Both Westminster and Holyrood return from recess this week. Corrie Innes has the latest on what to expect as 2020 kicks off. 

Scottish Questions

Alister Jack replaced David Mundell as Secretary of State for Scotland in July last year, but the turbulence of the last six months at Westminster means he hasn’t yet faced an Oral Questions session. That’s finally set to change on Wednesday. Several SNP MPs are primed to ask about the implications of the Scottish Government’s Scotland’s Right to Choose publication on UK policy, while non-Scottish members will ask about issues including child poverty, Scotch Whisky and fisheries. It has been noted that Tony Lloyd, the new Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, who is also Shadow Secretary for Northern Ireland, is not expected to ask a question at the session.

Finance & Constitution Committee

The Brexit deadline at the end of January is fast approaching, and with the UK Government ‘s newly earned majority at the general election, this one looks very unlikely to be extended. The Scottish Government remains steadfastly opposed to Brexit, however, which should make Michael Russell’s appearance before the Finance & Constitution Committee an interesting one. The Scottish Government has published a legislative consent memorandum for the Bill and has recommended that MSPs oppose the Withdrawal Bill. He is giving evidence on the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and will be expected to reinforce his Government’s opposition to the whole affair.

Empty Homes Debate

The Local Government & Communities Committee recently published its report on Empty Homes in Scotland. Of the 2.6 million dwellings in Scotland, the report noted that over 100,000 were empty. The report made recommendations including greater co-operation between local authorities, COSLA and the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership to ensure housing stock was being as efficiently as possible. On Tuesday, MSPs will take part in a debate on the report.

Committees

The Delegated Powers & Law Reform Committee will meet on Tuesday, as will the Justice Committee, which will hear evidence on the Children (Scotland) Bill. Aileen Campbell will give evidence to the Local Government & Communities Committee on Wednesday on the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill. Meanwhile, the Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee will hold an evidence session on the Queensferry Crossing public transport strategy. On Thursday, Culture, Tourism & External Affairs Committee will hold a session with the National Records of Scotland while the Standards, Procedures & Public Appointments Committee discusses the Scottish Elections (Reform) Bill.

Members’ Business

No fewer than four Members’ Business debates are coming up this week. Tom Arthur will lead one on Tuesday on a defibrillator project in his constituency, while Miles Briggs and Emma Harper will host debates on Wednesday, on a Marie Curie report into end of life care in 2040 and Women, Peace & Security respectively. On Thursday, Maurice Corry will lead a debate recognising the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.