It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…except in the world of Scottish politics. Callum Macdonald takes us through another busy week.
It’s crunch time for Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal. On
Tuesday, the House of Commons is set for the first of five days of debate ahead
of the meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement. Labour, Conservative, SNP,
Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru MPs are preparing a cross-party amendment that
would rule out no deal. Labour has also put forward an amendment opposing the
deal and supporting a general election while the SNP is likely to table one.
Meanwhile at Holyrood, the SNP, Labour, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats
have taken the unusual step of tabling a joint motion for debate on Wednesday,
which calls for the PM’s agreement and a no deal to both be rejected.
The Scottish Affairs Committee will conclude its inquiry on
the future of Scottish trade post-Brexit with an evidence session with David Mundell on Tuesday.
The Secretary of State for Scotland has faced renewed calls to resign over
European access to the UK’s fishing waters after Brexit, having previously said
he would not accept a deal which would disadvantage the UK’s coastal
communities. He will be probed on Scotland’s role in post-Brexit UK trade
talks, as well as on concerns raised by sector bodies about possible barriers
to future trade.
The Education & Skills Committee has heard impassioned
evidence in recent weeks from young people, parents and teachers on the impact
of local authority funding cuts on free music tuition in schools. These
concerns will be put to John Swinney and COSLA on Wednesday, with MSPs
likely to highlight warnings that young people from poorer backgrounds are
being marginalised by tuition charges. Initially, COSLA declined the
Committee’s invitation to give evidence, stating “it would be extremely
difficult not to either explicitly or implicitly criticise our own members
charging policies.” The organisation agreed to change its tune last week,
but its unlikely everyone will be singing from the same hymn sheet come
On Thursday, MSPs will debate the Health and Care (Staffing)
(Scotland) Bill at Stage 1. The Bill aims to make the process for deciding
staffing requirements more rigorous and evidence-based and would introduce new
statutory duties on all health boards and care service providers. The debate
follows the Health & Sport Committee’s report on the proposed legislation,
calling for more detail on how staff numbers and care quality will be assessed,
monitored and reported. MSPs also raised concerns about a danger of
resources being skewed towards the hospital sector to meet the initial
requirements set out in the legislation.
It’s awards season and there are three (by our count) events this week. First up on Wednesday are the Scottish Public Service Awards at Holyrood. Now in their fifth year, the awards recognise good work from within the civil service, Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament, the third sector and public agencies. The Scottish Green Energy Awards, organised by Scottish Renewables, take place in Edinburgh the following night. John McDonnell will deliver the keynote address and the menu looks excellent – not that the two are necessarily connected. The SURF Annual Awards take place on the same night in Glasgow, with Aileen Campbell announcing the winning community regeneration projects. Good luck to all those nominated. We hope you’ve arranged for your tux or dress to be dry-cleaned before now.