Decision Time

– in the Scottish Parliament on 8th September 2020.

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Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

There are several questions to be put as a result of today’s business.

The first question is, that amendment S5M-22635.1, in the name of Jackson Carlaw, which seeks to amend motion S5M-22635, in the name of Jeane Freeman, on Baroness Cumberlege’s report, be agreed to.

Amendment agreed to.

The Presiding Officer:

The next question is, that amendment 22635.3, in the name of Neil Findlay, which seeks to amend motion S5M-22635, in the name of Jeane Freeman, on Baroness Cumberlege’s report, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

The Presiding Officer:

We are not agreed. We will move to a division on the amendment, but we will first have a technical break to make sure that colleagues online are logged in to the remote voting system. I will suspend Parliament for a few moments while we make sure that everybody is logged in online and in the chamber. To colleagues who are online: do not worry if you cannot hear anything for a minute while broadcasting is suspended—we will be back. Do not panic if you hear nothing for the first minute.

17:11 Meeting suspended.

17:28 On resuming—

We move to the vote on amendment S5M-22635.3, in the name of Neil Findlay, which seeks to amend the motion in the name of Jeane Freeman, on the Baroness Cumberlege report. Members may vote now. This will be a one-minute division.

If any member has difficulty voting, they should raise their hand and someone will come over to address the problem. Members who are not able to vote online should raise their issue online.

Colleagues, the vote has closed. However, because we had some technical difficulties with this vote, I ask any member who thinks that they were not able to vote to raise a point of order so that I can formally recognise that for the record.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

I had some difficulties. I would have voted no.

The Presiding Officer:

That is noted. Margaret Mitchell, can you confirm whether you think you were able to vote, for the record?

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

I was not able to vote. I would have voted yes.

The Presiding Officer:

I note both of those comments. I will now direct the clerks to change the vote to ensure that both of those votes are added before we announce the result.

The result of the vote on amendment S5M-22635.3, in the name of Neil Findlay, is: For 57, Against 58, Abstentions 0. The amendment is therefore not agreed.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

According to my WhatsApp messages, Alison Harris was apparently unable to vote.

The Presiding Officer:

We have just recognised that this second, and we are addressing the issue.

Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

Irrespective of the vote, the confidence in this voting system is ebbing away every single day we come here. When members have raised very legitimate points of order on this issue before, there has been an insistence that the system is working, but the system is self-evidently not working to the satisfaction of all members. I think that that is a general feeling. We have a major problem with the system, and we cannot continue in the farcical way that we are now.

The Presiding Officer:

Thanks for the point of order, Mr Findlay. Michael Russell also has a point of order, but I have not even addressed Mr Findlay’s.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

It pains me to say this, but I agree entirely with Neil Findlay.

I have to make the point that I voted two weeks ago in divisions on a bill, and during each division I was terrified that the vote was either not being counted or not being counted properly. Today, we have seen a vote that, at the very least, must be one in which those in the chamber will have no confidence. The amendment was disagreed to by a single vote, and we do not know whether individuals have voted.

Presiding Officer, I suggest—perhaps controversially—that you suspend the session and that we return to voting tomorrow when we have personal assurances from you that the voting system is working and can be reliable. If we cannot have those assurances, we should not be using that system.

The Presiding Officer:

We are debating that option at the moment. Contrary to Neil Findlay’s point of order, the system is working. However, I recognise that there are issues that I agree are undermining confidence. I will suspend business until we work out what happened in that vote.

People missed votes for many reasons all the time under the old system. People in the chamber pressed the wrong button or did not put their cards in. They missed votes for lots of reasons and it happened often. Members might not be aware of that, but I assure you, from the chair, that I am aware of it. We are having difficulties with the new system, but many of the difficulties are not with the system—they are with us and our level of familiarity with it.

I am not going to defend the system now. I am going to make sure that our system is working and that you, Mr Russell, can have confidence in it.

I will suspend while we establish what happened in that vote, and I will get back to you in a few minutes.

17:36 Meeting suspended.

17:38 On resuming—

We need a thorough debrief of what happened in that vote to make sure that everybody, including me, has confidence that the vote was carried out effectively and robustly. We will do that tomorrow.

There is another question today, which is on the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill. I suggest that we take that vote. If there is a division, we will also hold that division tomorrow. If it is agreed now, that will be able to go through this evening.

Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Can you say from the chair that the vote is now annulled and invalid and that we will retake the full vote? I would like you to say that so that we know that.

The Presiding Officer:

I am not deciding at the moment to run that vote again. That decision will be taken tomorrow.

Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

You announced a decision. You declared numbers.

The Presiding Officer:

That is right. I will inform the chamber tomorrow, once we have had a thorough debrief, whether that result was valid.

I am sorry, Mr Findlay. This kind of thing happens and there are procedures in the standing orders to deal with it. I am suspending the vote now, and we will come back to it tomorrow to allow me and others to look at what happened. I will be able to give you a firm decision tomorrow; I am not going to give you a decision now.

Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Is it in order for me to move formally that that vote be annulled and that any further vote that is to be taken be taken tomorrow?

The Presiding Officer:

No, Mr Findlay, that is not in order. I have already given my decision that we will come back to the matter tomorrow. I will discuss it with the business managers and I will make sure that the chamber is fully informed of how we will resume our approach to the vote. However, we should do that in the light of knowing exactly what happened in the vote. I am sorry, but we need to know exactly what happened in the vote before we do that, and that is the reason why we are moving everything to tomorrow.

However, with the—

The Presiding Officer:

One more point,

Mr Findlay.

Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

I just want to be absolutely clear: do the standing orders of the Parliament say that a member is not allowed to move such a motion at this point?

The Presiding Officer:

I am not accepting such a motion at this point, which is more to the point, Mr Findlay. [

Interruption

.] I am sorry, Mr Findlay, but I am in the chair and I have already given my decision. We can decide what you may or may not do tomorrow. At the moment, I am not saying that the amendment is defeated or that the vote is annulled or cancelled. I am going to suspend business on that vote and we will come back to it tomorrow.

I will be able to inform Mr Findlay—[

Interruption

.] The fact that Mr Findlay does not like the outcome of the vote is not the same as not having confidence in the outcome.

I am sorry, but I need to know what happened in the vote, at which point we will be able to make a proper decision.

Now, we have a final question—

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I do not want to prolong this, but, while I accept that you clearly do not have to take a motion from Mr Findlay, I hope that you will reassure the chamber of two things. The first is that you will consult fully with the business managers when looking at the vote and will make sure that they have full access to all the information on it. The second is that you will look at the wider question of how to restore the confidence of the chamber in the new voting system, given the experience that we have had not just today but over the past few weeks.

The Presiding Officer:

I think that I addressed both of those points, Mr Russell, which is why we are going to return to the subject tomorrow. Not only will I share the information with all the business managers, but I will make sure that all members are fully aware of what happened in that particular vote and any decision to rerun it or do otherwise.

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I just point out that this confusion has come at the end of a very important debate that thousands of women will have been watching online, and they will be dismayed at the turn of events. I think that Parliament owes an apology to the many women who have been looking to see what Parliament’s view on the Cumberlege report is going to be.

The Presiding Officer:

I am very conscious of that point, Mr Carlaw. I heard all of the debate. It was an extremely emotional debate as well as a powerful one, and the very fact that the vote itself is close is an important matter. You are absolutely right: the business managers, members and the public need to have confidence in this Parliament and its procedures, which is why we will return to the matter tomorrow. However, I fully accept your point.

Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Standing orders rule 11.7.3 states:

“If it appears to the Presiding Officer that the electronic voting system has produced an unreliable result, he shall ask members to cast their votes again in accordance with any manner of voting the Presiding Officer considers appropriate.”

My reading of that, Presiding Officer, is that, because there is doubt, we need to rerun the vote as you have described—possibly tomorrow—but in so doing, we have to declare the previous result null and void. I think that that is the clarification that Mr Findlay was asking for. Can you confirm the position?

The Presiding Officer:

Mr Johnson is absolutely right, which is why we are going to return to the matter tomorrow to make that decision. I will make that decision tomorrow, in the light of knowing exactly what happened in that vote.

Can members accept that we will return to the matter? The vote has not yet been approved or agreed.

We will now end, if we can, by my putting a further question. If it comes to a division, we will have it tomorrow.

The question is, that motion S5M-22484, in the name of Kate Forbes, on the financial resolution to the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament, for the purposes of any Act of the Scottish Parliament resulting from the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, agrees to any expenditure of a kind referred to in Rule 9.12.3(b) of the Parliament’s Standing Orders arising in consequence of the Act.

17:47 Members' Business will be published tomorrow, 9 September 2020, as soon as the text is available.