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This Week in 60 Seconds

Lawrie Scott-McFarlane

Equalities will be a big topic this week at Holyrood. The Scottish Government has scheduled a debate tomorrow to celebrate the centenary of women’s right to vote and the Equalities & Human Rights Committee report on the draft budget, titled Making the Most of Equalities and Human Rights Levers, will be debated. The Committee itself will hear from Stonewall UK and legal experts on the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill later in the week. The Bill is intended to pardon gay men who convicted of sexual offences in the past.

Online child safety is another big theme, starting with a debate on cyber resilience on Tuesday. This will be followed by a Parliamentary event in the evening titled which will showcase the work of North East Scotland College students on the issue. There will also be an exhibition from the Place2Be children’s mental health charity.

Portfolio Questions on Wednesday will cover economic and constitutional matters. A number of questions focus on the impact of Brexit, which is likely to be a particularly salient issue in light of Theresa May’s determination to leave the Customs Union. The Economy, Jobs & Fair Work Committee will be hearing from a range of business start-up experts. Meanwhile, the Scottish Fiscal Commission and Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Constitution, Derek Mackay, will be meeting with the Finance & Constitution Committee to discuss forecasting matters and the Budget Bill at Stage 2.

The Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform Committee will continue taking evidence on aquaculture. This week the Committee is meeting with environmental groups and SEPA, having heard from a number of academics last week. The Health & Sport Committee will also be continuing with its long-running work on prevention. It will hear from a number of clinical cancer experts. In terms of other committee business, the Justice Committee is taking evidence on alternative dispute resolution and remand procedures while the Education & Skills Committee meets in private to consider the Scottish Government’s reform proposals.

Later in the week, there will be General Questions on a range of issues including the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry, ScotRail and broadband connectivity. There will also be a question from Andy Wightman on short-term holiday lets. He recently launched a campaign on the issue, Homes First, which aims to give local authorities the power to regulate excessive letting through services like Airbnb.

Rounding out the week on Thursday, we’ll get a Stage 1 debate on the Islands (Scotland) Bill. The Bill aims to create a national islands plan as well as impose “island proofing” duties on public authorities to ensure they are conscious of the impact of their policies on island communities. At the end of business, Holyrood will go into recess for a couple of weeks. The next day of business will be Tuesday 20th February.

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