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The Week Ahead in 60 Seconds

Carla Sloan

All eyes will be on Westminster this week as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, prepares his first Spring Budget to be presented to MPs on Wednesday.

The Sunday papers suggest the Chancellor will announce plans to save £60bn, in preparation for any “economic turbulence” created by the UK’s exit from the single market and EU. The SNP has attacked the proposal, calling for the Budget to directly protect the economy, households and the country from Brexit’s impact. We can expect to hear similar arguments at Holyrood this week, as the SNP ramps up the rhetoric on Brexit and a second independence referendum ahead of its conference in Aberdeen later this month.

Wednesday is also International Women’s Day and MSPs will use the opportunity to raise awareness of issues facing women in Scotland and beyond. On Tuesday, the Economy, Jobs & Fair Work Committee will hold its first evidence session on the gender pay gap with organisations including Engender, Close the Gap, the Equality & Human Rights Commission and a host of academics. The meeting will set the tone for future evidence sessions, which will be held regularly until May. Also on Tuesday, the Scottish Government will lead a debate on International Women’s Day and this follows a successful IWD celebration at the Scottish Parliament last weekend, chaired by Deputy Presiding Officer Linda Fabiani.

The Parliament’s committees are jam-packed with witness panels this week. The Justice Committee hears evidence on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill at Stage 1, Health & Sport meets football organisations on its child protection in sport inquiry and the Local Government & Communities Committee gathers evidence from Shelter and Cyrenians, among others, on homelessness. Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs & Fair Work, Keith Brown, may feel the heat at the Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee with MSPs set to grill him on major transport infrastructure projects. In private sessions, committees will continue discussions on the draft climate change plan.

One to watch is Wednesday’s Education & Skills Committee including evidence from Cabinet Secretary for Education & Skills, John Swinney. He’s there to answer questions on a range of educational topics, including Additional Support Needs, PSE and the Curriculum for Excellence. With Scottish Labour securing a debate on education on Wednesday afternoon – straight after Portfolio Questions on the same topic – it’ll be a busy day for Mr Swinney as he continues to defend the Scottish Government’s closely-scrutinised educational policies.

Thursday is a particularly busy day in the Chamber. Theresa May’s speech to the Scottish Conservative Conference last weekend, as well as the UK Budget, could well dominate FMQs. MSPs will return after lunch for SPCB questions (including hot topics such as online payslips for parliamentary staff) and two Scottish Government debates on the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2017 and biodiversity.

Members’ Business debates this week include Local Government Finance and the State of Debt (Alex Rowley), Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal (Linda Fabiani) and Community Jobs Scotland (Adam Tomkins).

Outside of Edinburgh, the Liberal Democrats and Greens will hold their respective party conferences this weekend. Remember newsdirect can offer full or partial coverage if you can’t make it along. Contact for further info.

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