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Summary

  1. Next: Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill debate

Live Reporting

By Ailsa Brown and Craig Hutchison

All times stated are UK

That's all till next week

That's all from us at

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live on Thursday 29 January 2015.

Holyrood at night
BBC

Remember you can watch the videos of all the week's chamber coverage and the best committees at our website, on demand.

We''ll be back on Tuesday morning with further coverage of Holyrood, until then have a good weekend.

Decision time

The Conservative MSP's amendment from the Chilcot Inquiry debate falls, with 15 MSPs backing it, 63 against and with 31 abstentions.

The Scottish government motion from the Chilcot Inquiry debate is passed unamended, with 96 MSPs backing it and with 14 abstentions.

MSPs voting
BBC
MSPs voting

MSPs back the general principles of the Community Charge Debt Bill, with 96 MSPs backing it and with 14 MSPs voting against it.

Minister concludes

The local government and community empowerment minister points out the singular unfairness of the poll tax

Mr Biagi concludes by calling on MSPs to back the general principles of the Community Charge Debt Bill.

'A bill rather than a ballot paper'

Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi recollects the huge turnout of 85% in the independence referendum.

Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi
BBC
Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi

The minister says: "To listen to some people they should have been marched in to a polling station and been handed a bill rather than a ballot paper."

Labour closing

Scottish Labour's finance spokesperson Jackie Baillie says it is interesting that Cosla does not believe legislation is necessary.

The bill has no practical effect because there is already a legal bar on chasing debts more than 20 years old, says Ms Baillie.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie
BBC
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie

Nevertheless Ms Baillie says Labour will support the bill but there are concerns about the consultation.

Conservative closing

Scottish Conservative MSP Gavin Brown says the Finance Committee consultation on the Community Charge Debt Bill only garnered 12 responses in total, whereas a Scottish government consultation on the bill would have produced far more.

Conservative MSP Gavin Brown
BBC
Conservative MSP Gavin Brown

That should have been carried out says Mr Brown, who was closing for his party.

BACKGROUND

Council body Cosla has voiced worries that plans to end the collection of historic poll tax debt could encourage

non-payment of outstanding council tax.

Spokesman Kevin Keenan told MSPs that people who are struggling financially may think they can "walk away" from paying into the current system.

The controversial tax was abolished in 1993 leaving £425m in debts.

Another demo
BBC

The Scottish government argued that after two decades it was time to stop chasing poll tax arrears.

It introduced the Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill to Holyrood to stop councils from pursuing the debt after several said they would use the details of people who registered for the independence referendum vote to recover outstanding cash.

Some councils are opposed to the legislation, while others are supportive.

Councils and Cosla objections

Gavin Brown asks what if two people both disagreed with the Community Charge, but one paid after making financial sacrifices, while the other could afford to pay but chose not to?

Was that fair, asks Mr Brown.

The Tory MSP says the majority of councils that submitted evidence to the Finance Committee, and indeed Cosla, objected to the bill.

Objection on principle

Scottish Conservative MSP Gavin Brown says they are not backing the Community Charge Debt Bill, not because of any great affection for the Community Charge, rather due to principle.

Mr Brown says that very principle is the same principle Mr Swinney has brought to the chamber on occasion, basically that people should pay taxes for which they are liable.

Conservative MSP Gavin Brown
BBC
Conservative MSP Gavin Brown

Is it now the case that the finance secretary only backs that taxes which he believes in?

Labour back the bill

Labour MSP Alex Rowley says Labour will support the Community Charge Debt Bill and work with the government on it.

Mr Rowley says many local authorities have already taken the view that Community Charge arrears are no longer realistically collectable.

Labour MSP Alex Rowley
BBC
Labour MSP Alex Rowley

He says he is sure most people will remember the time of the poll tax and how unfair it was and how many people the length and breadth of Scotland could not afford to pay.

The Labour MSP says we should not be waging war on people who cannot afford to pay - we should be waging war on poverty.

Finance Committee convener

Finance Committee Kenneth Gibson says the committee had raised the issue of potential unintended consequences the bill might pose.

Mr Gibson points out that ten local authorities have already ceased collections of the Community Charge arrears of their own volition.

Finance Committee Convener Kenneth Gibson
BBC
Finance Committee Convener Kenneth Gibson

The committee had expressed concerns about the speed with which the legislation is passing through Holyrood, says the SNP MSP.

'Defunct and discredited tax'

Mr Swinney says the Community Charge has "entirely run its course" and people objected to it as it bore no relation to what people could afford to pay.

He says the referendum on independence inspired record numbers of people to vote and " we don't want people to fear being on electoral registers".

Poll tax montage
Getty Images

The finance secretary says the poll tax is a "defunct and discredited tax" that should be consigned to history once and for all".

'Expedited timetable'

Finance Secretary John Swinney says the Community Charge Debt Bill has been brought forward on an expedited timetable.

Mr Swinney says this was because of concern that some local authority leaders had expressed an appetite to gather information from voter registration in the UK for the independence referendum to reactivate the pursuit of arrears.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney
BBC
Deputy First Minister John Swinney

That sat uncomfortably, following the massive political controversy and disruption caused by the poll tax.

Finance Committee call for evidence

The

Finance Committee received 10 submissions to its call for evidence on the
Community Charge Debt Bill:

  • Overall support for the bill was mixed among local authorities. Some stated that they should be able to continue collecting all debts due to them, but others were content that community charge collection should now cease.
  • Local authorities and others warned that the Bill could potentially provide a precedent for non-payment of other taxes, particularly council tax.
  • On the financial settlement, local authorities warned that the settlement does not take account of potential new payment arrangements that might arise in future.

Community Charge Debt Bill

The

Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Parliament on 3 December 2014.

The intention of the bill is to end collection of community charge, more commonly known as "poll tax", debts.

The Community Charge was introduced in Scotland on 1 April 1989, one year before introduction in England and Wales, to replace the system of rates.

Another poll tax demo
BBC

The charge was a flat-rate, per capita charge on every adult, with some discounts and exemptions, at a rate set by local authorities.

It was replaced by the current council tax system in 1993.

The Scottish Government has agreed to provide a financial settlement totalling £869,000 to compensate local authorities, based on the amount of debt which they estimate should have been recovered from existing recovery arrangements.

Community Charge Debt Bill debate

Finance Secretary John Swinney is debating the

Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill at the first stage of parliamentary scrutiny.

'Deafening silence of 179 deceased souls'

Mr Brown says it is the families of our service personnel who deserve these answers.

The cabinet secretary highlights the "deafening silence of 179 deceased souls" who want answers and why should they wait.

Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson says that politicians should not impose a false publication date on Chilcot.

Mr Brown says he wants to see the report done in the correct way, but ask why it has taken six years so far?

Troops
Getty Images
Troops in Iraq

That concludes the debate on the Chilcot Inquiry.

'Nothing wrong with holding elected representatives to account'

Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown Keith Brown says this debate on the Chilcot Inquiry because there is nothing wrong with holding elected representatives to account.

Mr Brown says we should have a fearless investigation and it should not be hamstrung in seeking to protect very powerful people.

Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown
BBC
Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brow

It is perfectly legitimate that we should be discussing the Chilcot Inquiry, says Mr Brown.

'Disrespectful to the dead, the injured, their families and the Iraqi people"

Ms Fee says the Chilcot Inquiry must not be used in election campaigning as "that would be disrespectful to the dead, the injured, their families and the Iraqi people".

'Won't support the use of Chilcot as a political tactic'

Labour MSP Mary Fee says all the parties want the Chilcot Inquiry to be published as soon as possible, but warns MSPs must beware of it becoming a party political issue.

The final call on its publication will be made by Sir John Chilcot, she says.

Labour MSP Mary Fee
BBC
Labour MSP Mary Fee

Ms Fee says the delays are unacceptable families of those killed and injured and they deserve better.

"We won't support the use of Chilcot as a political tactic", as it is too important for that says the Labour MSP.

No apology

Labour MSP Mark Griffin, under calls from the SNP, says he will not apologise for a war he did not support and began when he was at school.

Labour MSP Mark Griffin
BBC
Labour MSP Mark Griffin

Mr Griffin says it is strange that no SNP MSP has recognised that Labour are backing the government motion.

'Shameful'

SNP MSP Kenny MacAskill says "It is shameful that those Labour members who used their votes to drive through a majority in favour of war are not here today to apologise or atone for the actions that they took.

SNP MSP Kenny MacAskill
BBC
SNP MSP Kenny MacAskill

"They may think that by putting forward representatives who were not there, their fingerprints are not on the Iraq war, that new skins can be put forward ,this war remains not just the war of Tony Blair but the war of Jim Murphy and the war of the Labour party that has wreaked havoc in Scotland, in the rest of the world and taken the lives of young service men and women and caused difficulties throughout humanity."

'Whitewash'

SNP MSP Christine Grahame says the Labour benches in Holryood don't want to talk about the Chilcot Inquiry.

Ms Grahame says Scotland is entitled to know the truth of what happened, but says the Chilcot Inquiry will be a "whitewash at the end of the day".

SNP MSP Christine Grahame
BBC
SNP MSP Christine Grahame

"The delay is because there's too many people with too much to lose."

'Exercise to support the SNP's general election campaign'

Labour MSP James Kelly calls for the publication of the inquiry report as early as possible.

However he says the government would be better off focusing on the A&E crisis, youth unemployment and college cuts, rather than this "exercise to support the SNP's general election campaign".

Labour MSP James Kelly
BBC
Labour MSP James Kelly

Mr Kelly takes no interventions, despite repeated requests.

Acccountability

Mr Rennie says: "I hope it is the case, I really hope that those who made the decision to go to war are held accountable for their actions".

'Publish, publish, publish without delay'

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie says he voted in the House of Commons for an inquiry into Iraq on four separate occasions over three years, but on each of the four occasions the Labour government rejected those pleas.

Mr Rennie says the Chilcot inquiry has insufficient authority and six years later we still have no answers to show.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie
BBC
Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie

It is absolutely right this government adds weight to the growing chorus of "publish, publish, publish without delay".

'Peaceful and secure future'

Ms Dugdale says in the years since the Iraq war we now know the intelligence behind the decision to go to war was wrong and the Iraqi people were let down by the failure of post war planning.

The number of lives lost is far too high, says Scottish Labour's deputy leader.

Whatever side of the argument we were on 10 years ago, says Ms Dugdale, what matters now is learning from the past and working for a more peaceful and secure future.

That is why, she says, Labour will vote with the government tonight.

Labour view

Scottish Labour deputy leader Kezia Dugdale agrees that the Chilcot Inquiry should be published as soon as possible.

However, Ms Dugdale says what her party won't support is talk of using the inquiry as a political tactic - it is too important for that.

Deputy Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale
BBC
Deputy Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale

Ms Dugdale refuses repeated attempts at interventions.

Conservative amendment

Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson's amendement:

It accepts that the timing of the release of the findings of the Chilcot inquiry into the invasion of Iraq is entirely for the inquiry itself to decide.

It expresses its disappointment that the inquiry has now stated that its findings will not be published before the 2015 general election, and, despite Sir John Chilcot's statement confirming this, calls on him to publish the inquiry's findings as soon as possible.‖

'Proper inquiry'

Mr Ferguson says the Maxwellisation - giving an individual mentioned in the report sight of it before publication - is part of the process and should not be controlled or timed by any government.

He says he does find the government motion confusing as it calls for the report to be published before the general election and then concludes by asking for it as soon as possible.

The Conservative MSP says people will be best served by a proper inquiry.

Conservative view

Conservative MSP Alex Ferguson says he does not believe for a minute the date of publication of the report is amongst the top 10 concerns of the Scottish people.

Mr Ferguson says it is important to find out what happened.

Conservative MSP Alex Ferguson
BBC
Conservative MSP Alex Ferguson

He says he is disappointed the Chilcot Inquiry will not be published before the general election, but it is imperative the process is completed properly.

Government motion

The first minister concludes saying "she is proud to move this motion in my name".

Here is Ms Sturgeon's motion:

S4M-12182 Nicola Sturgeon: The Chilcot Inquiry—

That the Parliament calls for Sir John Chilcot's official inquiry into the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent war to publish its findings and all evidence ahead of the UK general election

It acknowledges that the Iraq war resulted in the deaths of 179 UK service personnel and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians; notes that the cost to taxpayers of the war is estimated at £9.6 billion

It believes that, six years after the inquiry was established and three years after hearings concluded, it is in the interests of transparency, accountability and democracy that the report is published as soon as possible and that any further delay in publication is completely unjustifiable.

'Publish before the general election'

Nicola Sturgeon says "I hope this chamber will come together with one voice and demand loudly and clearly the Chilcot report and findings is published before the general election".

'Policy blunder of quite epic proportions'

The first minister says the invasion of Iraq was a 'policy blunder of quite epic proportions', the consequences of which we are living with today.

'Completely unjustifiable'

The ongoing delay is "completely unjustifiable" and should be revisited as a matter of urgency, says Ms Sturgeon.

She says as long as it remains hidden it will make the public suspicious.

It is unacceptable the public don't have the answers to the questions about the Iraq war before they cast their votes in the forthcoming general election.

'Scandalous'

Ms Sturgeon says the inquiry has been plagued by delays from the outset.

The public evidence sessions were completed almost four years ago on 2 February 2011.

The first minister says the delay in publication has been "scandalous".

'No weapons of mass destruction'

Ms Sturgeon says the UK were take into the war on a "false pretext", as there were "no weapons of mass destruction".

The legal basis was at best flimsy and worst a gross violation of international law she says.

The first minister says here we are nearly six years since the Chilcot Inquiry was launched and there has still been no answers.

"shocking and awful"

Ms Sturgeon says the Iraq war was "shocking and awful".

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
BBC
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

The first minister says 150,000 Iraqi civilians died in the war highlighting the "full horror and true human suffering of the war".

Chilcot Inquiry debate

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon leads the debate on the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war.

We're back and coming up

Welcome back to

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live coverage of the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 29 January 2015.

The afternoon session in the chamber starts at the earlier time of 2pm when the Scottish government will lead a debate on the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war.

In a symbolic move, on 9 April, US soldiers pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein in the city centre
Reuters
US soldiers pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein in the city centre in what became a symbolic moment of the Iraq war

MSPs will then debate the

Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill at the first stage of its parliamentary scrutiny.

Poll tax demo with Thatcher puppet
BBC