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Our 60-second guide to the week ahead

Cara McLean

The series of Brexit debates continue this week. with Tuesday’s plenary looking at Securing the Interests of Scotland’s Rural Economy following the EU Referendum. Last week the focus was on economy, with access to the single market proving a key issue. While this theme will continue, contributions are also expected to focus on support funding such as for Less Favoured Areas, and via Maritime and Fisheries Funding and the Common Agricultural Policy. Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy & Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, has called on the UK Government to make swift decisions to protect rural communities, farming, food, forestry and fisheries.

Wednesday’s Labour debate will focus on Health while Thursday’s Scottish Government Debate will be on the Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare Provision. This week’s Members’ debates will cover the cost of feminine hygiene products (Monica Lennon), the role of mental health education in helping close the attainment gap (Jenny Gilruth) and action on residential road safety (Mark Ruskell).

The Education & Skills Committee will hear evidence from bodies including the Scottish Qualifications Authority and the Educational Institute of Scotland on Curriculum for Excellence. Discussions are expected to cover recent Government announcements on replacing mandatory unit assessments, simplifying guidance and other steps to address workload. It also seems likely the results of the Liberal Democrats FOI request showing almost 730 teaching vacancies in Scottish schools following the summer break will be raised.

Elsewhere, the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform Committee will hear from the Committee on Climate Change on the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme and the Local Government & Communities Committee will look at the Second Report and Proposals and Policies for meeting climate change targets. Discussions in both can be expected to highlight progress towards the 2020 target but look to address areas for improvement such as in transport and agriculture.

Representatives of the BBC are among the witnesses at this week’s European & External Relations Committee session on the BBC Charter, with the role and funding of Ofcom in ensuring the BBC delivers for Scotland sure to be a hot topic.

Last week saw the publication of a letter from the Finance Committee to Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Constitution, Derek Mackay, raising concern over the available time for parliamentary scrutiny of the forthcoming draft budget (which is due to be published after the Autumn Statement on 23rd November and currently expected in w/c 12th December). The letter states an absence of intention to publish scenario planning ahead of the draft budget is “unacceptable” and questions whether robust scrutiny will be able to take place, advising the Committee has submitted a motion calling for a parliamentary debate on the timetable for the 2017-18 draft budget. More is sure to follow.

Between her support for Owen Smith in the Labour leadership race and the voting/not-voting debacle in last week’s local tax reform debate, we can expect Kezia Dugdale to come under some fire in the Chamber. At least she has a few days to work on a comeback to use in FMQs. At the Labour conference in Liverpool, her speech will focus on the manifesto pledge to increase income tax in Scotland, while members will vote on Tuesday on proposals for more powers for Scottish and Welsh leaders including appointing a representative to the NEC. While Dugdale is confident the proposals will be passed, comments from Unite and some Corbyn supporters suggest the result may not be so clear cut.

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