Louise Wylie has the latest on the week ahead in Holyrood. 

Referendum Bill to be examined in Commitee

The Delegated Powers & Law Reform Committee will hear evidence on the Referendums Bill on Tuesday. Cabinet Secretary for Government Business &Constitutional Relations, Michael Russell, will give evidence on the legislation intended to enable a second independence referendum. The First Minister referenced the legislation during last weeks  Programme for Government. While the Bill would not set out a date or question it would ensure ministers have the power to set both via new legislation. It has been reported that the Scottish Government hopes to hold another vote with the same wording as in the 2014 referendum, but the Electoral Commission has announced it would want to reassess the question, even if it was identical.

Statement to be delivered on the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People

Jeane Freeman will deliver a ministerial statement on Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Children and Young People on Wednesday. Officials involved in the creation of the new site have been facing criticism regarding failed inspections as well as a delayed transfer of patients. A phased move from the existing Royal Hospital for Sick Children was originally scheduled for the start of July but was postponed due to serious safety concerns. A full review of the building project, including financial awards to primary contractors Multiplex, is currently being undertaken but no date has been announced for the opening of the new hospital. MSPs are expected to question the Health Secretary on the growing cost of the project.

Citizens Assembly plans debate

There will be a Government debate on a citizens’ assembly on Wednesday. Opposition parties have criticised the planned assembly as being a “talking shop for independence”, but the Government denies this, and the questions for discussion put forward by Nicola Sturgeon do not directly mention independence or another referendum.  The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have both threatened to boycott the assembly. The convenors of the initiative have stressed their removal from party politics, and quotas have been established in favour of unionist voters. The over 100 members of the assembly are to be selected through a door knocking process, and officials say they intend to select participants who largely reflect the adult Scottish population.

Measures to tackle record number of drug deaths discussion

On Thursday, Monica Lennon will lead a members’ business debate on death related to drug misuse and is expected to call on the Scottish Government to legally designate the crisis as a public health emergency. Reports show that 1,187 people died due to drug-related causes in 2018 – the highest level ever recorded, and the highest in the EU. The Government has set up a taskforce on drug deaths which will meet for the first time on Tuesday 17 September. The First Minister also announced a £20 million spending package to fund the proposals from that taskforce in her Programme for Government.

New FGM Bill evidence hearing

Evidence on the Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) Bill will be heard at the Equalities & Human Rights Committee on Thursday. Experts from the academic, medical, and social care professions will give evidence on the Bill, which covers protection orders, enabling courts to step in if a person is considered at risk, including through the use of a travel ban. FGM has been illegal in Scotland since 1985, but there have been no successful convictions to date. The first conviction in the UK was handed down in February this year. The FGM Bill would be an extension of these powers of the legal authorities.


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