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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
17th January 2008


I have just been sitting through one of the most bizarre exchanges.  The SNP Government has decided to withdraw a motion rather than put it to the vote.  Labour MSPs have jumped to their feet and decried Ministers for daring to do so, a Lib Dem MSP asked whether he could move the motion instead and another Lib Dem MSP has sough to move an emergency motion to have the original motion debated.

The Presiding Officer has ruled that such an emergency motion will not be accepted thanks to the very reasonable commitment on the part of the SNP Scottish Government to bring the Sewel Motion back to the chamber next week.  Seems reasonable?  Nope, Lib Dem MSP Robert Brown got back on his feet and accused the Government of not making that commitment; Labour MSP Jackie Baillie got on her feet and said that refusing the emergency motion was not right because the Government would have lost the vote; and Lib Dem MSP Jeremy Purvis rose to say that Parliament was the place for debate; Labour MSP Helen Eadie chipped in with the opinion that Parliament was sovereign and so the Presiding Officer should put the motion; Labour MSP Karen Gillon weighed in with a call for the Procedures Committee to consider the actions of the Government.  Through it all, Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson patiently continued to explain that it was the right of any member to withdraw a motion in their name before it was debated.

The motion thatís caused all the fuss is a Legislative Consent Motion (also known as a Sewel Motion) to allow London to legislate on a devolved area (dormant bank accounts in this instance).  There seems to be some accusation that the SNP Government is using Parliamentary procedure to do what needs done.  Theyíll be calling us politicians next!

That fantastic ruckus caps a very interesting week in Parliament.

I was in the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee hearing evidence on Scotlandís Built Heritage when Alex Salmond, John Swinney, Scotlandís Chief Planner and the Head of Planning Decisions as well as the Chief Executive of Aberdeenshire Council were being questioned about the decision to call in the planning decision for the Menie Estate.

I obviously didnít see the questioning but Iím told that the Civil Servants and the Aberdeenshire Council Officer handled the questioning without difficulty, giving straight and true answers and exonerating the politicians involved.  The committee, strangely, ran out of time for questioning the politicians, and their contributions were curtailed.

This was also the week when the Finance Committee reported on the SNPís budget proposals.  There was a general expectation that the SNP would take a bit of a hiding on the budget, but it just didnít happen.  Lib Dems never put forward amendments to support what theyíd been saying, and the Tories put forward a couple of areas where they wanted additional effort put in Ė two areas which the SNP could support easily.

The strangest contribution was from Labour politicians who wanted to cut the Winter Roads Maintenance Budget (for safety on winter roads); the Capital Works Budget; the Routine Winter Maintenance Budget; Police Support Services; the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency; anti-terrorism spending; and the Health Information Budget.

All of these requests were turned down by the other committee members, of course, and the SNP budget carries on.  John Swinney has delivered a superb piece of work with this budget, and heís doing a fantastic job in charge of Scotlandís finances.

On top of all that fuss and excitement, the STUC has been in Parliament this week for Trade Union week and Iíve been at a few events Ė the Scottish Workplace and Productivity Challenge kicking it off on Tuesday Ė what a name for an event!

Iím gearing up now for the Cambuslang bye-election to find a councillor to take over from Councillor John Higgins who died recently.  We need to find a councillor as dedicated to improving the area for everyone who lives there.

Outside of Parliament this week, Iíve been in meetings about the Ravenscraig site and hearing about the plans for moving forward, and listening to people who have some fantastic ideas about driving the project forward.  I also met with Scottish Enterprise about hosting a skills exhibition in Parliament at the end of this month.


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