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Live Reporting

By Ailsa Brown and Craig Hutchison

All times stated are UK

That's all folks

And that's all from us on Thursday 19 February 2015.

Remember you can catch up on the best of the week at Holryood at

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live website.

Holyrood at night
BBC

We'll be back next Tuesday until then have a good night and a good weekend.

MSPs pass the Community Charge Debt Bill at decision time, with 98 MSPs backing it and 15 voting against it.

MSPs voting
BBC
MSPs voting

The motion and amendments from the National Marine Plan are passed unanimously.

Decision time

Mr Swinney draws the debate to a close and that brings us to decision time.

Poll tax remnants

Mr Swinney says the last remnants of the poll tax will be abolished by this legislation.

The debts date back to the introduction of the poll tax in Scotland in 1989
BBC
The debts date back to the introduction of the poll tax in Scotland in 1989

Poll tax v council tax

The deputy first minister says the difference between the poll tax and the council tax, is that the poll tax is a dead tax whereas the council tax is still operating.

Mr Swinney says the evidence demonstrates where councils stopped collecting the poll tax it has not had a detrimental impact on the collection of the council tax.

Government close

Finance Secretary John Swinney says as we take the final steps to abolish the outstanding poll tax debt, we should remark that many, many people paid their poll tax.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney
BBC
Deputy First Minister John Swinney

Mr Swinneys says many people paid through financial hardship, making genuine sacrifices to ensure public services were funded, and this should be recognised.

He concedes he has received concerns from people about the bill.

Labour close

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie says there is little dissent, aside from the Conservatives, behind the intent of this legislation.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie
BBC
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie

The question of whether this legislation is needed has been raised several times before, but Ms Baillie says her party supports the bill and understands the need for speed.

Conservative close

Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan says the government has shown little desire to listen to concerns about the Community Charge Debt Bill.

Mr Buchanan asks how this bill is fair to people who paid the charge.

Tory MSP Cameron Buchanan
BBC
Tory MSP Cameron Buchanan

He also questions whether the legislation will stand up to legal challenge, when people understandably seek compensation.

The Tory MSP says he is "still baffled" by this government's position.

'Bury this iniquitous tax'

Mr Salmond says democracy is a precious thing, "we should defend it at every available opportunity".

The former first minister says he should have brought forward this legislation years ago to "bury this iniquitous tax for good".

Call Kaye

SNP MSP Alex Salmond
BBC
SNP MSP Alex Salmond

SNP MSP Alex Salmond explains why he called BBC Scotland's Call Kaye programme after hearing Conservative Councillor Jim Gifford, the leader of Aberdeenshire Council, being critical over the Community Charge Debt Bill.

Fears unfounded

Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm says this legislation could be viewed as the "put all your energy into collecting council tax bill" which may assuage the Conservative fears.

Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm
BBC
Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm

Mr Chisholm says there has never been a mass campaign about not paying the council tax, as there was with the poll tax.

He says he thinks the Tory fears are unfounded.

Government narrative

Mr Brown says the government is trying to paint this as if it is protecting democracy, that people will feel free to join the electoral register without being chased for tax.

However, if councils want to chase up council tax debts rather than its predecessor the poll tax, then that is ok, says Mr Brown.

Indeed, says the Tory MSP, the finance minister is enthusiastic about using that expanded electoral role to gather council tax debts.

The government's narrative falls, says Mr Brown, as council's can use the electoral register to pursue one tax but not the other.

Conservative view

Conservative MSP Gavin Brown says his party has been against this bill from the very beginning,

Conservative MSP Gavin Brown
BBC
Conservative MSP Gavin Brown

The Scottish Conservative party was critical of the announcement, the lack of consultation and the principles of the legislation, says Mr Brown.

Budget bite

Labour Alex Rowley says cuts to local authority budgets are biting into public services.

There is not a proper mechanism for funding local government finance, he says.

Labour view

Labour MSP Alex Rowley says Labour supported the passage of the Community Charge Debt Bill as "speedily as possible".

Mr Rowley says it is "right to draw a line under the poll tax".

Labour MSP Alex Rowley
BBC
Labour MSP Alex Rowley

He highlights the misery caused to communities up and down Scotland because of the poll tax - it was a "bad tax, a wrong tax and it needed to go".

Historic poll tax

Mr Biagi says many councils gave up pursuing historic poll tax debt years ago.

This government believes people should pay tax for which their liable under the laws of the land, says the minister.

He says he will expect councils to pursue debts in a way which is sympathetic to debtors needs and circumstances.

Finance Committee

The

Finance Committee received 10 submissions (seven from local authorities) to its call for evidence.

Issues raised include:

  • 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,
  • 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.

BACKGROUND

The Community Charge, or Poll Tax as it became known, was introduced in Scotland on 1 April 1989, one year before introduction in England and Wales, to replace the system of rates.

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

The poll tax sparked demonstrations when it was introduced in the early 1990s by the then Tory government
BBC
The poll tax sparked demonstrations when it was introduced in the early 1990s by the then Tory government

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.

'Simple, straightforward and unambiguous'

The minister says the legislation is "simple, straightforward and unambiguous" and is one of the shortest bills to come before the parliament.

'Democratic engagement'

Mr Biagi says the democratic engagement in the independence referendum was "second to none".

Yes no sign
BBC

The minister says the response of some councils, after the increase in people on the electoral register, was worrying.

Community Charge Debt Bill stage 3 debate

Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi says we need to deal with what the poll tax behind.

Marco Biagi
BBC
Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi

The legislation will ensure that all can come forward to register to vote without fear, drawing a line under poll tax debt.

Amendment defeated

MSPs vote against the Conservative amendment which would have created a legislative obligation on the Scottish government to monitor and publish the impact of the Community Charge Debt Bill.

13 MSPs backed it and 90 voted against it with two abstentions.

Five minute suspension

MSPs are voting on the amendment from Tory MSP Gavin Brown, with a five minute suspension.

Sympathy

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie says her party has sympathy with the substance of what Gavin Brown says, but does not think the amendment is necessary.

Ministerial response

Local Government Minister Marco Biagi says the amendment is "unnecessary and unhelpful" as it would place a burden on local authorities to provide more information.

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

Impact of the legislation

Mr Brown says his amendment creates a legislative obligation on the Scottish government to monitor and publish the impact of the legislation.

Conservative amendment

Scottish Conservative MSP Gavin Brown says councils are worried this legislation could impact on the collection of other taxes.

Conservative MSP Gavin Brown
BBC
Conservative MSP Gavin Brown

Community Charge Debt Bill stage 3

MSPs are debating the

Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill , which will end the collection of historic poll tax debt in Scotland, for the last time.

The bill would effectively write off £425m of unpaid bills relating to the controversial household tax which was introduced by the 1989 Tory government.

The Scottish Conservatives are against the new law but the Scottish government believes it is the right thing to do.

The proposal to end the debt collection was brought forward last year by former first minister Alex Salmond after several councils said they would use the details of people who registered to vote in September's independence referendum to recover outstanding payments.

Debate ends

Mr Lochhead brings the debate on the National Marine Plan to an end.

RNLI

Mr Lochhead says we all want to safeguard the marine environment and maintain sustainable development.

RNLI
RNLI

The cabinet secretary pays tribute to the work of the RNLI for keeping people safe in our waters.

Government close

Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead
BBC
Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead

Rural Affairs and Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead says he accepts there may have to be improvements made to the National Marine Plan.

Labour close

Labour MSP Sarah Boyack says the marine plan is absolutely crucial, its a framework for decision making and it must be up to date.

It is on these issues the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee found the plan is currently not fit for purpose, says Ms Boyack.

Labour MSP Sarah Boyack
BBC
Labour MSP Sarah Boyack

She says it is overly prescriptive in some areas and too vague in others.

Conservative close

Conservative MSP Jamie McGrigor says all of us surely can sign up to the vision of the National Marine Plan, however the challenge is how to achieve the vision while allowing existing sustainable activities to be preserved and advanced.

Tory MSP Jamie McGrigor
BBC
Tory MSP Jamie McGrigor

He calls for government to recognise the significant improvements which are required for the final plan.

Food and drink strategy

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott says he wants to come to the debate from the perspective of the government's food and drink strategy, which he entirely agree with he says.

A starting point for the Marine Plan is does it help these businesses achieve the government's own target to grow our food exports and eat more healthily.

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott
BBC
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott

Governments relish plans, consultations, strategies and the rest of it - but plans have to achieve something, he says.

He says the plan needs to be a live working document and not one that gathers dust.

"Not fit for purpose yet'

Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee Convener Rob Gibson says the scrutiny of the National Marine Plan by the committee has raised quite lot of criticism.

SNP MSP Rob Gibson
BBC
SNP MSP Rob Gibson

However he says the criticisms have not been intended to say the plan is not fit for purpose, it is just not fit for purpose yet.

'Daft plan'

Mr Fergusson says the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee has been "quite hard hitting and critical of the draft plan".

Alex Ferugsson
BBC

In an error in its original report it said it was the "daft plan rather than the draft plan".

Concerns

Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson's amendment says the the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee's concerns must be taken forward.

Report

Ms Beamish's amendment says the government must take cognisance of the recent Rural, Climate Change and Environment Committee report and its concerns.

BACKGROUND

Scottish government plans to protect the nation's seas are

not fit for purpose and could even make the current situation worse, MSPs said last month.

Holyrood's

Rural, Climate Change and Environment Committee said it was "deeply disappointed" with the national marine plan - which has taken five years to formulate.

Fishing
BBC

It aims to balance the oil and gas and renewable energy industries with the need to protect the environment.

Ministers said they would respond to the concerns "in due course".

Labour view

Labour MSP Claudia Beamish says the draft plan highlights the potential for the growth in aquaculture industry

Increased Scottish aquaculture would provide thousands of jobs and further Scottish exports.

Labour MSP Claudia Beamish
BBC
Labour MSP Claudia Beamish

However Ms Beamish says it is important that the National Marine Plan be published without more delays so that it can added to and built on.