There was a little bit of everything this week. There was consensus, with the legislation to create a new social security system for Scotland passed unanimously. There was the usual partisan sparring over Brexit. And there was personal news, as Ruth Davidson took to Twitter to announced she is pregnant and expecting a child in late autumn.
Outside the parliament, the Cambridge Analytica saga dragged on, with the SNP releasing their correspondence with the company, which, they say, shows they have nothing to hide. The timeline for Scottish Labour’s deputy leadership contest was released, and Lesley Laird’s entry to the race was quickly followed by a wave of big-name endorsements from different wings of the party. Could it be that the party has lost its appetite for divisive internal elections?
The ongoing feud between the UK and Scottish Governments over Brexit entered a new phase, when Mike Russell announced to the chamber that the Scottish Government would not consent to the UK Government’s Brexit bill. The main point of contention is Clause 11, which deals with how the different governments of the UK will decide who gets to exercise the powers coming back from Brussels. Russell said the Scottish Government was “protecting devolution”, arguing the Bill allowed the UK Government to unilaterally make changes to devolved areas of law.
Opposition parties questioned why the Bill, if it was so dangerous, had been acceptable to the Welsh Government. Adam Tomkins accused the SNP of putting its “narrow nationalist agenda” ahead of Scotland’s interests, while Neil Findlay surmised from the pair’s body language that Mike Russell had wanted to agree to the Bill but had been overruled by Nicola Sturgeon – which was promptly denied, those this did not stop speculation.
In contrast, the tone of debate on the Social Security (Scotland) Bill was considered and thoughtful. MSPs were in agreement on a number of areas in the legislation, which dealt with benefits relied on by 1.4 million people in Scotland. Parties agreed on an amendment to ensure Universal Credit payments are automatically split between couples, which campaigners have said would protect women facing domestic abuse. The issue of benefits for those with terminal illnesses was dealt with delicately and MSPs agreed to remove limits on how long a terminally ill person has left to live before they could access extra support.
There will still disagreements in some areas – Labour’s proposal for child benefit to be boosted by £5 a week was voted down, for example. But after the bill was passed by 123 votes to zero, MSPs took to their feet to applaud the Minister for Social Security, Jeane Freeman, for delivering Scotland’s first social security system.
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