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Meeting of the Parliament

Thursday 30 April 2009

The meeting opened at 9.15 am.

1. Education: Margaret Smith moved S3M-4007—That the Parliament notes that, on the second anniversary of the election of the Scottish Government, the index of its broken promises contains more references to education than any other area of public policy; believes that the failures of the SNP on teachers and teaching are potentially the most damaging to the long-term interests of Scotland; notes the drop of 1,000 in the number of teachers in Scotland’s schools despite the SNP promise to maintain numbers; regrets the microscopic progress on class size reductions; recalls the failure to offer ongoing job opportunities for newly qualified teachers and laments the pressure on teacher training places when demand for such places from talented graduates remains high, and calls for the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning to publish, by the end of the school year and in time for September, a detailed workforce plan for teaching that can restore teacher numbers, increase training places, get newly qualified teachers into work in schools and provide assurance that the Scottish Government is prepared to learn from the mistakes of the first half of its term of office as it embarks on its second.

The Minister for Schools and Skills (Keith Brown) moved amendment S3M-4007.1 to motion S3M-4007—

leave out from "the index" to end and insert—

"spending on education has risen by more than 40% since the advent of devolution; further notes that, despite a decade of investment, standards of attainment and achievement have only been maintained while key international competitors have improved; welcomes the recent report by HM Inspectorate of Education, Improving Scottish Education 2005-2008, highlighting the need for further and faster improvement in our education system; believes that the focus on inputs under previous administrations masked the lack of significant improvement on standards of attainment and achievement; further believes that the reform of the curriculum is a critical step in improving standards of attainment, and calls on the Scottish Government to maintain progress towards implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence."

Elizabeth Smith moved amendment S3M-4007.1.1 to amendment S3M-4007.1—

insert at end—

"and calls on the Scottish Government to bring forward detailed proposals by the start of the 2009-10 academic year as to how it will implement amendment S3M-3164.1, which recognised the need for the Scottish Government to ensure that pupils in Scotland are properly tested in the basic skills of literacy and numeracy by the end of primary 7 and which was given unanimous support by the Parliament on 7 January 2009."

Rhona Brankin moved amendment S3M-4007.2 to motion S3M-4007—

after "remains high" insert—

"; deeply regrets that the SNP government’s response to the reduction in full-time teaching posts has been to cut teacher training places by 18% despite its pledges to maintain teacher numbers and reduce class sizes".

After debate, amendment 4007.1.1 was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 80, Against 41, Abstentions 0).

After debate, amendment 4007.1 as amended was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 62, Against 57, Abstentions 2). As a result, amendment 4007.2 was pre-empted.

After debate, the motion as amended was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 62, Against 57, Abstentions 2).

Accordingly the Parliament resolved—That the Parliament notes that, on the second anniversary of the election of the Scottish Government, spending on education has risen by more than 40% since the advent of devolution; further notes that, despite a decade of investment, standards of attainment and achievement have only been maintained while key international competitors have improved; welcomes the recent report by HM Inspectorate of Education, Improving Scottish Education 2005-2008, highlighting the need for further and faster improvement in our education system; believes that the focus on inputs under previous administrations masked the lack of significant improvement on standards of attainment and achievement; further believes that the reform of the curriculum is a critical step in improving standards of attainment, and calls on the Scottish Government to maintain progress towards implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence, and calls on the Scottish Government to bring forward detailed proposals by the start of the 2009-10 academic year as to how it will implement amendment S3M-3164.1, which recognised the need for the Scottish Government to ensure that pupils in Scotland are properly tested in the basic skills of literacy and numeracy by the end of primary 7 and which was given unanimous support by the Parliament on 7 January 2009.

2. The Economy: Liam McArthur moved S3M-4006—That the Parliament notes the UK Budget and the plans to increase fuel duty; recognises the high premium over the national average paid for fuel at filling stations in remote rural and particularly island areas and the financial and social impact that this has on individuals and businesses; believes that increased fuel duty will have a damaging effect on the economy and competitiveness in these areas, not least due to the limited public transport alternatives; notes that current EU law allows fuel duty to be cut by up to 2.4p per litre and that this power is already used in France, Portugal and Greece, and calls on the Scottish Government to work with the UK Government and the European Commission before the final passage of the Finance Bill to construct a derogation under the EU energy products directive, or otherwise, to permit variable rates of duty for specified remote rural areas to bring down the price of fuel at the pump to that available in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Alex Johnstone moved amendment S3M-4006.1 to motion S3M-4006—

leave out from "notes that current" to end and insert—

"and calls on the Scottish Government to report back to the Parliament on the extent to which a fuel duty derogation for rural areas would be permissible under EU law and what impact such a derogation would have on carbon emissions and the Scottish budget."

After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 18, Against 63, Abstentions 40).

After debate, the motion was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 63, Against 1, Abstentions 57).

3. General Question Time: Questions were answered by Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers.

4. First Minister’s Question Time: Questions were answered by the First Minister (Alex Salmond).

5. Themed Question Time: Questions on Health and Wellbeing were answered by the Cabinet Secretary and Ministers.

6. Budget Implications for Scotland: The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth (John Swinney) moved S3M-4004—That the Parliament expresses its deep concern at the contents of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget last week; recognises that this is a product of poor financial management of the UK economy in recent years that will leave unprecedented burdens of debt for many years to come; acknowledges the significant pressure that the reduction of planned budgets of £500 million will have on public services, and calls on the Scottish Government to bring forward budget proposals for 2010-11 that will support a sustainable economy and effective public services and include an assessment of the carbon impact of its budget.

Andy Kerr moved amendment S3M-4004.3 to motion S3M-4004—

leave out from "expresses" to end and insert—

"welcomes the real-terms increase in the Scottish Government’s budget for 2010-11; also welcomes the earlier measures that the UK Government has taken to support Scotland during the global downturn, such as the £50 billion funding to Scottish banks to support bank workers, families and businesses who rely on the banks and the £2 billion that has gone into the pockets of hard working Scots and the VAT cut that has given the equivalent of £275 to every Scottish family and boosted retail sales; recognises that last week’s Budget continues to provide real help now to families and businesses, such as the guarantee that anyone aged between 18 and 25 who has been unemployed for 12 months or more will be given a training place or a job and the new investment in the renewable energy industry, which will benefit Scotland, and calls on the Parliament to recognise the role the UK Government has taken in leading the international response to the global economic crisis."

After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 42, Against 80, Abstentions 0).

Derek Brownlee moved amendment S3M-4004.1 to motion S3M-4004—

insert at end—

"; notes the research by the Centre for Public Policy for Regions (CPPR) that predicts that in real terms the Scottish Government Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) will be between £2.1 billion and £3.8 billion lower in 2013-14 than in 2009-10; further notes the comments of John McLaren of CPPR that "the prospects beyond 2013-14 are also not good and although positive real terms growth rates are likely to return, they are unlikely to be very large until UK net debt as a share of GDP falls, possibly not until the 2030s", and calls on the Scottish Government to prepare contingency plans on how such changes to the Scottish DEL will be managed."

After debate, the amendment was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 63, Against 43, Abstentions 16).

Jeremy Purvis moved amendment S3M-4004.2 to motion S3M-4004—

insert at end—

"; agrees that the temporary cut in VAT has proved costly and ineffective, and regrets the decision of the Scottish MPs who voted to support the cut when the money could have been used to create thousands of jobs in green energy and public transport."

After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 19, Against 103, Abstentions 0).

After debate, the motion as amended was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 64, Against 43, Abstentions 15).

Accordingly the Parliament resolved—That the Parliament expresses its deep concern at the contents of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget last week; recognises that this is a product of poor financial management of the UK economy in recent years that will leave unprecedented burdens of debt for many years to come; acknowledges the significant pressure that the reduction of planned budgets of £500 million will have on public services; calls on the Scottish Government to bring forward budget proposals for 2010-11 that will support a sustainable economy and effective public services and include an assessment of the carbon impact of its budget; notes the research by the Centre for Public Policy for Regions (CPPR) that predicts that in real terms the Scottish Government Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) will be between £2.1 billion and £3.8 billion lower in 2013-14 than in 2009-10; further notes the comments of John McLaren of CPPR that "the prospects beyond 2013-14 are also not good and although positive real terms growth rates are likely to return, they are unlikely to be very large until UK net debt as a share of GDP falls, possibly not until the 2030s", and calls on the Scottish Government to prepare contingency plans on how such changes to the Scottish DEL will be managed.

7. Committee Membership: Bruce Crawford, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, moved S3M-4022—That the Parliament agrees that Rhoda Grant be appointed to replace Jackie Baillie on the Health and Sport Committee.

After debate, the motion was agreed to (DT).

8. Substitution on Committees: Bruce Crawford, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, moved S3M-4023—That the Parliament agrees that Jackie Baillie be appointed to replace Johann Lamont as the Scottish Labour Party substitute on the Equal Opportunities Committee.

After debate, the motion was agreed to.

9. Decision Time: The Parliament took decisions on items 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8 as noted above.

10. Private Residential Care Home Accountability: The Parliament debated S3M-3933 in the name of Jeremy Purvis—That the Parliament recognises the vital support for vulnerable elderly people provided through well managed care homes in Scotland; notes the increase in the number of privately managed and financed residential care homes in the Scottish Borders and further notes the role of the Care Commission in ensuring that all care homes in the public and private sector are delivering a high standard of care; also notes that financial mismanagement of private sector homes operations has caused worrying disruption in care but considers that there are very limited statutory powers for the Care Commission and local authorities to scrutinise the financial capability and security of private care homes operations, and believes that it would be beneficial for there to be more regular financial accountability as there is for the standard of care.

The meeting closed at 5.38 pm.

P E Grice
Clerk of the Parliament
30 April 2009

Appendix
(Note: this Appendix does not form part of the Minutes)

Subordinate Legislation

Negative Instruments

The following instruments were laid before the Parliament on 30 April 2009 and are subject to annulment—

The Purity Criteria for Colours, Sweeteners and Miscellaneous Food Additives (Scotland) Regulations 2009 (SSI 2009/167)

laid under section 48(3) of the Food Safety Act 1990

The Period to Prepare an Adoption Allowances Scheme (Scotland) Order 2009 (SSI 2009/168)

laid under section 117 of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007

The Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 (Supervision Requirement Reports in Applications for Permanence Orders) Regulations 2009 (SSI 2009/169)

The Applications to the Court of Session to Annul Convention Adoptions or Overseas Adoptions (Scotland) Regulations 2009 (SSI 2009/170)

laid under section 117(4) of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007

Committee Reports

The following report was published on 30th April 2009

Local Government and Communities Committee, 8th Report, 2009 (Session 3): Stage 1 Report on the Scottish Local Government (Elections) Bill (SP Paper 252)