As we approach the final dash towards a summer recess in two weeks’ time, MSPs certainly do not seem to be wilting. They may well be hoping that their willingness to cope with their workload is not taken as a sign that they can handle night-time Committee meetings, as has been suggested by Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, as a means of handling the additional demands of Brexit.
Relatedly, MSPs and political anoraks alike will be preparing for the long awaited publication of the Commission on Parliamentary Reform’s report on Tuesday. The Commission took evidence from a cross-section of organisations and individuals about how to better ensure Parliament fulfils its role as a legislative body. Judging by the range of alterations recommended by witnesses, the report could well make for compulsory summer reading - see our blog on the subject for more details.
Among the Committee hearings that day, the Health & Sport Committee considers the topic of IT security in the wake of the global ransomware attack which affected 11 of the 14 Scottish NHS Trusts, as well as taking evidence from Cabinet Secretary for Health & Sport, Shona Robison, on subordinate legislation relating to the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016. The Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform Committee is holding an initial evidence session into how Scotland can meet its waste management targets, including the viability of deposit return schemes. In the debate chamber, two ministerial statements (on Policing 2026 and the Next Steps for the Crofting Commission) are followed by Stage 3 proceedings on the Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill (the first of the session, aside from the compulsory Budget Bill) and a Members’ Business debate celebrating the Scottish Civic Trust on its 50th anniversary.
Wednesday sees Minister for Further Education, Higher Education & Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville, giving evidence on subordinate legislation to the Education & Skills Committee, which is also continuing its inquiry into school infrastructure in the wake of the School Closures report. Meanwhile, the Finance & Constitution Committee will consider the legislative consent the Parliament will be required to give during the Brexit process, as well as consider adjustments to the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax with Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Constitution, Derek Mackay. For plenary that day, two Members’ Business debates sandwich Portfolio Questions on Health & Sport and two Conservative debates on transparent governance and agriculture.
To round off the week on Thursday, the Social Security Committee considers the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill at Stage 2 after an extensive initial inquiry. The Equalities & Human Rights Committee continues its efforts to examine bullying and harassment of children and young people in schools, taking evidence from Cabinet Secretary for Education & Skills, John Swinney. Plenary sessions include General Questions, a ministerial statement on Provisional Outturn 2016-17 and Stage 3 proceedings on the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill.
All of this is sure to keep the team here occupied, even before we get to the return of UK Parliamentary action with the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday, which is expected to be the last one for the next two years while the Brexit negotiations proceed. It might possibly be worth missing the opening race at Royal Ascot for.
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