Brexit and the Scottish Government’s Budget will dominate the political news this week. Natalie Mauchline has the latest on those stories and some other things happening this week.
Meaningful Vote: Take Two
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement will be voted on again by MPs. Amendments have been tabled from various factions across the Chamber. The SNP is backing an amendment from Yvette Cooper which would extend Article 50 unless the UK Government secures an agreement by the end of February. Meanwhile, pro-Brexit MPs are seeking to impose a time limit on the Irish Backstop, which the EU is unlikely to agree to. Even if one or many of the amendments receive a majority, they will not be binding but would place pressure on the Government to follow the wishes of Parliament. The Prime Minister’s next steps will depend on the outcomes of the votes. Michael Russell will respond to developments in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.
Scottish Budget Uncertainty
The future of the Scottish Government’s budget has been thrown into doubt following the announcement that the Scottish Greens would not support it in its current form. Derek Mackay called on the Scottish Parliament to unite behind the proposals to ensure the security of public spending and economic investment amid Brexit uncertainty. Ahead of the debate on Thursday, the Cabinet Secretary said he remained open to discussions with opposition parties to make sure the Budget passes. Patrick Harvie said the Greens will only support it if the Scottish Government refrains from implementing “hugely damaging” council cuts. Willie Rennie reiterated that the Liberal Democrats would not support the Budget unless ministers ruled out a second independence referendum. The Conservatives share this sentiment, while Labour demanded changes to tax rates for higher rate taxpayers. Without a deal, the Scottish Budget will be rejected on Thursday.
Committees Discuss Housing
The Chair and Chief Executive of the Scottish Housing Regulator will be giving evidence to the Local Government & Communities Committee on its annual report for 2017/18. The report highlighted the efforts of the Regulator to promote the interests of tenants and homeless people. The Minister for Local Government, Housing & Planning will also be appearing before the Committee to seek approval of new regulations for the Housing (Scotland) Act. There will also be further discussions on a petition lodged in 2018 on the homelessness crisis spreading across Scotland.
Health and Care (Staffing) Bill
The Bill will enter Stage 2 this week and amendments will be considered at a meeting of the Health & Sport Committee. The proposed legislation seeks to place an existing workforce planning tool onto a statutory footing. During the Stage 1 discussions, concerns were raised about safe staffing levels, ensuring the right balance of skills and how it will impact the care sector. There have been growing fears that Scotland’s ageing workforce must be addressed with better workforce planning. In addition, in its current form, the Bill would place care service providers on an equal footing with NHS health boards.
Teachers Pay Offer
The EIS has urged its members to reject COSLA’s pay rise offer. The current deal offers teachers an increase of 9% by April and a further 3% the following year. However, this offer does not meet the one-year 10% rise that unions campaigned for. In response, John Swinney has said: “We believe that this offer represents the fair pay rise that teachers deserve, and the consultative ballot planned by EIS still presents an opportunity to get this pay rise into their members’ pockets as soon as possible.” It is now up to teachers to vote on the proposed pay increase. The Scottish Government indicated the offer is the best available.