Business Motion

– in the Scottish Parliament at 4:46 pm on 21st May 2008.

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Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None 4:46 pm, 21st May 2008

The next item of business is consideration of business motion S3M-1956, in the name of Bruce Crawford, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, setting out a business programme.

There is an amendment to the business motion today, as amendment S3M-1956.1, in the name of Robert Brown, has gathered the appropriate support. The amendment is set out in the Business Bulletin, as revised at 4 pm today, which is available at the back of the chamber and which has been e-mailed to all members.

As it is somewhat unusual to have an amendment to a business motion, I will explain briefly how the procedure will work. Standing orders state that there can be only one speaker for and one speaker against a business motion and any amendment to that motion. Each speaker, in accordance with rule 8.11.3 of standing orders, is permitted to speak for a maximum of five minutes. That being clearly understood, I call on Bruce Crawford to move motion S3M-1956.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party 4:54 pm, 21st May 2008

As you are aware, Presiding Officer, there was a discussion at the Parliamentary Bureau yesterday about the request from business managers for the inclusion of a statement and a debate on the Scottish futures trust and a debate on moving Scotland forward. In response to those requests, with Parliamentary Bureau approval, next week's business programme was amended to include a ministerial statement on Wednesday afternoon on the Scottish futures trust and a debate on Thursday afternoon on moving Scotland forward, both of which are included in the business motion that is before Parliament today.

At the Parliamentary Bureau yesterday, I also agreed that there would be a requirement for a debate on the Scottish futures trust and that the timing of such a debate would be discussed at the bureau next week. That position was accepted by the majority of bureau members.

I remind members that the business motion that the Parliament is asked to approve today is not a Government motion but a Parliamentary Bureau motion that was agreed to by business managers yesterday. Robert Brown's second attempt to amend the business motion today asks the Parliament to include a debate on the Scottish futures trust next week, even though he is aware that the decision was arrived at by the majority of bureau members.

As members are aware, the Finance Committee is concluding a detailed inquiry into the funding of capital investment projects. The committee will conclude the oral evidence stage of its inquiry next week, when the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth will give evidence on the Scottish futures trust's contribution to infrastructure investment. To give the committee early notice of the Government's intent on the Scottish futures trust, we answered an inspired parliamentary question at 9 am yesterday. We also made available to the Finance Committee 10 hard copies of the Scottish futures trust business plan at 8.45 am, embargoed until 9 am, and not at 11.44 am as Elaine Murray suggested earlier.

I try to take a reasonable and pragmatic approach to all requests that business managers make to me. In this instance, again, I managed to satisfy the majority of the bureau. To date, the Government has received from the Opposition 17 requests for parliamentary statements, all but two of which have been accommodated, and seven requests for debates, all of which have been timetabled. The Government intends to be as helpful as possible on such matters and will continue to be so. I therefore ask the Parliament to agree to the business motion, which was lodged not on behalf of the Government but on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees the following programme of business— Wednesday 28 May 2008

2.30 pm Time for Reflection followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Ministerial Statement: Scottish Futures Trust followed by Scottish Government Debate: Climate Change followed by Business Motion followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business Thursday 29 May 2008

9.15 am Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Ministerial Statement: Drugs Strategy followed by Scottish Government Debate: Common Agricultural Policy Health Check

11.40 am General Question Time 12 noon First Minister's Question Time

2.15 pm Themed Question Time Health and Wellbeing

2.55 pm Scottish Government Debate: Moving Scotland Forward followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business Wednesday 4 June 2008

2.30 pm Time for Reflection followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Scottish Government Business followed by Business Motion followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business Thursday 5 June 2008

9.15 am Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Scottish Government Business

11.40 am General Question Time 12 noon First Minister's Question Time

2.15 pm Themed Question Time Justice and Law Officers; Rural Affairs and the Environment

2.55 pm Scottish Government Business followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 4:57 pm, 21st May 2008

Presiding Officer, I am grateful for the Parliament's indulgence on the matter. I say immediately that the issue is not about whether the Government party's business manager responds to requests. The Government party should have proposed a debate on the Scottish futures trust from the beginning.

Earlier today, I raised a point of order about the Scottish National Party Government's failure to bring to the Parliament a ministerial statement on the Scottish futures trust. Tonight, I want to deal primarily with the consequences of that failure. I oppose the business motion on the basis that it contains no provision for a debate on the Scottish futures trust. I am subject to correction, but my recollection of what went on at the bureau's meeting is that there was an offer to consider the question of a debate rather than a promise of a debate. That is a matter of some distinct difference.

I pressed the issue to a vote. Indeed, it was the first time that that had happened in the current session. It was deeply disappointing not to receive support in the vote from the Labour and Conservative parties. Indeed, it is disappointing that the Conservatives once again support the Government on a matter in relation to which they and others should be rather more scrupulous about the rights of the Parliament.

The Scottish futures trust proposal is central to the SNP Government's programme. It purports to be the way forward for much capital spend by public bodies in Scotland, but there remains huge scepticism about it and, on any view, it should be subjected to detailed, effective and vigorous parliamentary debate. The first duty of a Parliament is to be satisfied about—and to give or withhold support for—the financial proposals of the Government. That was at the heart of parliamentary disputes with the Crown in days gone by. It is not ministerial statements, debates, points of order or even legislation that is at the core of the activities of any Parliament that is worthy of the name. It is finance—[Interruption.]

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

Order. Could I bring the chamber to order, please? These are serious issues. We are in unprecedented, uncharted waters and I would like to hear Mr Brown in silence, please.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

It is finance that makes a Parliament. If the Scottish Parliament lets the overweening Government get away with making announcements on core financial issues without debate in the chamber at an early point, it is not a true Parliament. Amidst the anger and strong words with which I castigate the SNP Government tonight, I make a point that I hope will resonate—despite the cheap sneers from behind me—with the whole Parliament and with civic Scotland beyond. [ Interruption. ]

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

I urge colleagues to consider the matter not as party politicians but as parliamentarians.

For two weeks running, we have seen the SNP Government abuse the procedures of the Scottish Parliament to a degree that I find truly shocking. Last week, the First Minister came to Holyrood and delivered his proposals for the year ahead. Elected members were given 30 minutes to ask questions on the First Minister's statement, which was dismissed by commentators as vacuous. SNP business managers have now been forced to concede a debate to be scheduled for next week, but they appear to have learned no lessons.

This week, the Government bypassed Parliament entirely and launched the Scottish futures trust with a conference speech by the First Minister and a media briefing. Instead of a debate in the Parliament at the time on a matter of such importance to schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure contracts throughout the nation, the First Minister and his Government chose to tell Parliament about it by way of an inspired parliamentary question from a tame SNP back bencher—indeed, is there any other kind of back bencher in the SNP group? [Interruption.]

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

There was no opportunity to question or challenge, no exchange with elected members and no debate. Only now has the SNP conceded a belated and pointless statement which, if anything, adds insult to injury.

The SNP Government, for which Mr Crawford is the apologist and public face in the chamber, is now a serial offender. The First Minister's statement last Wednesday made no mention of the Scottish futures trust announcement, which his team must have had at an advanced stage of planning. There is still no scheduled debate on the Scottish futures trust. We know from press reports that the SNP has finally admitted that its main manifesto promise is impossible to fulfil. Planning for new schools is stalling across Scotland.

The SNP Government is running feart. It will try every trick in the book to avoid exposing key policies to parliamentary scrutiny. We saw that on the budget, we saw it in the way it twisted and turned over police numbers, class sizes and university funding, and we have seen it again today.

No Government, let alone a minority Government, should be allowed to treat Parliament in such a fashion. The Government's proposals on the Scottish futures trust should be debated in the Parliament forthwith. That is why I both oppose the business motion and, unusually, move the amendment in my name to insert such a debate next Thursday morning. The common agricultural policy debate is not time sensitive and can easily be rescheduled for another suitable slot.

I move amendment 1956.1, to leave out

"followed by Scottish Government Debate: Common Agricultural Policy Health Check" and insert:

"followed by Scottish Government Debate: Scottish Futures Trust".

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party 5:02 pm, 21st May 2008

I will respond only to put right inaccuracies in Robert Brown's speech.

First, as I have already made plain, we made hard copies of the SFT document available to the Finance Committee at 8.45, embargoed until 9, with the intention that the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth would go before the committee the following week—

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. It is not the case that hard copies were made available to Finance Committee members at 8.45. The committee clerk sent an e-mail to Finance Committee members at quarter to 11 advising that they would be available the following week.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

With respect, Dr Murray, that is not a point of order.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

Let me repeat what I said. At 8.45, hard copies of the SFT document accompanying the letter were delivered by John Swinney's private secretary to the Finance Committee clerk. They were embargoed until 9 am. The clerk was told the night before that that material would be coming to the committee.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

He is changing his story as he goes along.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

I hear the mutterings around me that things are moving on, but I am repeating exactly what I said earlier. It was always the Government's intention to allow the cabinet secretary to go before the Finance Committee next week so that detailed scrutiny of the Government's proposals can be undertaken. We outlined that process. I also made it plain earlier today that not only did we write to the committee but we submitted an IPQ and we have now agreed to come back with a ministerial statement.

Presiding Officer, your guidance makes it clear that there are five routes by which major policy or spending announcements can be made. We are now committed to following three of those five routes—I do not think that the Government could have done any more.

Photo of Lord George Foulkes Lord George Foulkes Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Is the amendment to the business motion not debatable?

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I explained at the beginning—if anybody was listening—that there would be one speaker for and one against the motion, if anyone requested to speak against it, and one speaker for and one against the amendment. We have followed that process and I move now to the vote.

The question is, that amendment S3M-1956.1, in the name of Robert Brown, which seeks to amend business motion S3M-1956, in the name of Bruce Crawford, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 1

For: Baker, Claire, Brown, Robert, Finnie, Ross, Hume, Jim, McInnes, Alison, Munro, John Farquhar, O'Donnell, Hugh, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stone, Jamie, Tolson, Jim
Against: Adam, Brian, Ahmad, Bashir, Aitken, Bill, Allan, Alasdair, Brocklebank, Ted, Brown, Gavin, Brown, Keith, Brownlee, Derek, Campbell, Aileen, Carlaw, Jackson, Coffey, Willie, Constance, Angela, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Don, Nigel, Doris, Bob, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, FitzPatrick, Joe, Fraser, Murdo, Gibson, Rob, Goldie, Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Christopher, Harvie, Patrick, Hepburn, Jamie, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Kidd, Bill, Lamont, John, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Kenny, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Stewart, McGrigor, Jamie, McKee, Ian, McKelvie, Christina, McLetchie, David, McMillan, Stuart, Milne, Nanette, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Gil, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Salmond, Alex, Scanlon, Mary, Smith, Elizabeth, Somerville, Shirley-Anne, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, John, Thompson, Dave, Watt, Maureen, Welsh, Andrew, White, Sandra, Wilson, Bill, Wilson, John
Abstentions: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Margaret, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Foulkes, George, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Gordon, Charlie, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Jamieson, Cathy, Kelly, James, Kerr, Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Ken, Martin, Paul, McAveety, Mr Frank, McConnell, Jack, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Mulligan, Mary, Murray, Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Park, John, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Stewart, David, Whitefield, Karen, Whitton, David

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The result of the division is: For 15, Against 62, Abstentions 44.

Amendment disagreed to.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The next question is, that motion S3M-1956, in the name of Bruce Crawford, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 2

For: Adam, Brian, Ahmad, Bashir, Aitken, Bill, Allan, Alasdair, Brocklebank, Ted, Brown, Gavin, Brown, Keith, Brownlee, Derek, Campbell, Aileen, Carlaw, Jackson, Coffey, Willie, Constance, Angela, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Don, Nigel, Doris, Bob, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, FitzPatrick, Joe, Fraser, Murdo, Gibson, Rob, Goldie, Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Christopher, Harvie, Patrick, Hepburn, Jamie, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Kidd, Bill, Lamont, John, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Kenny, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Stewart, McGrigor, Jamie, McKee, Ian, McKelvie, Christina, McLetchie, David, McMillan, Stuart, Milne, Nanette, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Gil, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Salmond, Alex, Scanlon, Mary, Smith, Elizabeth, Somerville, Shirley-Anne, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, John, Thompson, Dave, Watt, Maureen, Welsh, Andrew, White, Sandra, Wilson, Bill, Wilson, John
Against: Brown, Robert, Finnie, Ross, Hume, Jim, McInnes, Alison, Munro, John Farquhar, O'Donnell, Hugh, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stone, Jamie, Tolson, Jim
Abstentions: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Claire, Baker, Richard, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Margaret, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Foulkes, George, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Gordon, Charlie, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Jamieson, Cathy, Kelly, James, Kerr, Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Ken, Martin, Paul, McAveety, Mr Frank, McConnell, Jack, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Mulligan, Mary, Murray, Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Park, John, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Stewart, David, Whitefield, Karen, Whitton, David

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The result of the division is: For 62, Against 14, Abstentions 45.

Motion agreed to.

That the Parliament agrees the following programme of business— Wednesday 28 May 2008

2.30 pm Time for Reflection followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Ministerial Statement: Scottish Futures Trust

followed by Scottish Government Debate: Climate Change followed by Business Motion followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business Thursday 29 May 2008

9.15 am Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Ministerial Statement: Drugs Strategy followed by Scottish Government Debate: Common Agricultural Policy Health Check

11.40 am General Question Time 12 noon First Minister's Question Time

2.15 pm Themed Question Time Health and Wellbeing

2.55 pm Scottish Government Debate: Moving Scotland Forward followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business Wednesday 4 June 2008

2.30 pm Time for Reflection followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Scottish Government Business followed by Business Motion followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business Thursday 5 June 2008

9.15 am Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Scottish Government Business

11.40 am General Question Time 12 noon First Minister's Question Time

2.15 pm Themed Question Time Justice and Law Officers; Rural Affairs and the Environment

2.55 pm Scottish Government Business followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions

5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business