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Business Motion

– in the Scottish Parliament on 28th January 2020.

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Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

The next item is the business motion that Mr Rumbles referred to. Motion S5M-20624, in the name of Graeme Dey, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, sets out revisions to this week’s business.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees to the following revisions to the programme of business for—

(a) Wednesday 29 January— delete

2.00 pm Parliamentary Bureau Motions

2.00 pm Portfolio Questions:

Health and Sport;

Communities and Local Government and insert

1.30 pm Parliamentary Bureau Motions

1.30 pm Scottish Government Debate: Recognising Scotland in Europe

2.00 pm Portfolio Questions:

Health and Sport;

Communities and Local Government

(b) Thursday 30 January— delete

2.30 pm Parliamentary Bureau Motions

2.30 pm Portfolio Questions:

Social Security and Older People and insert

2.00 pm Parliamentary Bureau Motions

2.00 pm Portfolio Questions:

Social Security and Older People—[

Graeme Dey

.]

The Presiding Officer:

Maurice Golden will speak against the motion.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

I speak against the motion on the basis that, between now and June, we have to accommodate six committee debates, nine opposition business days, eight stage 1 debates and 13 stage 3 debates; next week, we will be voting until 7 o’clock in the evening on Tuesday, and on Wednesday that might be even later.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

I thank Mr Golden for taking an intervention.

Does he agree that, since parliamentary time is scarce, it ought to be allocated to Scotland’s priorities, such as our health service and our children’s schools? Mindful of that, I am, however, pleased that the Minister for Parliamentary Business and the Parliamentary Bureau have agreed to extend by 30 minutes the drugs debate on Thursday, and as a consequence to move the European flag debate to tomorrow. Due to that, Scottish Labour intends to abstain on the business motion, rather than vote against it. However, we also accept the explanation given by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body on the flag issue.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

I thank the member for her comments. Some of the SNP members might want to make representation to their business manager on extending parliamentary time, perhaps to accommodate a statement on Scotland’s crumbling police stations, which has unfortunately been ruled out to accommodate the debate on flags tomorrow. I thank both Labour and the Liberal Democrats for supporting the statement on Scotland’s crumbling police stations.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

The member will know that I am a strong pro-European [

Interruption

.] I will always be a strong pro-European, but I respect the decision of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and, more importantly, its independence.

Is he as disappointed as I am that the Government can find time to debate flags, yet not one minute can be found to debate the performance of our education system or the state of Scotland’s police service?

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

I know that the member is a committed European, and I find it incredibly worrying and disappointing that members of the SNP seek to barrack and bully and boo respected members of this Parliament who support European values. I am also incredibly disappointed that the SNP, aided and abetted by the Greens, see flying flags as more important than improving Scotland’s public services and I urge members to vote against the business motion.

The Presiding Officer:

I call the Minister for Parliamentary Business, Graeme Dey, to respond on behalf of the Government.

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

None of the parties represented on the Parliamentary Bureau would have wanted to be in this situation. The two parties—the SNP and the Green party—who supported the scheduling of the debate at issue did so with heavy hearts, having made concerted efforts over the past two weeks to seek a compromise following the SPCB’s original decision to take down the flag that represents both the Council of Europe and the European Union from outside the Parliament on Friday.

The matter was discussed in detail at last Tuesday’s bureau meeting and, as a result, the SPCB was asked to meet again and consider the matter further. It did so, but, by majority, decided to stand by its original decision. On Friday, on behalf of the Scottish Government, I wrote to the SPCB suggesting a compromise that would have seen the European flag stay up through the transition period and the SPCB able to review the policy on flags during that period. I understand that the Green party also communicated its thoughts on a way forward that would have averted the matter coming to the chamber.

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

No, I will not.

Unfortunately, the SPCB could not agree to revisit its decision. Although the SPCB is rightly non-political, there is no decision that it could take on the matter—to leave the flag up or to take it down—that would not be seen as political. Therefore, it is surely right that the Parliament as a whole makes the decision.

As I am speaking on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, I do not intend to get into the detail of the stances that the parties represented on the bureau have adopted on the matter. Those will become apparent during the 30-minute debate that the motion seeks to schedule for tomorrow. I stress that the interactions between the SPCB, the Parliamentary Bureau and those parties opposed to the decision that was reached have at all times been respectful, recognising that the SPCB acted in good faith and that those who hold an alternative view have genuinely sought to secure a compromise. I hope, perhaps forlornly, that tomorrow’s debate can be conducted in a similar vein.

The motion, in addition to scheduling the short debate at issue, extends—as Elaine Smith noted—the time allocated on Thursday for the debate on drugs and alcohol. That was a very reasonable request by Labour, which the Government and the bureau were happy to support.

The Presiding Officer:

The question is, that motion S5M-20624 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 1 Business Motion

Aye: 62 MSPs

No: 30 MSPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Abstained: 17 MSPs

Abstaineds: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 62, Against 30, Abstentions 17.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees to the following revisions to the programme of business for—

(a) Wednesday 29 January— delete

2.00 pm Parliamentary Bureau Motions

2.00 pm Portfolio Questions:

Health and Sport;

Communities and Local Government and insert

1.30 pm Parliamentary Bureau Motions

1.30 pm Scottish Government Debate: Recognising Scotland in Europe

2.00 pm Portfolio Questions:

Health and Sport;

Communities and Local Government

(b) Thursday 30 January— delete

2.30 pm Parliamentary Bureau Motions

2.30 pm Portfolio Questions:

Social Security and Older People and insert

2.00 pm Parliamentary Bureau Motions

2.00 pm Portfolio Questions:

Social Security and Older People