It’s the last week of business at the Scottish Parliament before the summer recess. After this week, MSPs will disappear until Monday 3rd September. The schedule is pretty relaxed and members have given themselves a half-day after FMQs on Thursday. However, we could be getting some significant last-minute publications from the Government, especially if ministers have made promises to get things out by summer. We’ve already seen rumours of a Scottish Cabinet reshuffle, a fairly chunky consultation on business rates and the Conservatives are pushing for an emergency ministerial statement on the Scottish Government’s position on Heathrow expansion. Let’s look at some of the other major topics:

Devolution & Brexit

The ongoing row over the impact of Brexit on devolution will be rehashed again on Tuesday, with the Scottish Government leading a debate on “defending the powers of the Scottish Parliament”. The UK Government’s refusal to adopt consent procedures over devolved areas currently controlled by the EU has been sharply criticised as a “power grab” by the Scottish Government. Expect the Brexit Minister, Michael Russell, to outline the latest developments and the Scottish Government’s position.

NHS at 70

It’s the 70th birthday of the NHS this week and, unusually, two Member’s Business debates have been scheduled to mark the occasion. There is one on Tuesday from the Scottish Labour Leader, Richard Leonard, and another from the SNP’s Ash Denham on Wednesday. While these kinds of debates are generally consensual, and often untroubled by any interesting or important content, healthcare has always been a major line of attack for opposition parties in Scotland. Expect MSPs to get a few digs in at the Government over accusations of local cuts or “mismanagement”. The motions themselves also give an insight into some of peculiarities of the Members’ Business system, with both Richard Leonard (Central Scotland) and Ash Denham (Edinburgh Eastern) straining to comply with the rule that the text under debate must have some constituency relevance.

Welfare & Homelessness

The Scottish Government is answering questions on the devolved aspects of the social security system on Wednesday. The topic is likely to have increasing prominence over the coming years as aspects of the UK welfare system are transferred to Scotland. The new body, Social Security Scotland, is setting up in Dundee and has started recruiting recently. Although only 15% of the total welfare spend in Scotland is being devolved, the creation of the new body has important symbolic importance and there has been a strong push to adopt a different approach to the DWP. Jeane Freeman, the Minister responsible, recently won an award for her work on the area although opposition parties have been critical of the time it has taken to prepare the civil service for the transfer of powers. In related news, the Scottish Government going to be setting out its response to the homelessness and rough sleeping action group on Wednesday.

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