Unless they rely on public transport, no Siberian snow storm will stop Scotland’s elected representatives from carrying out the duties expected of them by the public. Health issues will feature prominently in the Chamber this week, with a Scottish Government debate about developing a healthy weight strategy taking place on Tuesday; then Members’ Business debates on eating disorders and atrial fibrillation over the next two days. Cabinet Secretary for Health & Sport, Shona Robison, is expected to announce the Scottish Government’s plans for minimum unit pricing but it’s unclear when this will happen (the SSI is expected to be lodged on Thursday). It would be interesting timing if this happened on the same day as the Members’ Business debate about whisky tourism.
Other business in the Chamber this week includes a Scottish Conservative debate about an early years issue yet to be revealed and the Stage 3 proceedings for the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill. A Ministerial Statement about Scotland’s plan to tackle climate change and reduce emissions is scheduled for Thursday, with the Scottish Government’s final Climate Change Plan also expected this week. Portfolio Questions on Wednesday cover culture, tourism and external affairs, then justice. Questions about the Scottish Police Authority and the delayed transport police merger are scheduled to delight and amuse the justice ministers who rarely get a chance to discuss such things. Early learning and childcare issues, which have been to fore recently because of an Accounts Commission and Auditor General for Scotland report, will be raised by several speakers at General Questions on Thursday.
As if in an act of penitence for the recent week-long recess, several committees will this week busy themselves with subordinate legislation. But there’s plenty of interesting business as well. Tomorrow, the Economy Committee takes evidence on…the economy. Unknown to most, the Committee’s remit is just that Bill Clinton quote people think they remember. The witnesses for this meeting will be from the enterprise and skills agencies. The Health & Sport Committee takes more evidence on NHS corporate governance and the Justice Committee will consider amendments to James Kelly’s Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Repeal) (Scotland) Bill. The Planning Bill will be considered by two committees on Wednesday but whether this is early evidence of its effectiveness is unknown. Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, gives evidence on the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill on Thursday while the Public Petitions Committee considers a handful of petitions related to the justice system and legal profession. Dogs will also feature.
Finally, Labour MP Professor John P. Mackintosh died 40 years ago. The Scottish Parliament will this week host a week-long exhibition and a debate on Thursday evening chaired by the Presiding Officer, Ken (almost but not quite) Macintosh. Two of his predecessors, Sir George Reid and Lord Steel of Aikwood, will return to the Chamber for the occasion and additionally model the titles Ken might attach to his name in the fullness of time.
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