Parliament News 1999-2009

Events

3 January: demonstrations took place across the UK against the Israeli air strikes on Gaza. Alex Salmond, First Minister, repeated his call for the Israeli Government to agree to an immediate ceasefire.

8 January: Michael Russell, Environment Minister, launched two consultations: 'Scotland's Water: Future Directions'; and 'Restoration of the Water Environment'.  The consultations seek views on how to ensure long term improvements to water environments.

9 January: publication of the Scottish Government's Budget Bill for 2009-10. John Swinney, Finance Secretary, said that the budget sets out details on a programme of accelerated infrastructure investment across Scotland for next year, totalling more than £230 million. Key points on accelerated spending include:

  • Scottish Enterprise to accelerate investment of £30 million on strategic infrastructure projects;
  • road projects including £4 million for improvements and dualling the A75 from Cairntop to Barlae and previously announced projects such as the Fochabers bypass and on work on the A9 at Moy, Carrbridge and Bankfoot;
  • in conjunction with SPT, accelerating the delivery of strategic Park & Ride projects between Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire and Glasgow;
  • £50 million brought forward for the NHS to ensure vital capital projects go ahead despite the current slowdown in sales of surplus NHS land and property;
  • local authorities are contributing to the overall effort by accelerating a number of their capital spending programmes;
  • £10 million brought forward for affordable housing in 2009-10 as well as £5 million to tackle fuel poverty;
  • £13 million of accelerated spend in 2009-10 will be invested in colleges and universities across Scotland to create and maintain modern, state-of-the-art facilities.

9 January: the Scottish Parliament announced it is seeking applicants for the three 'officeholder' posts.  The posts are for a new Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, Commissioner for Children and Young People and Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.  The current Ombudsman, Professor Alice Brown, and the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Kathleen Marshall, both announced last year their intention to stand down from their respective posts.

12 January: the Scottish Government is extending financial support for part-time students to help more learners develop their skills.  Funding for postgraduate students, currently limited to those on full-time courses, will be extended to up to 150 part-time students on a pilot basis during session 2009-10.

14 January: the latest statistics for manufactured exports from Scotland show that sales decreased by 1% in the third quarter of 2008 compared to the second quarter.  John Swinney, Finance Secretary, said that while exports were down on the third quarter and decreased marginally for the year overall, they were actually up in the third quarter of 2008 compared to the equivalent period in 2007.

15 January: publication of the Scottish Government's response to the Council of Economic Advisers' (CEA) First Annual Report.  Alex Salmond, First Minister, said that one of the CEA's recommendations for additional financial responsibilities for the Scottish Parliament, specifically borrowing powers, would help Scotland emerge from the economic downturn stronger and more competitive.

15 January: Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, announced that the US-UK Fulbright Commission is to receive £60,000 a year for the next three years from the Scottish Government to enable it to expand its academic exchange activities in Scotland and further the education links between the UK and the USA.  The US-UK Fulbright Commission promotes the education links between Scotland the USA and offers grants for students, academics and professions to undertake exchange opportunities.

20 January: the Scottish Governmement interrupted its weekly Cabinet meeting in Edinburgh so that Ministers could watch Barack Obama, the new President of the United States, take the Oath of Office and deliver his Inaugural Address.  Alex Salmond, First Minister, said that President Obama's message was one of hope, optimism and a new 'era of responsibility' in addressing the challenges we face as a global society.

23 January: Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, announced Scottish Government funding of £1.45 million for a major new research project on the links between environment and public health.  The research project will run for four years and will be led the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) in Edinburgh.

23 January: the official start of Scotland's Year of Homecoming;  with a Homecoming Burns Supper hosted by Alex Salmond, First Minister, in Alloway, the Ayrshire village where Robert Burns was born.

27 January: publication of the first-ever audit of current provision for the Scots language.  Linda Fabiani, Minister for Culture, said that the audit shows that the Scots language is a diverse and distinctive asset and the Scottish Government will consider how it can be further developed and promoted at home and abroad for social and economic gain.

27 January: performance in the Scottish Parliament of the play "And Then they Came For Me – Remembering the World of Anne Frank" which was the official UK event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

28 January: the Scottish Parliament's 2009-10 budget was rejected by Parliament.  The SNP's £33bn budget was lost on the casting vote of the Presiding Officer after being tied at 64 votes to 64.  The government won the support of the Scottish Conservative Party but the two Green MSPs withdrew their backing shortly before the vote.  John Swinney, Finance Secretary, said he would reintroduce the 2009-10 Budget Bill at the earliest possible opportunity.

28 January: GDP statistics for Quarter 3 of 2008 show that Scottish GDP rose by 1.4% over the year and fell by 0.8% over the quarter.  John Swinney, Finance Secretary, said that these figures reflect the global economic difficulties all countries are facing up to.

Appointments

12 January:  Graham Houston was appointed the new Chair of the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

21 January: Crawford Gillias was appointed as the new Chairman of Scottish Enterprise.

Bills

22 January: the Scottish Parliamentary Pensions Bill: Stage 3 was passed by Parliament.  The Bill sets out rules to govern the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme; to provide for the payment of resettlement grants to individuals when they stop being members of the Scottish Parliament or holding certain offices; and for connected purposes.

A summary of the Bills passed by the Parliament in the 1999-2003 and 2003-2007 sessions can be found on the Parliament website at
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/bills/billsPassed/billsum-s1.htm
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/bills/billsnotInProgress-s2/index.htm

Committees

13 January: the Parliament's Health and Sport Committee embarked on the second phase of its inquiry on Pathways into Sport.  The Committee will make a series of visits to sporting organizations and centres aimed at improving children's involvement in sport, community facilities and coaching.

14 January: publication of a report by the Government's Public Audit Committee on palliative care in Scotland.  The report's findings call on the Scottish Government to improve data collection so there is a consistent approach in the monitoring and planning of palliative care.

15 January: publication of the Stage 1 report of the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee on the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Bill.  The report highlights their concerns that plans to assess flood risks across Scotland could be delayed due to a shortage of staff with relevant experience and the knock-on effects this could have.

16 January: the Parliament's Justice Committee gave its initial approval to the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill but in its report highlighted areas of concern and ambiguity especially regarding sexual activity between older children.

23 January: debate organised by the Public Petitions Committee in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament regarding knife-crime.  A cross-section of representative from local communities, medical, legal, police and youth organisations gave their opinions knife-crime and solutions for the way forward.

29 January: the Parliament's Public Audit Committee published its report Police Call Management: an Initial Review.  The report raises concerns about the number of police forces opting to have their own individual non-emergency telephone numbers instead of a single number for all forces in Scotland.  The Committee also expressed concern that the 0845 numbers being implemented by some forces will cost too much to call as they are often excluded from many phone providers' call allowances.

Research opportunities

The Scottish Parliament has a budget for commissioning research for Parliamentary committees and holds a database of researchers interested in tendering for committee research.  Anyone wishing to be included in the database should complete the on-line form on the Parliament website at
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/corporate/recruitment/extResearcher/index.htm

Publications

Scottish Executive publications can be accessed on the Scottish Executive website at
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/publications/recent.aspx

Some of those published in the last month include:

7 January: Consultation on the right to request time to train for employees in Scotland: summary or responses to the Scottish Government.

9 January: Scotland's Budget Documents 2009-10: Budget (Scotland) Bill Supporting Document for the year ending 31 March 2010.

15 January: The Scottish Government's Response to the First Annual Report of the Council of Economic Advisers.

30 January: Marches and Parades – Consultation Responses.


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