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No new bills in parliament

Months of inertia means SNP ‘failing to govern’, say Tories

Sturgeon Sept 2016Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of a lack of action by failing to introduce a single piece of legislation for the past six months.

Scottish Tories have produced analysis showing that in the 2007-11 parliament, the SNP Government had introduced three bills by now and in the 2011-16 parliament, it had brought forward four. 

The last time the SNP Government introduced a new bill to the Parliament was more than a year ago. 

The SNP set out its priorities last week when it published its only major piece of legislation so far – a consultation on a draft Referendum Bill.

In September’s Programme for Government the SNP set out 14 bills for introduction in this year, meaning that they will all have to be rushed into the parliament before April, say the Tories.

Conservative deputy chief whip Maurice Golden said: “Even by the SNP’s own standards, it is a woeful start to a new administration. It is a clear hallmark of a Government that has run out of ideas.

“The First Minister is twiddling her thumbs and focusing all her attention on a referendum on independence that the majority don’t want.

“The SNP desperately need to start getting on with the day job of governing Scotland rather than continuing to campaign for an unpopular and divisive second referendum.”

> Scotland could become the official successor state to the UK within the European Union under plans to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

There will be an alternative option for Scotland to remain within the EU – not just as an independent nation but as the UK’s successor state – if the UK fails to negotiate a Scottish Brexit deal.

Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, said Scotland could swap places with Britain in the EU if there was a vote for independence in a second referendum.

He said it was “difficult to deny” that the EU would have the “option” of handing Scotland the UK’s seat in the EU after Brexit under those circumstances.

Curtice based his claim on the UK’s Foreign Office paper ahead of the 2014 referendum that stated an independent Scotland would not inherit EU membership because the UK was the recognised member state.

He said: “Clearly it would depend how the EU decided to interpret that. There would be a choice facing the EU. It could decide to treat Scotland, which is already part of the EU, as the successor state.

“The point the Foreign Office paper argued was that an independent Scotland would not inherit EU membership as that membership was the UK’s. But if the rest of the UK wants to get out of the EU, a decision could be made in regard to Scotland being the continuing state.”

The Conservatives’ research on Government legislation

The parliament has sat on 35 days so far in this session

In their first term, the SNP Government had introduced three Bills before 1 November 2007. The Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill: introduced by John Swinney on 4 September 2007, the Graduate Endowment Abolition (Scotland) Bill (Ex) introduced by Fiona Hyslop on 22 October 2007 and the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Bill: introduced by Nicola Sturgeon on 25 October 2007 (The Scottish Government, Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill, link; ibid, Public Health etc. (Scotland) Bill, link; ibid, Graduate Endowment Abolition (Scotland) Bill, link).

In their second term, the SNP Government had introduced four Bills before 1 November 2011.  The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill: introduced by Nicola Sturgeon on 31 October 2011, the Agricultural Holdings (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill: introduced by Richard Lochhead on 31 October 2011, the National Library of Scotland Bill: introduced by Fiona Hyslop on 26 October 2011 and the  Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill: introduced by Kenny MacAskill on 16 June 2011 (The Scottish Government, Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill, link; ibid, Agricultural Holdings (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, link; ibid, National Library of Scotland Bill, link; ibid, Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill, link).

The last time a non-budget bill was introduced by the SNP Government was over a year ago, the Scottish Parliament has sat on 91 days since then. The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill and the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Bill were introduced by Shona Robison and Michael Matheson respectively on 8 October 2015 (The Scottish Government, Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill, link; ibid, Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Bill, link).

The last time the Parliament debated a bill was on the 22 March 2016, it has sat on 36 days since then. The Burial and Cremation Bill and the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Bill had their stage three debate and were passed by the Parliament (The Scottish Parliament, Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill, link).

The last time the Parliament debated a member’s bill was on 1 March 2016, it has sat on 45 days since then. This was Sandra White’s Footway and Parking Bill (The Scottish Parliament, Footway Parking and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill, link). 

On 20 October, the SNP Government published a consultation for the draft Referendum Bill for consultation. The consultation will run until January 2017 (The Scottish Government, Consultation on a Draft Referendum Bill, 20 October 2016, link).

This is despite Sturgeon saying that ‘independence was not my starting point’ and she was committed to ‘explore all options’. ‘I said in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum that, in seeking to chart a way forward for Scotland, independence was not my starting point. That remains the case. Protecting Scotland’s interests is my starting point and I will explore all options to do so.’ (SNP, Scotland’s future in the EU: speech to IPPR Scotland, link).

Ms Sturgeon said that education would be her Government’s ‘defining mission’.  ‘The defining mission of this government will be education.’ (Nicola Sturgeon Priorities Speech, 25 May 2016, link).

She also said that closing the attainment gap is her Government’s ‘number one priority’. ‘In our schools, raising the bar for all and closing the attainment gap – opening up opportunity for every child – is the number one priority of my government.’ (Nicola Sturgeon Speech SNP Conference 2016, 15 October 2016, link).

In its Programme for Government the SNP set out 14 bills that they would introduce in 2016/17

Air Passenger Duty Bill

Budget Bill

Child Poverty Bill

Contract (Third Party Rights) Bill

Domestic Abuse Bill

Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation Bill

Forestry Bill

Gender Balance on Public Boards Bill

Housing (Amendment) Bill

Islands Bill

Limitation (Childhood Abuse) Bill

Railway Policing Bill

Social Security Bill

Wild Animals in Circuses Bill

(The Scottish Government, A Plan for Scotland, The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2016/17, 6 September 2016).

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