It’s the month of December, and as the nights draw in, cards are being written and presents wrapped as the people of Scotland come together in festive spirit.
In the Scottish Parliament, however, MSPs are settling down for a more confrontational midwinter event: the Scottish Government Budget.
First Minister’s Questions last week gave us a preview of what to expect. The Named Person Scheme, according to Ruth Davidson, was a “mess”. In turn, the First Minister said Davidson “should never be anywhere near Government” and condemned her “political point-scoring”. Richard Leonard characterised SNP Scotland as “Dickensian” and was advised to stop peddling “empty rhetoric”.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your appetite for political point-scoring), this is likely to carry on through the week, with Derek Mackay scheduled to deliver the Budget at 2pm on Thursday.
Aside from this annual to-and-fro the Parliament will still be getting on with the day job. On Tuesday, James Kelly will be grilled by the Justice Committee on his Bill to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, the final evidence session before the Committee produces its Stage 1 Report. Elsewhere, the Health & Sport Committee brings together a plethora of experts to discuss care home sustainability.
Wednesday sees the Conservatives bring forward a debate on finance. Expect to hear cries of ‘Tory austerity’ alternate with ‘Scotland, the highest taxed-part of the UK’. Committee members will continue to work hard, with the Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee considering the Forestry Bill and the Local Government & Communities Committee taking evidence from Kevin Stewart on the Housing Amendment Bill. The Scottish Government’s education reforms will also be scrutinised by the Education & Skills Committee, which will have the opportunity to put its concerns directly to representatives from Education Scotland. The day will end with a chance for MSPs to show off their ornithological knowledge, with Mairi Gougeon leading a debate on hen harriers.
Following General Questions and First Minister’s Questions on Thursday morning, Kate Forbes is set to lead a debate on RBS’ plans to close 62 bank branches. The plans have been met with condemnation by MSPs from all parties and organisations including the FSB and Unite, and the debate is likely to be well attended. Expect Labour and the SNP to call on the UK Government to use its position as majority shareholder in RBS to intervene and block the closures. Other serious Christmas-related engagements include a chance for Scotland’s political class to show off their Christmas jumpers and an exclusive advance screening of the Doctor Who Christmas special. But don’t let all this excitement distract you from the real highlight of the festive season – the Budget.
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