Schedule 1 — The Crofting Commission

Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:06 am on 1st July 2010.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 11:06 am, 1st July 2010

We move to group 16. Amendment 99, in the name of Elaine Murray, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

At stage 1, the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee received evidence of concerns that a corporate body that acts as a tribunal should not have Crown immunity and that, if the commission does not have Crown immunity, commissioners could individually be liable to legal action with respect to their decisions and an award of expenses could be made against the commission if its decision were appealed to and overturned by the Land Court.

At stage 2, the minister stated:

"the Crofters Commission is not a tribunal exercising a judicial function and it does not currently have Crown status of any kind."—[Official Report, Rural Affairs and Environment Committee, 2 June 2010; c 2742.]

She argued that the wording of the bill is intended to clarify the situation rather than to remove an existing power. That was the first time that that argument was put to us; it was not raised at stage 1 by the minister or by any witnesses. I have therefore lodged a probing amendment to enable the minister to develop her argument and perhaps refer to the existing legislation governing the Crofters Commission, which does not confer Crown immunity. If the minister can confirm on the record that Crown immunity has never been invoked in the case of the Crofters Commission, I will be happy not to press the amendment.

I move amendment 99.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

This issue kicked off the committee's stage 2 deliberations. My colleague John Farquhar Munro was moved to lend his support to amendment 51, which Elaine Murray had lodged on the issue. At stage 2, it is fair to say that the committee as a whole was concerned at the suggestion that decisions of the commission could be appealed and expenses awarded against it, and the implications that that might have for the willingness of commissioners to be proactive. At stage 2, the minister sought to persuade the committee that we were seeking to remove a clarification of the status quo without conferring Crown immunity on the commission, yet I am not sure that we have adequately addressed what appears to be a valid concern—indeed, one raised by no less eminent a witness than Sir Crispin Agnew. I am pleased that Elaine Murray has taken the opportunity to raise the issue at stage 3 and look forward to hearing what the minister has to say.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Amendment 99 is a slightly bizarre follow-up to amendment 51 at stage 2, with which Elaine Murray sought to remove the clarification that the commission is not a Crown body and is not to be regarded as having any status, privilege or immunity of the Crown. That is, in fact, the normal position for an executive non-departmental public body such as the commission. Most modern legislation relating to executive NDPBs is explicit on that and includes these provisions. The overwhelming majority of executive NDPBs do not have Crown status or immunity.

The intention behind amendment 99 is unclear. The member proposes that this executive NDPB is not a Crown body but somehow enjoys Crown immunity, which is illogical. Let me make it clear: the commission makes decisions as a body corporate; commissioners do not make decisions individually. Furthermore, as a regulatory body, the commission exercises administrative, not judicial, functions. Crown immunity would offer no protection in the highly unlikely case that someone tried to sue the commission, as Crown immunity does not apply to the exercise of administrative functions. I therefore urge members to reject this confusing amendment.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

I am somewhat disappointed that the minister has not taken the opportunity to confirm on the record that Crown immunity has never been invoked—that was what my question was about. If she says that the commission has never had it, it must never have been invoked. She has not confirmed that, so I will press the amendment.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 99 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No!

For:

Alexander, Ms Wendy (Paisley North) (Lab)

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Baker, Richard (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Boyack, Sarah (Edinburgh Central) (Lab)

Brankin, Rhona (Midlothian) (Lab)

Brown, Robert (Glasgow) (LD)

Butler, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (Lab)

Chisholm, Malcolm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab)

Craigie, Cathie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (Lab)

Curran, Margaret (Glasgow Baillieston) (Lab)

Eadie, Helen (Dunfermline East) (Lab)

Ferguson, Patricia (Glasgow Maryhill) (Lab)

Finnie, Ross (West of Scotland) (LD)

Foulkes, George (Lothians) (Lab)

Gillon, Karen (Clydesdale) (Lab)

Glen, Marlyn (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Gordon, Charlie (Glasgow Cathcart) (Lab)

Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Henry, Hugh (Paisley South) (Lab)

Hume, Jim (South of Scotland) (LD)

Jamieson, Cathy (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab)

Kelly, James (Glasgow Rutherglen) (Lab)

Kerr, Andy (East Kilbride) (Lab)

Lamont, Johann (Glasgow Pollok) (Lab)

Livingstone, Marilyn (Kirkcaldy) (Lab)

Macintosh, Ken (Eastwood) (Lab)

Martin, Paul (Glasgow Springburn) (Lab)

McArthur, Liam (Orkney) (LD)

McAveety, Mr Frank (Glasgow Shettleston) (Lab)

McCabe, Tom (Hamilton South) (Lab)

McConnell, Jack (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab)

McInnes, Alison (North East Scotland) (LD)

McMahon, Michael (Hamilton North and Bellshill) (Lab)

McNeil, Duncan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab)

McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow Kelvin) (Lab)

McNulty, Des (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab)

Mulligan, Mary (Linlithgow) (Lab)

Murray, Elaine (Dumfries) (Lab)

O'Donnell, Hugh (Central Scotland) (LD)

Oldfather, Irene (Cunninghame South) (Lab)

Park, John (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Peacock, Peter (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Peattie, Cathy (Falkirk East) (Lab)

Purvis, Jeremy (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD)

Rumbles, Mike (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD)

Simpson, Dr Richard (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Smith, Elaine (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab)

Smith, Iain (North East Fife) (LD)

Stephen, Nicol (Aberdeen South) (LD)

Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Stone, Jamie (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)

Tolson, Jim (Dunfermline West) (LD)

Whitefield, Karen (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab)

Whitton, David (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (Lab)

Against:

Adam, Brian (Aberdeen North) (SNP)

Aitken, Bill (Glasgow) (Con)

Allan, Alasdair (Western Isles) (SNP)

Brocklebank, Ted (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Brown, Keith (Ochil) (SNP)

Brownlee, Derek (South of Scotland) (Con)

Campbell, Aileen (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Carlaw, Jackson (West of Scotland) (Con)

Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)

Constance, Angela (Livingston) (SNP)

Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)

Cunningham, Roseanna (Perth) (SNP)

Don, Nigel (North East Scotland) (SNP)

Doris, Bob (Glasgow) (SNP)

Ewing, Fergus (Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber) (SNP)

Fabiani, Linda (Central Scotland) (SNP)

FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee West) (SNP)

Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Gibson, Rob (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Grahame, Christine (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Harper, Robin (Lothians) (Green)

Harvie, Christopher (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP)

Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)

Hepburn, Jamie (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Hyslop, Fiona (Lothians) (SNP)

Ingram, Adam (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Johnstone, Alex (North East Scotland) (Con)

Kidd, Bill (Glasgow) (SNP)

Lamont, John (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)

MacAskill, Kenny (Edinburgh East and Musselburgh) (SNP)

Marwick, Tricia (Central Fife) (SNP)

Mather, Jim (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)

Maxwell, Stewart (West of Scotland) (SNP)

McGrigor, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

McKee, Ian (Lothians) (SNP)

McKelvie, Christina (Central Scotland) (SNP)

McLaughlin, Anne (Glasgow) (SNP)

McLetchie, David (Edinburgh Pentlands) (Con)

McMillan, Stuart (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Milne, Nanette (North East Scotland) (Con)

Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)

Neil, Alex (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Paterson, Gil (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Robison, Shona (Dundee East) (SNP)

Russell, Michael (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Scanlon, Mary (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)

Smith, Elizabeth (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Lothians) (SNP)

Stevenson, Stewart (Banff and Buchan) (SNP)

Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Govan) (SNP)

Swinney, John (North Tayside) (SNP)

Thompson, Dave (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Watt, Maureen (North East Scotland) (SNP)

Welsh, Andrew (Angus) (SNP)

White, Sandra (Glasgow) (SNP)

Wilson, Bill (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Wilson, John (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 55, Against 61, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 99 disagreed to.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

We move to group 17. Amendment 100, in the name of Peter Peacock, is grouped with amendment 139.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I have made clear my opposition to the imposition of fees on crofters for the administration of crofting regulation that successive Parliaments have imposed on them. Amendment 100 seeks to ensure that any regulations on fees will be implemented only after crofters have been consulted about the functions to be charged for and the amounts to be charged and only if the democratically elected commission has requested such regulation. The amendment gives the new, democratically elected commission an element of discretion and we should trust the elected commissioners to do what is right. The amendment provides the means to do that.

I move amendment 100.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Like the issue of the map-based register, the question whether the commission should be able to charge crofters in certain circumstances divided the committee down the middle. SNP and Tory members were supportive of the principle and, like the minister, set out their case on the basis of instances in which crofters might benefit from the decision that was reached by the commission. Less convincingly—and, perhaps, more worryingly—some Government back benchers seemed to suggest that it was part of a process that would lead, ultimately, to the commission being entirely self-financing. That goes a good deal further than the minister has been willing to go, but it perhaps betrays the direction of travel. Amendments 100 and 139 are modest proposals that put in checks and safeguards in relation to the commission's power to charge. In that respect, they meet the Government's objective, albeit fettering that power in ways that may give crofters at least some reassurance.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

Amendments 100 and 139 would make it more difficult for the commission to charge for its services, so we will not support them. Although I would not expect the commission to charge excessively for the work that it carries out, it is reasonable that it should be able to charge in a similar way to local authorities for permissions sought and granted. That is particularly appropriate, for example, when a croft is to be decrofted for development purposes. In addition, the crofting commission is likely to be as strapped for cash as any other organisation in the years ahead and it will, in all probability, be required to produce more outcomes from smaller resources in the future. Therefore, the ability to charge for its services seems reasonable to us.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party 11:15 am, 1st July 2010

The arguments that I made at stage 2 when we debated a amendment that was similar to amendment 100 apply again in this case. The Government's view remains that crofters should contribute to costs that the general taxpayer currently meets if the commission is processing a regulatory application that is primarily for the crofter's own individual financial gain. It is for the Government to determine that level of contribution, with wider economic considerations in mind. That is only fair, and I urge members to reject amendment 100.

As for the suggestion that those regulations should be subject to affirmative procedure, neither the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee nor the Subordinate Legislation Committee considered that level of Parliament scrutiny to be necessary. Parliamentary time should not be taken up with debating which functions should be chargeable and the reasonable level of charge that should be set for the carrying out of the commission's regulatory functions. That applies to other agencies across the board, and I therefore strongly urge members to reject amendment 139.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

The power to charge is not limited in any particular way in the bill. Theoretically, therefore, the commission could consider imposing very significant charges at some point in the future. It is right that, in those circumstances, Parliament should get the chance to confirm whether those charges are right.

Secondly, the minister makes the point that charges should apply only when individual gain arises. However, it cannot be determined at the time when charges are levied whether individual gain will arise.

For those reasons, it is right that Parliament should have a further degree of scrutiny in the event that charges are sought.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 100 be agreed. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

For:

Alexander, Ms Wendy (Paisley North) (Lab)

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Baker, Richard (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Boyack, Sarah (Edinburgh Central) (Lab)

Brankin, Rhona (Midlothian) (Lab)

Brown, Robert (Glasgow) (LD)

Butler, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (Lab)

Chisholm, Malcolm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab)

Craigie, Cathie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (Lab)

Curran, Margaret (Glasgow Baillieston) (Lab)

Eadie, Helen (Dunfermline East) (Lab)

Ferguson, Patricia (Glasgow Maryhill) (Lab)

Finnie, Ross (West of Scotland) (LD)

Foulkes, George (Lothians) (Lab)

Gillon, Karen (Clydesdale) (Lab)

Glen, Marlyn (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Gordon, Charlie (Glasgow Cathcart) (Lab)

Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Henry, Hugh (Paisley South) (Lab)

Hume, Jim (South of Scotland) (LD)

Jamieson, Cathy (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab)

Kelly, James (Glasgow Rutherglen) (Lab)

Kerr, Andy (East Kilbride) (Lab)

Lamont, Johann (Glasgow Pollok) (Lab)

Livingstone, Marilyn (Kirkcaldy) (Lab)

Macdonald, Lewis (Aberdeen Central) (Lab)

Macintosh, Ken (Eastwood) (Lab)

Martin, Paul (Glasgow Springburn) (Lab)

McArthur, Liam (Orkney) (LD)

McAveety, Mr Frank (Glasgow Shettleston) (Lab)

McCabe, Tom (Hamilton South) (Lab)

McConnell, Jack (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab)

McInnes, Alison (North East Scotland) (LD)

McMahon, Michael (Hamilton North and Bellshill) (Lab)

McNeil, Duncan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab)

McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow Kelvin) (Lab)

McNulty, Des (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab)

Mulligan, Mary (Linlithgow) (Lab)

Murray, Elaine (Dumfries) (Lab)

O'Donnell, Hugh (Central Scotland) (LD)

Oldfather, Irene (Cunninghame South) (Lab)

Park, John (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Peacock, Peter (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Peattie, Cathy (Falkirk East) (Lab)

Purvis, Jeremy (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD)

Rumbles, Mike (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD)

Simpson, Dr Richard (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Smith, Elaine (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab)

Smith, Iain (North East Fife) (LD)

Stephen, Nicol (Aberdeen South) (LD)

Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Stone, Jamie (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)

Tolson, Jim (Dunfermline West) (LD)

Whitefield, Karen (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab)

Whitton, David (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (Lab)

Against:

Adam, Brian (Aberdeen North) (SNP)

Aitken, Bill (Glasgow) (Con)

Allan, Alasdair (Western Isles) (SNP)

Brocklebank, Ted (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Brown, Keith (Ochil) (SNP)

Brownlee, Derek (South of Scotland) (Con)

Campbell, Aileen (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Carlaw, Jackson (West of Scotland) (Con)

Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)

Constance, Angela (Livingston) (SNP)

Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)

Cunningham, Roseanna (Perth) (SNP)

Don, Nigel (North East Scotland) (SNP)

Doris, Bob (Glasgow) (SNP)

Ewing, Fergus (Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber) (SNP)

Fabiani, Linda (Central Scotland) (SNP)

FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee West) (SNP)

Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Gibson, Rob (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Grahame, Christine (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Harper, Robin (Lothians) (Green)

Harvie, Christopher (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP)

Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)

Hepburn, Jamie (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Hyslop, Fiona (Lothians) (SNP)

Ingram, Adam (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Johnstone, Alex (North East Scotland) (Con)

Kidd, Bill (Glasgow) (SNP)

Lamont, John (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)

MacAskill, Kenny (Edinburgh East and Musselburgh) (SNP)

Marwick, Tricia (Central Fife) (SNP)

Mather, Jim (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)

Maxwell, Stewart (West of Scotland) (SNP)

McGrigor, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

McKee, Ian (Lothians) (SNP)

McKelvie, Christina (Central Scotland) (SNP)

McLaughlin, Anne (Glasgow) (SNP)

McLetchie, David (Edinburgh Pentlands) (Con)

McMillan, Stuart (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Milne, Nanette (North East Scotland) (Con)

Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)

Neil, Alex (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Paterson, Gil (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Robison, Shona (Dundee East) (SNP)

Russell, Michael (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Scanlon, Mary (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)

Smith, Elizabeth (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Lothians) (SNP)

Stevenson, Stewart (Banff and Buchan) (SNP)

Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Govan) (SNP)

Thompson, Dave (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Watt, Maureen (North East Scotland) (SNP)

Welsh, Andrew (Angus) (SNP)

White, Sandra (Glasgow) (SNP)

Wilson, Bill (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Wilson, John (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 56, Against 60, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 100 disagreed to.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

We come to group 18. Amendment 101, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendment 102.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Amendment 101 effectively allows ministers to undelegate—I am not sure whether that is a word—the power to select a person to chair the commission to the members of the commission.

The Government accepted at stage 2 Peter Peacock's amendment that enables ministers to delegate that function, on the understanding that it was agreed that provision would need to be made at stage 3 to cover the scenario in which the board of the commission was unable to agree on a convener and ministers would therefore need to exercise that power.

Amendment 102 seems to be rather confused. The Scottish ministers cannot set out their reasons for not delegating their power of appointment in the annual report to which the amendment refers, because the report is not produced by the Scottish ministers. It is to be produced by the commission under section 2B of the 1993 act. The Scottish ministers are required to lay a copy of the commission's annual report before Parliament along with any comments that they consider to be appropriate, but it is not their report.

Leaving aside those obvious problems with amendment 102, I tell Liam McArthur right now what reasons Scottish ministers might have for not delegating the power to appoint the convener. If the election was to produce members of the commission whom Scottish ministers felt did not have the necessary skills or experience to chair a multimillion-pound NDPB, or if it produced a person with whom ministers did not think that they could form a good working relationship, which might threaten the chain of accountability that ministers have to Parliament over the performance of Executive NDPBs, they may choose not to delegate the power to appoint the convener.

As I have just given Liam McArthur the reasons why that might happen, and given that ministers cannot write the commission's report for it, I ask him not to move amendment 102.

I move amendment 101.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I confess that I am still of the view that commissioners—elected and appointed—should be responsible for appointing a chair from among their number. That best reflects crofters' expectations of the democratisation of the commission. It also seems the most effective means of ensuring that the commissioners, however they find themselves in post, unite around a common purpose.

Nevertheless, I was happy to accept Peter Peacock's compromise that ministers should delegate to commissioners the power to appoint a chair. I accept the possibility that—on rare occasions, I hope—agreement may not be reached on a suitable candidate and it should then be left to the minister to appoint a chair. In that regard, I accept the rationale behind amendment 101.

My amendment 102 seeks to address the concern that I expressed when I pragmatically backed down on my stage 2 amendment, namely that ministers might be tempted to observe the power to delegate more in the breach. I still believe that ministers should not be able to avoid delegating the power and should be able not to delegate only in extreme circumstances. I am slightly concerned by the circumstances that the minister outlined, because they could be applied rather more widely than I would wish. Nevertheless, given amendment 102's shortcomings and the point that the minister made about the annual report, I will not move the amendment.

Amendment 101 agreed to.

Amendment 102 not moved.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

We come to group 19. Amendment 103, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendment 104.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Amendments 103 and 104 are necessary to fulfil our commitment to John Scott at stage 2 to lodge amendments that would provide for the Scottish ministers to ensure that at least one member of the crofting commission represents landlords' interests. The amendments provide for that where a landlord is not elected to the commission.

I move amendment 103.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I welcome amendments 103 and 104, which the minister promised to lodge after stage 2, and thank her for so doing. They will ensure that landlords' interests are represented on the commission if no one representing those interests is elected to the commission.

I am completely relaxed as to whether the representative should be from a community landowner or the traditional landowning group, because their duties and the expectations of them are clearly defined in the bill. That said, the right persons will bring a different and valuable perspective to the commission's decision-making process and, unsurprisingly, the Conservatives will support the amendments.

Amendment 103 agreed to.

Amendment 104 moved—[Roseanna Cunningham]—and agreed to.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

We come to group 20. Amendment 202, in the name of Karen Gillon, is grouped with amendments 105 to 107, 203 and 108.

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour

This group of amendments deals with who is eligible to stand and to vote in elections to the crofting commission.

Amendment 106, in the minister's name, clarifies an amendment that I lodged at stage 2 and we are happy to support it.

Amendment 202 is a technical amendment that is related to amendment 203. The bill allows the registered crofter or their spouse, civil partner or cohabitant to vote in any election for the crofting commission. All members of the committee were supportive of that at stage 1 and it was supported at stage 2 by Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour committee members. Therefore, it is regrettable that the minister seeks to remove the provision at stage 3.

The Parliament has a duty to examine the equal opportunities implications of any bill. If the minister is successful, the body of people eligible to vote in any election to the crofting commission would be skewed towards men, because far more men are the registered crofters by virtue of history but most women whom the bill covers, who may not be registered crofters, are actively involved in crofting. The crofting commission will be responsible for the regulation of crofting, not only crofters, so it appears inherently unequal to allow a franchise that is so weighted against women.

Some members will argue that keeping the provision would skew the voting pattern in favour of those who are married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership. If that is the argument, women would never have got the vote in the first place. It is simply a matter of equality. Amendment 107, in the minister's name, reinforces a voting system that, by its nature, is unfair, particularly to women.

I urge members to reject it and to vote for amendment 202.

I move amendment 202.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

At stage 1, the view of stakeholders on the franchise for crofting elections was crystal clear. Marina Dennis of the Scottish Crofting Federation stated:

"Only crofters who are registered with the commission should be entitled to vote."

Jonathan Hall of NFU Scotland said: "We agree with that." Jean Balfour of the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association said:

"I agree with what Marina Dennis and Jonathan Hall have said."—[Official Report, Rural Affairs and Environment Committee, 10 February 2010; c 2374-5.]

The issue is the entitlement to vote being confined to those who are registered crofters. What happened at stage 2 is unfortunate, which is why we lodged amendment 107 to undo Karen Gillon's amendment. There has been some misunderstanding about what the effect of her original amendment would be and what her revised amendments would do. They would not provide for a crofter to give their vote to someone else in the household; rather, they provide that crofters with partners may get two votes, whereas the single crofter would get one vote. That is unfair. I believe that the crofting regulator should simply be elected by those whom it regulates.

I sympathise with Karen Gillon's motivation in addressing the gender balance in crofting, but I do not believe that what she has proposed is the solution to the gender imbalance, which needs to be tackled elsewhere. Moreover, the proposal to afford votes to crofters' cohabitants would be extremely difficult and resource intensive to implement. How on earth is the commission to establish whether persons of the opposite sex are living together as if husband and wife, or whether persons of the same sex are living as if civil partners? Therefore, I urge members to support my amendments in the group and to reject amendments 202 and 203.

Amendment 105 responds to the oversight that the Subordinate Legislation Committee brought to our attention, and provides the maximum penalty for any offences that are made under the power to make regulations in connection with elections to the crofting commission. The maximum penalty provided for is consistent and fair.

Amendments 106 and 108 tidy up drafting deficiencies in Karen Gillon's and Liam McArthur's amendments from stage 2. We accepted those amendments in principle, but stated at the time that we would need to tidy up the drafting.

I urge members to reject amendments 202 and 203 and to support amendments 105 to 108.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

These amendments deal with elections to the commission. I think that there will be much debate about that matter in future.

I supported Karen Gillon's amendment at stage 2, but was unaware that, in doing so, I had voted to increase so dramatically the number of those eligible to vote. My preferred position had always been to have one vote per house or household. Therefore, I support the Government amendments, which correct the position.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

Once bitten, twice shy. I will not support Karen Gillon's amendments 202 and 203, as it will be impossible to ascertain whether someone is a civil partner or cohabitant.

I had sought to support Karen Gillon's efforts to establish gender balance in crofting elections in principle, but, sadly, the amendments that she has lodged will not achieve that without attracting unintended consequences. Therefore, we will support amendments 105 to 108.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I confess that I have my differences with Karen Gillon on elections to the crofting commission, most notably over the method of those elections: she steadfastly supports a first-past-the-post system. I am also concerned that the amendments do not necessarily touch on the issue of younger members of crofting households, which I raised at stage 2. Nevertheless, Karen Gillon is right to point to the settled will of the committee; what happened was not simply an unfortunate event.

I will leave Karen Gillon to comment on John Scott's U-turn. On the other amendments in the group, I welcome the fact that the Government has been able to tidy up the amendments that were agreed at stage 2.

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

I understand and sympathise with the intention behind Karen Gillon's amendments and the need for the Parliament to be mindful of equal opportunities, but I believe that she has not fully thought out the consequences of her amendments, which are more likely to lead to family fights than to make everyone feel involved.

I and others were struck by the number of women who gave evidence to the committee and the number of women who are grazings committee clerks. During our visits, other women were very helpful and knowledgeable about crofting.

Previous legislation requires the croft to be in the name of one person. Having more than one vote per croft would be a minefield, especially where sons and daughters are more likely to be active in crofting than partners. Karen Gillon has overegged the pudding and interfered with complicated business partnerships that may already exist.

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour 11:30 am, 1st July 2010

I have never heard so much rubbish in all my life: women cannot get to vote because it might be too complicated. We would not be in this Parliament if the people who have stood up in this chamber and made such arguments today had had their way—women would still be in the kitchen doing what they were best at and having children instead of being representatives in this Parliament.

I cannot believe that John Scott has come to this chamber and said that he did not understand what was taking place at stage 2. I made it absolutely clear what we were seeking to do, which was to extend the franchise to couples: people who were married, in civil partnerships or cohabiting. People have said that we cannot determine who is in a civil partnership; yes, we can—it is a legal process. People have said that we cannot determine who is married; yes, we can—it is a legal process. It has been said that we cannot determine who is cohabiting, but they will be on the electoral register. What a lot of nonsense. This is a matter of equality. Shame on the SNP and the Conservatives for voting against the amendment. [Applause.]

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

Order.

The question is, that amendment 202 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

For:

Alexander, Ms Wendy (Paisley North) (Lab)

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Baker, Richard (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Boyack, Sarah (Edinburgh Central) (Lab)

Brankin, Rhona (Midlothian) (Lab)

Brown, Robert (Glasgow) (LD)

Butler, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (Lab)

Chisholm, Malcolm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab)

Craigie, Cathie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (Lab)

Curran, Margaret (Glasgow Baillieston) (Lab)

Eadie, Helen (Dunfermline East) (Lab)

Ferguson, Patricia (Glasgow Maryhill) (Lab)

Finnie, Ross (West of Scotland) (LD)

Foulkes, George (Lothians) (Lab)

Gillon, Karen (Clydesdale) (Lab)

Glen, Marlyn (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Gordon, Charlie (Glasgow Cathcart) (Lab)

Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Henry, Hugh (Paisley South) (Lab)

Hume, Jim (South of Scotland) (LD)

Jamieson, Cathy (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab)

Kelly, James (Glasgow Rutherglen) (Lab)

Kerr, Andy (East Kilbride) (Lab)

Lamont, Johann (Glasgow Pollok) (Lab)

Livingstone, Marilyn (Kirkcaldy) (Lab)

Macdonald, Lewis (Aberdeen Central) (Lab)

Macintosh, Ken (Eastwood) (Lab)

Martin, Paul (Glasgow Springburn) (Lab)

McArthur, Liam (Orkney) (LD)

McAveety, Mr Frank (Glasgow Shettleston) (Lab)

McCabe, Tom (Hamilton South) (Lab)

McConnell, Jack (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab)

McInnes, Alison (North East Scotland) (LD)

McMahon, Michael (Hamilton North and Bellshill) (Lab)

McNeil, Duncan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab)

McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow Kelvin) (Lab)

McNulty, Des (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab)

Mulligan, Mary (Linlithgow) (Lab)

Murray, Elaine (Dumfries) (Lab)

O'Donnell, Hugh (Central Scotland) (LD)

Oldfather, Irene (Cunninghame South) (Lab)

Park, John (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Peacock, Peter (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Peattie, Cathy (Falkirk East) (Lab)

Purvis, Jeremy (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD)

Rumbles, Mike (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD)

Simpson, Dr Richard (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Smith, Elaine (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab)

Smith, Iain (North East Fife) (LD)

Stephen, Nicol (Aberdeen South) (LD)

Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Stone, Jamie (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)

Tolson, Jim (Dunfermline West) (LD)

Whitefield, Karen (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab)

Whitton, David (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (Lab)

Against:

Adam, Brian (Aberdeen North) (SNP)

Aitken, Bill (Glasgow) (Con)

Allan, Alasdair (Western Isles) (SNP)

Brocklebank, Ted (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Brown, Keith (Ochil) (SNP)

Brownlee, Derek (South of Scotland) (Con)

Campbell, Aileen (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Carlaw, Jackson (West of Scotland) (Con)

Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)

Constance, Angela (Livingston) (SNP)

Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)

Cunningham, Roseanna (Perth) (SNP)

Don, Nigel (North East Scotland) (SNP)

Doris, Bob (Glasgow) (SNP)

Ewing, Fergus (Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber) (SNP)

Fabiani, Linda (Central Scotland) (SNP)

FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee West) (SNP)

Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Gibson, Rob (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Grahame, Christine (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Harvie, Christopher (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP)

Hepburn, Jamie (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Hyslop, Fiona (Lothians) (SNP)

Ingram, Adam (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Johnstone, Alex (North East Scotland) (Con)

Kidd, Bill (Glasgow) (SNP)

Lamont, John (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)

MacAskill, Kenny (Edinburgh East and Musselburgh) (SNP)

Marwick, Tricia (Central Fife) (SNP)

Mather, Jim (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)

Maxwell, Stewart (West of Scotland) (SNP)

McGrigor, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

McKee, Ian (Lothians) (SNP)

McKelvie, Christina (Central Scotland) (SNP)

McLaughlin, Anne (Glasgow) (SNP)

McLetchie, David (Edinburgh Pentlands) (Con)

McMillan, Stuart (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Milne, Nanette (North East Scotland) (Con)

Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)

Neil, Alex (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Paterson, Gil (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Robison, Shona (Dundee East) (SNP)

Russell, Michael (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Scanlon, Mary (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)

Smith, Elizabeth (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Lothians) (SNP)

Stevenson, Stewart (Banff and Buchan) (SNP)

Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Govan) (SNP)

Swinney, John (North Tayside) (SNP)

Thompson, Dave (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Watt, Maureen (North East Scotland) (SNP)

Welsh, Andrew (Angus) (SNP)

White, Sandra (Glasgow) (SNP)

Wilson, Bill (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Wilson, John (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 56, Against 59, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 202 disagreed to.

Amendments 105 and 106 moved—[Roseanna Cunningham]—and agreed to.

Amendment 107 moved—[Roseanna Cunningham].

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

If amendment 107 is agreed to, I cannot call amendment 203 because of pre-emption.

The question is, that amendment 107 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

For:

Adam, Brian (Aberdeen North) (SNP)

Aitken, Bill (Glasgow) (Con)

Allan, Alasdair (Western Isles) (SNP)

Brocklebank, Ted (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Brown, Keith (Ochil) (SNP)

Brownlee, Derek (South of Scotland) (Con)

Campbell, Aileen (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Carlaw, Jackson (West of Scotland) (Con)

Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)

Constance, Angela (Livingston) (SNP)

Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)

Cunningham, Roseanna (Perth) (SNP)

Don, Nigel (North East Scotland) (SNP)

Doris, Bob (Glasgow) (SNP)

Ewing, Fergus (Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber) (SNP)

Fabiani, Linda (Central Scotland) (SNP)

FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee West) (SNP)

Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Gibson, Rob (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Grahame, Christine (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Harvie, Christopher (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP)

Hepburn, Jamie (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Hyslop, Fiona (Lothians) (SNP)

Ingram, Adam (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Johnstone, Alex (North East Scotland) (Con)

Kidd, Bill (Glasgow) (SNP)

Lamont, John (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)

MacAskill, Kenny (Edinburgh East and Musselburgh) (SNP)

Marwick, Tricia (Central Fife) (SNP)

Mather, Jim (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)

Maxwell, Stewart (West of Scotland) (SNP)

McGrigor, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

McKee, Ian (Lothians) (SNP)

McKelvie, Christina (Central Scotland) (SNP)

McLaughlin, Anne (Glasgow) (SNP)

McLetchie, David (Edinburgh Pentlands) (Con)

McMillan, Stuart (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Milne, Nanette (North East Scotland) (Con)

Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)

Neil, Alex (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Paterson, Gil (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Robison, Shona (Dundee East) (SNP)

Russell, Michael (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Scanlon, Mary (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)

Smith, Elizabeth (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Lothians) (SNP)

Stevenson, Stewart (Banff and Buchan) (SNP)

Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Govan) (SNP)

Swinney, John (North Tayside) (SNP)

Thompson, Dave (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Watt, Maureen (North East Scotland) (SNP)

Welsh, Andrew (Angus) (SNP)

White, Sandra (Glasgow) (SNP)

Wilson, Bill (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Wilson, John (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Against:

Alexander, Ms Wendy (Paisley North) (Lab)

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Baker, Richard (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Boyack, Sarah (Edinburgh Central) (Lab)

Brankin, Rhona (Midlothian) (Lab)

Brown, Robert (Glasgow) (LD)

Butler, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (Lab)

Chisholm, Malcolm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab)

Craigie, Cathie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (Lab)

Curran, Margaret (Glasgow Baillieston) (Lab)

Eadie, Helen (Dunfermline East) (Lab)

Ferguson, Patricia (Glasgow Maryhill) (Lab)

Finnie, Ross (West of Scotland) (LD)

Foulkes, George (Lothians) (Lab)

Gillon, Karen (Clydesdale) (Lab)

Glen, Marlyn (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Gordon, Charlie (Glasgow Cathcart) (Lab)

Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Henry, Hugh (Paisley South) (Lab)

Hume, Jim (South of Scotland) (LD)

Jamieson, Cathy (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab)

Kelly, James (Glasgow Rutherglen) (Lab)

Kerr, Andy (East Kilbride) (Lab)

Lamont, Johann (Glasgow Pollok) (Lab)

Livingstone, Marilyn (Kirkcaldy) (Lab)

Macdonald, Lewis (Aberdeen Central) (Lab)

Macintosh, Ken (Eastwood) (Lab)

Martin, Paul (Glasgow Springburn) (Lab)

McArthur, Liam (Orkney) (LD)

McAveety, Mr Frank (Glasgow Shettleston) (Lab)

McCabe, Tom (Hamilton South) (Lab)

McConnell, Jack (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab)

McInnes, Alison (North East Scotland) (LD)

McMahon, Michael (Hamilton North and Bellshill) (Lab)

McNeil, Duncan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab)

McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow Kelvin) (Lab)

McNulty, Des (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab)

Mulligan, Mary (Linlithgow) (Lab)

Murray, Elaine (Dumfries) (Lab)

O'Donnell, Hugh (Central Scotland) (LD)

Oldfather, Irene (Cunninghame South) (Lab)

Park, John (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Peacock, Peter (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Peattie, Cathy (Falkirk East) (Lab)

Purvis, Jeremy (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD)

Rumbles, Mike (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD)

Simpson, Dr Richard (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Smith, Elaine (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab)

Smith, Iain (North East Fife) (LD)

Stephen, Nicol (Aberdeen South) (LD)

Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Stone, Jamie (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)

Tolson, Jim (Dunfermline West) (LD)

Whitefield, Karen (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab)

Whitton, David (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (Lab)

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 59, Against 56, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 107 agreed to.

Amendments 108 to 112 moved—[Roseanna Cunningham]—and agreed to.