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The Week Ahead in 60 Seconds

Katie Armour

The Parliament is set to debate the First Minister’s independence motion – Scotland’s Choice – on Tuesday and Wednesday. It is expected to pass with the support of the Scottish Greens, but has already faced staunch opposition. Scottish Conservative Leader, Ruth Davidson, spoke against the vote on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning. She referenced a number of opinion polls which suggested Scots were on the whole against holding another referendum in the next few years, stressed that the SNP does not represent the whole of Scotland and said it was “acting against the majority wishes of the people”. Kezia Dugdale remains adamant that “Scotland is already divided enough” and Willie Rennie criticised the SNP for refusing to clarify whether it would attempt to re-enter the EU, calling it “an absurd gap” in the argument.

Nicola Sturgeon has however declared that if the Prime Minister refuses to grant the legal permission for a second independence referendum following the vote, it would be “democratically indefensible” and would dispel the myth that the union is a partnership of equals.

Elsewhere, Rhoda Grant will use her Members’ Business on Tuesday to highlight the launch of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness and call for a “society-wide response” to the biological, psychological, and behavioural consequences of isolation. On Wednesday members will debate the motion on ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Cromarty and Moray Firths, which comes after a petition against the practice attracted over 100,000 signatures. On Thursday Ben Macpherson will call for “immediate and resolute action” to support the persecuted Yazidi people.

This week’s portfolio questions are on communities, social security and equalities. The First Minister is likely to be pressed on the details of a second independence referendum during FMQs on Thursday, but planning for the demographic challenges of an ageing population and mental health services for children and adolescents will also be touched upon. Organ donation, air pollution, airport expansion and fisheries opportunities will be raised in general questions on Thursday morning.

Holyrood’s committees will investigate a range of issues this week. The Economy, Jobs & Fair Work will be focusing on bankruptcy, the Finance & Constitution Committee on reviewing the budget process and the Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee on the implications of Brexit and agriculture and forestry. The Local Government & Communities Committee will take evidence on homelessness and the Education & Skills Committee is inviting legal insight on the Children’s Hearings System. Council and health representatives will be aiding the Equalities & Human Rights Committee with their inquiries into destitution, asylum and insecure immigration status and the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform Committee is looking at the Carbon Accounting Scheme. Having concluded its evidence sessions on child protection in sport, the Health & Sport Committee will embark on its preventative agenda.

On Thursday, the Government will lead a debate on the British Sign Language Consultation, a matter which the Equalities & Human Rights Committee has returned to several times. A ministerial statement is expected on the expansion of free early learning and childcare and on Wednesday members will vote on the Standards, Procedures & Public Appointments Committee motion on acting conveners.

In Westminster rumours of an early May snap election circulated on the back of the Tory expenses scandal but Downing Street Officials have made clear “there isn’t going to be one… it is not going to happen”. Brexit continues to permeate the agenda in both houses this week in the run up the triggering of Article 50 on Wednesday 29th March. Highlights include a short debate on the position of Gibraltar in Brexit negotiations and the debate on the EU Select Committee report on the impact of Brexit on the environment and climate change

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