What happened to recess? Where did it go? Parliament returns tomorrow following a week-long break but the most significant item of business doesn’t take place until Thursday afternoon: The Stage 3 Debate on the Budget (Scotland) Bill. With support from the Greens secured before Stage 1, the drama has largely evaporated but that doesn’t necessarily mean the debate will be consensual. There will be two Ministerial Statements this week, with the National Review of Maternity and Neonatal Services covered on Tuesday and the Scottish Government’s response to a consultation on social security provided on Wednesday. The Scottish Government debate on Tuesday will be about setting of income tax rates. Expect the Conservatives to argue people are being taxed too much, while Labour and the Liberal Democrats argue they aren’t being taxed enough. A debate on Gordon’s Fightback, the campaign led by the late Gordon Aikman to raise funds for MND treatments, has been added to business on Wednesday. This means a debate on the Scottish Patient Safety Programme will have to be rescheduled for a second time. The Members’ Business debates will be about LGBT History month, an industrial strategy for a more prosperous, fairer Britain, and co-investment in the UK oil and gas sector.
Paul Wheelhouse, Roseanna Cunningham, Fergus Ewing and Kevin Stewart will be giving evidence to different committees this week as the Scottish Government’s new Climate Change Plan continues to dominate business away from the chamber. Elsewhere, the Justice Committee takes evidence for the first time on the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill, which is intended to improve access to justice for victims of abuse, and the Health & Sport Committee holds a roundtable session on sport for everyone. BBC radio broadcaster John Beattie will be among those squeezing round the table. The meeting will test the stamina of Committee members as Aileen Campbell also gives evidence on subordinate legislation and child protection in sport.
David Mundell, accompanied by his UK Government colleague Greg Hands, will give evidence to the Culture, Tourism, Europe & External Relations Committee as part of its long-running inquiry into the implications of the EU referendum. The Committee has been keen to get a hold of David Davis, which might explain why he has been keen to avoid it, but it remains to be seen if frustrations will be taken out on Mundell and Hands. If you’re a fan of the Committee’s work, you should be aware that the meeting takes place on Wednesday, a day earlier than usual. Elsewhere on Wednesday, the Finance & Constitution Committee takes more evidence on the increasingly controversial Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill. The first session will feature evidence from Revenue Scotland and the second representatives from Stop Climate Chaos and Transform Scotland. There might be a contrast in the levels of passion exhibited at each.
The Parliament will host a number of events and exhibitions to mark Scottish Environment Week. A Scottish Environment Link exhibition called Picture This will aim to raise awareness of the links between arts and the environment. Events on sustainable planning, environmental poetry, children and young people, environmental futures, ecological research, and inspirational nature take place over the course of the week.
While colleagues from other parties disperse on Thursday evening, Labour MSPs will be summoned for the party’s Spring Conference which takes place in the familiar surroundings of Perth’s Conference Hall from Friday until Sunday. Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn headline with keynote addresses on the Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Tom Watson, Alex Rowley, Sadiq Khan and Dave Anderson are also on the bill. In between, there will be debates on issues including Scotland in the UK, local government, connectivity and care. Delegates will be invited to vote in favour of taking Scotland’s railways into public ownership at some point before they head for the station. We can offer timely, accurate and informative briefings on the entire weekend, a crucial vote or that must-see fringe. Contact Carla Sloan for further details on our coverage.
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