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick & Lauderdale) and Culture Spokesman Iain Smith (North East Fife) missed one each.

The cohesion rate, meanwhile, was 99.41%. Jim Tolson broke ranks on three occasions; John Farquhar Munro twice, and Jim Hume, Liam McArthur, Jeremy Purvis, Iain Smith, Margaret Smith and Jamie Stone did so once.

Greens and Margo

Robin Harper (Lothians, standing down) missed six votes, giving the Greens an attendance rate of 97.66%. However, Messrs Harper and Harvie have been singing from the same hymn sheet, at least.

Meanwhile, Margo’s ninety absences out of 128 properly recorded votes give her an attendance rate of 29.69% – a record low. It’s a shame because she has a distinctive take on matters and the Parliament is richer for her presence – especially as she used her rare visits to raise a key ethical issue. I, for one, like that she’s an MSP, and feels free to do that, but with that rate of absence, and her health obviously being at the centre of this, then if she isn’t thinking of calling it a day, perhaps, just perhaps, she might want to start considering it.


From → Politics

  1. Andrea permalink

    I can’t find figures for Peter Peacock (who also recently announced his reteriment from Holyrood).

    3 of the top 5 absentees are “explanable”. On the other hand Gillon and Smith…is a typical habit for them or just a particular period?

    • According to the records I keep, Peacock’s been an ever-present… the Labour Group will miss him after the election, I’m sure. As for Gillon and Smith, Gillon has a young family (as does Shirley-Anne Somerville on the SNP side, and whie not in the Top 5, she had a number of absences), so that will have an effect. Also, the days she missed were particularly heavy (missing the Housing Bill and the Criminal Procedure Bill in particular) so that will have skewed the figures even further against her. As for Smith, the absences are in two main clumps, in December (though she didn’t miss everything) and October. Again, she missed some particularly heavy sessions: the Criminal Procedure Bill and the Legal Services Bill. So the pair of them would probably come off a little better if I worked in days missed rather than votes missed, but especially during Stage 3 legislation debates, there’s too much of a revolving door and MSPs routinely miss chunks of proceedings but not the whole thing.

      • Andrea permalink

        So there’s why I couldn’t find Peacock’s missing votes: they don’t exist!

        Thanks for the explanation about Gillon and Smith.

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