Press release on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill

Below is an official press release on my views about the Equal Marriage Bill, which I voted in favour of last week.

“HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS MSP WELCOMES EQUAL MARRIAGE VOTE

Independent Highland and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart has spoken of her delight at last week’s Holyrood vote for equal marriage, and congratulated the Government on creating strong protections for those with a religious objection. On Wednesday 20 November, MSPs voted 98 to 15 to approve the general principles of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. There was also a clear majority of Highlands and Islands MSPs in favour, with 10 voting for the Bill, 3 against and 2 absent from the vote [1].

Ms Urquhart said:

“Discrimination against same-sex couples is unconscionable and shameful – I can’t imagine the pain and frustration of being told by the state that you cannot marry the person you love. I was incredibly proud to cast my vote for equal marriage last week, and delighted that such an overwhelming number of MSPs, including two-thirds of my Highlands and Islands colleagues, did so too.

“The Bill promotes the religious freedom of denominations – such as Reform Judaism, Unitarians and Quakers – who wish to conduct same-sex marriages, while preserving that of religious groups who oppose them. In the dozens of countries that have adopted equal marriage laws, many of which are under the jurisdiction of the European Convention on Human Rights, not one has ever forced religious organisations to conduct same-sex unions. The protections written into this Bill mean that Scotland will be no different, though I hope in time more faith organisations will freely choose to end discrimination against same-sex couples.”

ENDS

For more information or comment, please contact Gary Cocker on gary.cocker@scottish.parliament.uk or 0131 348 5053.

Notes to editors:

1. Highlands and Islands MSPs voting for the Bill: Jean Urquhart (Ind, H&I), John Finnie (Ind, H&I), Mike MacKenzie (SNP, H&I), David Stewart (Lab, H&I), Rhoda Grant (Lab, H&I), Mary Scanlon (Con, H&I), Michael Russell (SNP, Argyll and Bute), Rob Gibson (SNP, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross), Richard Lochhead (SNP, Moray), Liam McArthur (LD, Orkney Islands).

Highlands and Islands MSPs voting against the Bill: Jamie McGrigor (Con, H&I), Alasdair Allan (Lab, Na h-Eileanan an Iar), Fergus Ewing (SNP, Inverness and Nairn).

Highlands and Islands MSPs absent: David Thompson (Lab, Ross, Skye and Inverness West), Tavish Scott (LD, Shetland Islands).

The full Official Report of the debate and vote is available at: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28862.aspx?r=8647&mode=html#iob_78286

 

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BLOG: The Finance Committee Budget Votes

A number of press outlets have carried a story regarding a vote that took place at the Finance Committee last Wednesday. As reported, I did vote against an SNP amendment to our Committee’s budget report that would have explicitly supported the budget; however, I also voted against an opposition amendment that would have explicitly condemned the budget, a fact that seems to have somehow been missed out by the media.

The Committee system, in common with the Parliament’s original ethos, was designed to engender consensus and to encourage co-operation among MSPs regardless of their party affiliation. Holyrood’s Committees are also intended (perhaps optimistically) to be the yin to the Chamber’s yang, allowing thoughtful debate free from the partisan point-scoring that can, on occasion, take place in the Chamber.

The Budget Report, so ably distilled into a concise document by the Committee’s staff from the hours of expert evidence taken by the Committee on the impact of the Government’s proposed Budget, is a fair and balanced analysis of the Budget. It recognises that there are a range of opinions on the strength of the Budget, praising it where it deserves to be praised and offering constructive suggestions for change or further thought where the Committee considered that would be useful.

It’s a report that I am proud to put my name to, and that I was determined to keep clear from any amendments which would seek to change the spirit of the Report for pointless political point-scoring without any empirical evidence to back them. Michael McMahon, whose scrutiny has been an asset to the Committee, unfortunately put forward an amendment seeking outright criticism, an amendment that could not be backed by any interpretation of the evidence. To counter this, John Mason, who has been an able and thorough Deputy Convener of the Committee, put forward an amendment offering outright praise, which would also not have been fair given the evidence taken by the Committee.

In both instances, I voted to retain the original Report. Had the Report been altered by either amendment, it would have been difficult for the whole Committee to agree to support the Report, which would have been incredibly damaging and only added to the partisan cloud hanging over Holyrood these days. I’m delighted that the original report was wholeheartedly endorsed by the Committee, and hope that this consensus can be built on in the New Year.

Event: Jean Urquhart MSP to Chair Festival of Politics Event

Scottish poets George Gunn, Aonghas MacNeacail and Janet Paisley will take part in a debate on the place of poetry in politics at this year’s Festival of Politics. This year’s festival includes a four-day programme of politics, music, art, theatre, literature and debate. The session, titled “What Place for Poetry in Politics?”, will be an opportunity to debate with some of Scotland’s most highly respected writers and poets, with the discussion focusing particularly on the place of poetry in contemporary politics, if it matters in today’s society and the impact of political poetry on influencing change.

Jean Urquhart, MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, will chair the session, she said:

“Writers and poets have always played an important part in recording our history and folk probably don’t always acknowledge that. 

“A good example for the Scottish Parliament of course, was when Sheena Wellington sang, ‘A Man’s A Man’, Burns famous poem, at the official opening in 1999.  

“But where stands the poet today?  Are they revolutionaries?  Can they influence us, should they influence us? 

“A welcome awaits those who will come along, listen to and chew the fat with three of Scotland’s fine poets who have a great deal to say on the subject.”

The session, ‘What Place for Poetry in Politics’ will take place on 25 August at 15.30-16.30 in the Scottish Parliament and is free of charge.