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The Sunday Whip

13/02/2011

Well, in the end, the Budget did not justify the suspense it got: with LibDem Local Government Spokesperson Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) the only absentee, the Budget (Scotland) (No.5) Bill passed surprisingly easily, 79 (SNP/Con/LD/Margo) to 48 (Lab/Green).

Incidentally, apart from the SNP, who have obviously supported all five SNP Budget Bills, the Tories are the only party to back all the Budget Bills since the election, though Margo MacDonald has also backed all five. The next most supportive party is, surprisingly, the Liberal Democrats who have backed two (this one and the second 2009 one), abstained on two (2008 and 2010) and opposed only one (the doomed first 2009 Bill). Labour and the Greens have been equally hostile: each supported only one (Labour backed the second 2009 Bill; the Greens backed the 2010 Bill), abstained only once (both parties abstained in 2008) and opposed three other Bills (Labour opposed the first 2009 Bill, the 2010 Bill and this year’s; the Greens were the only party to oppose both 2009 Bills and also opposed this one). Food for thought in Coaltion building, perhaps.

Anyway, overshadowed by the Budget was the unanimous support for the Prohibited Procedures on Protected Animals (Exemptions) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2011 and the Scottish Government Code of Practice on the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes December 2010.

Thursday was busier, though less dramatic, and there were a number of absentees: Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central), Tory Finance Spokesman Derek Brownlee (South of Scotland), Margaret Curran (Lab, Glasgow Baillieston, soon to head to Westminster full-time), Marlyn Glen (Lab, North East Scotland, standing down), Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley, soon to focus on her Westminster constituency), Shadow Community Safety Minister James Kelly (Lab, Glasgow Rutherglen), Jack McConnell (Lab, Motherwell & Wishaw, soon to head permanently to the Lords), Shadow Culture Secretary Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin), John Farquhar Munro (LD, Ross, Skye & Inverness West, retiring), Education Secretary Mike Russell (South of Scotland, soon heading to his home constituency of Argyll & Bute), LibDem Leader Tavish Scott (Shetland), LibDem Culture Spokesman Iain Smith (North East Fife) and LibDem Education Spokesperson Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West).

First came a number of Corporate Body motions on appointments to key public positions – and a rare SNP rebellion (well, a free vote). Jim Martin was put forward for a second term as Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, but by a vote of 98 to 8 with 9 abstentions. The eight opposed were Skills Minister Angela Constance (Livingston), Joe FitzPatrick (SNP, Dundee West), Kenneth Gibson (SNP, Cunninghame North), Christopher Harvie (SNP, Mid Scotland & Fife, standing down), Michael Matheson (SNP, Falkirk West), Stuart McMillan (SNP, West of Scotland), Housing Minister Alex Neil (Central Scotland) and Gil Paterson (SNP, West of Scotland). The abstentions were Aileen Campbell (SNP, South of Scotland), Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham (Perth), Linda Fabiani (SNP, Central Scotland), Tory Deputy Leader Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland & Fife), Rob Gibson (SNP, Highlands & Islands), Jamie Hepburn (SNP, Central Scotland), Stewart Maxwell (SNP, West of Scotland), Dave Thompson (SNP, Highlands & Islands) and Maureen Watt (SNP, North East Scotland).

The other SPCB motions were unanimous: Stuart Allan was re-appointed Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and Tam Baillie was put forward for a second term as Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Then came a Tory motion on early intervention in health and education. An SNP amendment fell by 68 (the other parties) to 46 with one abstention (guess who!); a Labour amendment fell by 73 (SNP/Con/LD) to 41 (Labour and the Greens) with one abstention (yup, it’s Margo!). The LibDem amendment, however, passed by 99 (SNP/Lab/LD/Green) to 15 (Con) with one abstention (well, be fair, it had been four weeks since she’d last pressed the Abstain button – can you blame her for going daft with it?), and the amended Tory motion passed unanimously:

That the Parliament recognises the importance of early childhood development and the impact of early intervention in determining future health, social wellbeing and educational achievement of individuals; notes the large and growing body of evidence that highlights the importance of child and parental interaction in the early years of life; recognises the vital role performed by health visitors in supporting families in the early years; notes with concern that, in seven NHS board areas, there was a fall in health visitor numbers between 2009 and 2010; agrees with the conclusions of the Finance Committee’s recent inquiry into preventative spending that the current balance of government spending is skewed too much in favour of reactive, rather than preventative, spending; recognises that early intervention has proven benefits not only in health and education but also in other areas such as crime reduction measures, support for carers and services for older people, and supports a long-term shift to sustained investment in a high-quality, preventative approach to the growing social and economic challenges faced by public services.

Following that, Stage 1 of the Public Records (Scotland) Bill passed without incident (given the number of Bills currently going through at breakneck speed, has no one thought to ask how a fixed-term Parliament finds itself dealing with what is effectively a Parliamentary washup?).

Next came the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2011, which passed by 101 (SNP/Lab/Con/Margo) to three – the Greens plus Nicol Stephen (LD, Aberdeen South, heading to the Lords) – with the remaining eleven LibDems abstaining.

Finally came another SPCB motion, which passed nem con, thankfully. I mean can you imagine amendments to this bastard?

That the Parliament—

(a) in exercise of the powers conferred by section 3 of the Scottish Parliamentary Pensions Act 2009 (asp 1) (the “2009 Act”) determines that with effect from the day after the day this resolution is made the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme (within the meaning of section 4 of the 2009 Act) is modified in accordance with Annex 1 to this resolution, and

(b) notes that the Parliamentary corporation has, in accordance with Rule 8.11A.5 of the Parliament’s Standing Orders, consulted with relevant individuals whose interests may be affected by the modifications.

ANNEX 1 TO THE RESOLUTION

Paragraph (a)

MODIFICATIONS TO SCOTTISH PARLIAMENTARY PENSION SCHEME

1. Rule 13 (member-nominated trustees) of schedule 1 to the 2009 Act is omitted.

2. In rule 49 (deferred pensioner’s ill-health pension) of schedule 1 to the 2009 Act, for “4 and 5” substitute “5 and 6”.

3. In rule 85 (buying added years by instalments) of schedule 1 to the 2009 Act, in sub-paragraph (2) for “irrevocable” substitute “revocable by the member giving notice to the Fund trustees”.

4. After rule 85, insert—

“Revocation of accepted application

85A (1) This rule applies—

(a) where an MSP member buying added years by monthly instalments revokes the application before paying the last instalment, and

(b) where an office-holder member (who is not an MSP) buying added years by monthly instalments revokes the application before paying the last instalment.

(2) Where this rule applies no more instalments are payable and the individual’s reckonable service as an MSP or, as the case may be, office-holder is increased by a number of added years calculated as follows—

B

A x —

C

where—

“A” is the number of added years the individual applied to buy;

“B” is the period (in days) in respect of which instalments have been paid; and

“C” is the period (in days) for which instalments would have been paid had the individual remained in the scheme continuously and not revoked the application.”.

5. In paragraph 18 (added years) of schedule 3 to the 2009 Act—

(a) in sub-paragraph (2)(a), after “effect” insert “, subject to the modifications in sub-paragraph (2A),”, and

(b) after sub-paragraph (2) insert—

“(2A) (a) in paragraph 3 of Schedule 5 to the 1999 scheme rules for “irrevocable on and from the date when the Parliamentary corporation accepts it” substitute “revocable by the member giving notice in writing to the Fund trustees”, and

(b) after paragraph 3, insert—

“3A. Where a participating member buying added years by periodical contributions revokes the application before paying the last instalment—

(a) no more instalments are payable; and

(b) the Fund trustees must calculate the number of added years in respect of which the periodical contributions have been paid as follows—

B

A x —

C

where—

“A” is the number of added years the individual applied to buy;

“B” is the period (in days) in respect of which instalments have been paid; and

“C” is the period (in days) for which instalments would have been paid in accordance with paragraph 4(a) had the individual not revoked the application.”.

And that was that. Next week, the poor dears get a week off for half-term.

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