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The Sunday Whip

16/01/2011

Holyrood got back to work this week, and with it, we saw that strange confection: a Committee report facing a vote. Aside from that, it was business as usual: consensus Wednesday followed by ding-dong Thursday.

There were 11 absentees on Wednesday: Aileen Campbell (SNP, South of Scotland), Margaret Curran (Lab, Glasgow Baillieston), Linda Fabiani (SNP, Central Scotland), George Foulkes (Lab, Lothians), Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley), Jack McConnell (Lab, Motherwell & Wishaw), Shadow Climate Change Minister Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East), Mike Pringle (LD, Edinburgh South), the First Minister Alex Salmond (Gordon), Nicol Stephen (LD, Aberdeen South) and Jamie Stone (LD, Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross).

They missed Stage 1 of the Autism (Scotland) Bill, proposed by Hugh O’Donnell (LD, Central Scotland). Sadly, it won’t get any further, falling as it did by 109 to 5 with two abstentions. Most parties voted, in the main, against the Bill, though the Greens were in favour, along with Patricia Ferguson (Lab, Glasgow Maryhill), Trish Godman (Lab, West Renfrewshire) and of course, O’Donnell himself. Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians) and John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West) abstained. Jim Hume (LD, South of Scotland) missed the vote.

Then came the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee’s Report on Low Carbon Scotland: The Draft Report on Proposals and Policies. Now, usually, Committee motions involve noting a report and being waved through. This one actually involved endorsing recommendations, and so MSPs hung back a little, albeit not enough to actually oppose the motion. It passed by 56 (Lab/LD/Green) votes to 0 with 61 (SNP/Con/Margo) abstentions.

The last item of business on Wednesday was to wave through a handful of SSIs:

Advice and Assistance (Assistance by Way of Representation) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2011

Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003 (Designation of Participating Countries) (Scotland) Order 2011

Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 (Consequential and Supplementary Provisions) Order 2011

Public Appointments and Public Bodies etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 (Amendment of Specified Authorities) Order 2011

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman draft Statement of Complaints Handling Principles

Thursday was far busier, and better attended, with only three absentees (do you notice how when it’s serious, useful business like the Autism Bill or a Climate Change Committee report, MSPs have something better to do, but when there’s a chance to vote for a motion that does nothing but chuck an egg at the SNP, Opposition MSPs can’t get to the Chamber fast enough?): Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Baker (North East Scotland), Aileen Campbell and Cathy Peattie.

They missed a Labour motion on Education. The SNP amendment fell by 78 (Lab/Con/LD/Green) votes to 47 (SNP/Margo), and the Tory amendment fell by 107 to 18 – the Tories plus Rhona Brankin (Lab, Midlothian) and Frank McAveety (Lab, Glasgow Shettleston). The LibDem amendment, however, passed by 77 (Lab/Con/LD/Margo) to 46 (SNP) with two Green abstentions. The amended motion then passed by 60 (Lab/LD) votes to 48 (SNP/Green) with 17 (Con/Margo) abstentions:

That the Parliament condemns the reduction in the number of teachers under the SNP by almost 3,000 since 2007 and the sharp rise in the proportion of recently qualified teachers who cannot obtain permanent or even temporary employment; notes that the percentage of newly qualified staff who have obtained full-time permanent posts has fallen to just 16.1%, a record low; expresses concern that pupil/teacher ratios are rising across Scotland and many colleges have insufficient bursary funds to meet demand, and calls on the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning to apologise for getting involved in local authority decisions outwith his regional constituency instead of tackling the impact that fewer teachers, more unemployed recently qualified teachers, higher pupil/teacher ratios and a shortfall in bursary funding will have on education in Scotland; notes the inconsistent comments of the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning in relation to his role in local school closures, and calls on the Scottish Government to clarify the rules governing the involvement of the cabinet secretary in decisions to close local schools.

Then came a Government motion on Electricity Market Reform. A Labour amendment fell by 80 (SNP/Con/LD/Green) to 44 with Margo abstaining, while a Tory amendment fell by 64 (SNP/LD/Green) votes to 16 with 45 (Lab/Margo) abstentions. A LibDem amendment secured unanimous approval. The amended motion then passed by 108 (SNP/Lab/LD/Green) votes to 16 (Con), with Margo abstaining:

That the Parliament notes the UK Government’s electricity market reform proposals and their importance to the delivery of the Parliament’s climate change and low-carbon energy objectives for Scotland; agrees that the related UK review of Ofgem and the transmission charging regime is an opportunity to deliver a more equitable system that is fit to help deliver Scotland’s massive low-carbon energy potential that will bring economic and other benefits to communities across Scotland; further notes the Parliament’s existing powers with regard to renewables and carbon capture and storage (CCS), which it believes should, at a minimum, be left intact; believes that the Parliament should continue to use these powers in support of the development of Scotland’s low-carbon energy potential; urges the UK Government to work closely with the Scottish Government to ensure that reforms further incentivise clean energy and incentivise energy demand reduction, as set out in the Draft Electricity Generation Policy Statement 2010; calls on the UK Government and Scottish Government to work together to help fulfil Scotland’s low-carbon potential, and further urges the UK Government to ensure full and immediate consultation with the Parliament on these proposals and supports Longannet to become the UK’s first demonstration facility for CCS with up to £1 billion of UK Government funding.

So, that was that. And here’s a thought: we have less than three months before the Dissolution of the 2007-11 Parliament.

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