The weekend brought the news that Theresa May will make a major speech on Brexit this week, reportedly to announce her willingness to leave the single market to regain control of UK borders. Further afield, President-elect Donald Trump has also commented on Brexit and the UK’s future trade relationship with the US, in an interview with high-profile Brexiteer Michael Gove. It should come as no surprise, then, that Brexit is still the hot topic at the Scottish Parliament with a debate planned for Tuesday. MSPs are set to discuss how Scotland’s interests can be best protected as the Prime Minister prepares to trigger Article 50 in March.
Despite one scheduled question on EU students at this week’s Portfolio Questions, the remainder of Holyrood’s diary focuses on public services as Draft Budget negotiations continue. The Conservatives will use Chamber time to lead two debates on enterprise and health, and we’ll have Ministerial Statements on the trauma centre network and the Draft Climate Change Plan. Brexit is likely to come back to the fore on Thursday afternoon, however, when the Scottish Government holds a debate on the future of rural development funding.
Members’ Business kicks off on Tuesday with a debate on the campaign for full control over fishing in the offshore economic zone (Stewart Stevenson). Members will reflect on the 30th anniversary of the Caterpillar Plant workers’ occupation in Tannochside on Wednesday (Richard Leonard) while concerns will be raised about Jobcentre closures in Glasgow on Thursday (Bob Doris).
Committees will hear evidence on a diverse range of topics this week. The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and Care Inspectorate will face questions as part of their regular appearance at the Health & Sport Committee, while academics from universities and research institutes will give evidence on deer management to the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform Committee. The Justice Committee continues its inquiry into the role and purpose of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service with evidence from the Lord Advocate. Elsewhere, the topical issues of Curriculum for Excellence and rail services will be scrutinised by the Education & Skills Committee and Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee respectively.
Two meetings to keep an eye on are today’s Finance & Constitution Committee with Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Constitution, Derek Mackay. After facing a grilling from Members on the Draft Budget’s expenditure proposals, Mr Mackay will have the arguably more challenging task of taking questions from the public via Twitter. Will we see more of these interactive sessions in future? The Presiding Officer’s Commission on Parliamentary Reform – which today will hear from former First Ministers on their vision for Holyrood’s future – may be watching these public meetings closely when it drafts its recommendations for better engagement later this year.
Also this week, the Local Government & Communities Committee turns its focus to council elections and how to encourage voting this May. Representatives from the Electoral Commission, Education Scotland and the Electoral Management Board will share their views on public awareness and increasing turnout, before Minister for Parliamentary Business, Joe FitzPatrick, faces questions from the Committee.
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