If you’re a committee convener and Mike Russell hasn’t been to see you recently then something is probably going on. This week he will appear before the Finance & Constitution Committee with his long title and entourage of officials to give evidence on the legislative consent memorandum for the Brexit Bill. In what looks likely to be a long meeting, the Committee will also hear from a panel of academics about Brexit’s impact on the Scottish budget, and take evidence from HMRC on the administration and collection of Scottish income tax.
After he has dispensed with the Finance Committee, Mike Russell will migrate like a bird in winter to the warmer climes provided by Edward Mountain and his Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee. While there he will give evidence on the implications of leaving the EU alongside Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy & Connectivity, Fergus Ewing. The Cabinet Secretary will also give evidence on subordinate legislation relating to fishing vessels and fish farming, but before all that the Committee will take evidence from Transport Scotland and Amey officials on the…meeting papers call it the Forth Replacement Crossing, but let’s say on the Queensferry Crossing.
The Economy, Jobs & Fair Work and Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform committees will take more evidence on the Draft Budget when they meet tomorrow, while NHS governance will be the main item of business once again for the Health & Sport Committee. On Wednesday, Audit Scotland officials appear before a Committee that isn’t the Public Audit & Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee to give evidence on something that wasn’t the subject of one of their reports. The Education & Skills Committee will take evidence on the Education (Scotland) Bill. The Social Security Committee meets in private on Thursday morning to consider a revised draft report on the Social Security (Scotland) Bill. Human rights issues will be the focus of the Equalities & Human Rights Committee (I see what they did there) with a session on the Scottish Parliament and another on Brexit.
Tuesday’s Chamber business will be about renewed government strategies. A ministerial statement will set out the Scottish Government’s refreshed approach to alcohol and drugs. An updated Equally Safe strategy to tackle violence against women and girls was launched by Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security & Equalities, Angela Constance, last week and it will be debated after the statement. The bulk of time on Wednesday afternoon will be devoted to two debates chosen by the Conservatives. The first will cover a health subject and the second will be about a finance issue. The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill will be debated at Stage 1 on Thursday.
The members’ business debates scheduled for this week cover the usual range of topics. Annie Wells (Glasgow) (Con) will lead a debate to mark World AIDS Day on Tuesday, Ash Denham (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP) will encourage members to support the fifth Small Business Saturday and the problems with Gourock-Kilcreggan ferry service will be the subject of a debate led by Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab) after FMQs on Thursday.
Anyone concerned about the likely quality of the debates mentioned above should be reassured by the news Christine Grahame will chair a St Andrew's Day Debate in the Chamber tonight. Teams comprising a school pupil and university student will compete in three rounds of debates on topical motions in the hope of making the final. The Deputy Presiding Officer is ruthless when her colleagues dither or waffle or otherwise sin against her personal code, but presumably she will go a bit easier on the children.
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