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Our 60-second guide to the week ahead

By Carla Sloan

Last week’s 60-second guide was Brexit-themed and Holyrood’s diary for the week ahead shows no sign of shifting that focus. The weekend’s indyref anniversary celebrations invited comment from all party leaders, but it was Nicola Sturgeon’s assertion that Scottish independence “transcends” Brexit, oil and national wealth that could lead to turbulent Chamber exchanges over the next few days.

And there’s no shortage of opportunities for the opposition to respond to the First Minister’s views. Earlier this month, Nicola Sturgeon promised a series of Government-led debates on the impact of Brexit on specific issues, including rural affairs, education and the environment. The first of these debates, focused on the economy, takes place on Tuesday. The single market and Scotland’s future relationship with its European trading partners will dominate the discussion, especially after Jean-Claude Juncker’s warning over “picking and choosing” parts of EU membership during his State of the Union address last week.

Meanwhile, it’s business as usual in the Committee rooms. Ministers will be carrying out their procedural duties, like speaking on subordinate legislation and moving instruments.

On Tuesday, a roundtable session on emissions targets takes place at the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform Committee. There was lots to celebrate in last week’s Committee on Climate Change report, which predicted the Scottish Government is on track to meet its 2020 target. But with poor performance detected in transport and agriculture, witnesses will press the Government for better leadership in these areas to reflect its success in the renewables and waste sectors.

GP recruitment hasn’t left the headlines – or MSPs’ lines of questioning – since Parliament returned from recess and the Health & Sport Committee will seek stakeholders’ views on the topic on Tuesday. Witnesses representing GPs will sit alongside those from pharmacy, nursing and the allied health professions to discuss the GP hub model. The Committee has also opted for a second panel with practitioners from the same sectors. This move, combined with the Committee’s Strategic Plan released last week, should ensure a complex yet focused and engaging debate around primary care as we approach winter and a busy period for healthcare.

Wednesday sees a more political debate on health as the Conservatives hold their first opposition debate of the new term. Even at this early stage, health is a major issue for Parliament’s second largest party, with Ruth Davidson raising NHS staffing at last week’s FMQs. Her colleague Brian Whittle and Labour’s Kezia Dugdale have both urged the SNP for “a renewed focus on the day job”, so the debate could be a welcome reprieve from the well-rehearsed arguments around the constitution.

Fergus Ewing is at the Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee on Wednesday, giving further evidence on CAP payments following his progress statement to Parliament last week.  Elsewhere, the Finance Committee will hear from the Fraser of Allander Institute on Scotland’s Budget 2016 and the think tank will explain its findings from last week’s report, which raised concerns about local government funding and the future of public services.

Other issues to be debated in the Chamber this week include local tax reform and Scotland’s reputation for staging events. Members’ Business debates are on eye health (Stuart McMillan), promoting local produce from Angus (Graeme Dey) and the Standing Safe campaign (Margaret Mitchell) on sexual violence at colleges and universities.

A meeting which may attract more attention than usual this week is Joe FitzPatrick’s appearance at the Standards, Procedures & Public Appointments Committee. The Minister for Parliamentary Business will face questions on Parliamentary Liaison Officers (PLOs) and the recent changes made to the Ministerial Code, prompted after concerns were raised about aides’ Committee membership. At its last meeting, some members agreed further consideration on the issue was required – perhaps with a look to other legislatures – so anyone with an interest in parliamentary structure and how Holyrood continues to develop should definitely tune in.

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