After the exertions of last week’s Draft Budget announcement, and with less than a week until Christmas, MSPs could be forgiven for having one eye on their mince pies and mulled wine. They’ll need to rouse themselves for another busy week, however, with no fewer than eight ministers giving evidence to committees on the Government’s spending plans. On Tuesday, Keith Brown and Roseanna Cunningham appear before the Economy and Environment committees, respectively, while Kevin Stewart joins Derek Mackay at the Local Government Committee. John Swinney will be questioned at the Education & Skills Committee on Wednesday, and both Fergus Ewing and Humza Yousaf face the Rural Committee. The final business day of 2017 will see Angela Constance set out the Government’s proposals to the Equalities Committee on Thursday.
In the main Chamber, members will test the limits of their festive goodwill during Tuesday’s Ministerial Statement on superfast broadband. The subject has sparked terse exchanges between politicians at Holyrood, Westminster and, of course, on Twitter in recent weeks. While Whitehall accuses the SNP of lagging three years behind its targets, the Scottish Government insists it will deliver fibre broadband to 95% of the country by the year’s end, claiming faster progress than anywhere else in the UK. Later that afternoon, Scotland could move a step closer to making its own welfare system a reality as MSPs debate the general principles of the Social Security (Scotland) Bill.
Legislation to ban wild animals in travelling circuses may also be imminent, with Stage 3 proceedings taking place as part of a packed agenda for Wednesday. Along with Portfolio Questions and two members’ business debates, ministerial statements on the Scottish Energy Strategy and procurement for ferry services are also scheduled. Meanwhile, at the House of Commons, consideration of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill continues, with Day Eight of the Committee of the whole House scheduled for Wednesday. The Government suffered a defeat last week and Parliament will have say on final the Brexit deal.
On Thursday, First Minister’s Questions brings parliamentary proceedings to close for another year. If that’s not enough to get you in the seasonal spirit, Holyrood’s annual Christmas Carol Service on Wednesday night should do the trick!
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