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  1. MSPs take evidence from Education Scotland on education reform
  2. Ministers answer portfolio questions on finance and the economy
  3. The Scottish Conservatives lead a debate on finance ahead of tomorrow's budget
  4. MSPs discuss hen harrier protection

Live Reporting

By Louise Wilson, Craig Hutchison and Nasim Asl

All times stated are UK

That's it from Holyrood Live today!

Piggy bank
Getty Images

That's it from Holyrood Live today.

The Tory-led tax debate preceding the budget tomorrow offered a good overview of each parties position on income tax.

The real headlines will come tomorrow when Finance Secretary Derek Mackay confirms the changes. Today only offered small clues about what approach the Scottish government will take.

Join us tomorrow for live updates, background and analysis.

Click here for a budget bonanza, we get underway in earnest at 1.30pm, after our coverage of the chamber including first minister's questions.

That ends the debate on hen harriers

Joe FitzPatrick describes species champions as an "innovative and fun" initiative.

He admits he is not a species champion himself though, after a "difficult question" from SNP MSP Graeme Day.

He closes by congratulating Scottish Environment LINK for its work.

The minister praises the Heads Up Harrier project.

Scottish Wildlife Trust
Scottish Wildlife Trust

Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick says the government has brought forward inovative measures to tackle raptor perscution, including vicarious liability.

Vicarious liability refers to a situation where someone is held responsible for the actions or omissions of another person.

The minister praises the Heads Up Hen Harriers project.

The minister closes the hen harrier debate

Parliamentary Business Manager Joe Fitzpatrick says that the fall in hen harrier numbers is particulary important because Scotland is home to 80% of the UK's total population.

In areas where there is driven grouse shooting hen harrier numbers are especially low, he notes, but without carcasses it is difficult for criminal convictions.


Calls made for Forestry Commission to manage foxes

Tory MSP John Scott discusses barriers facing the survivability of hen harrier chicks.

He asks if the new Forestry Commission, under Scottish government control, will take on fox management.

Tory MSP John Scott champions the grayling butterfly
Scottish Environment LINK
Tory MSP John Scott champions the grayling butterfly

Would Yew believe Ms Martin used to be a Goth?

Gillian Martin

Gillian Martin MSP takes the opportunity to talk about her championing of a species close to her heart - the yew tree.

She reminisces about being a teenage goth and listening to Sisters of Mercy when her hair was dyed black, and says she was drawn to the yew tree because it is associated with death.

But, she says, the "Doctor Who of trees" is also associated with resurrection and longevity, something she hopes people associate with her as her 40s draw to a close.

She made a visit to Perthshire's 3,900 year old Fortingall Yew and is now raising a yew tree in her garden. "We're growing very old together"

Scottish Environment LINK
Scottish Environment LINK
Scottish Environment LINK

Lib Dem MSP cites 'illegal and deplorable raptor persecution'

Liam McArthur

Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur says he takes his role as champion of the Scottish primrose seriously.

Mr McArhur says hen harriers have declined but territorial pairs on Orkney have bucked the trend and risen.

He cites "illegal and deplorable raptor persecution".

Scottish Environement LINK
Scottish Environement LINK
Scottish Environement LINK

Heads Up for Harriers takes a 'flawed approach'

Green MSP Andy Wightman argues that 'Heads Up for Harriers' has not done enough to address the persecution of these birds.

He says illegal persecution will not be identified by the project as a cause of nest failure, while natural causes will - making the data disproportionate.

He describes this as a "flawed approach".

Green MSP Andy Wightman is species champion for mountain everlasting
Scottish Environment LINK
Green MSP Andy Wightman is species champion for mountain everlasting

Graeme Dey MSP acknowledges the "real heroes"


SNP MSP Graeme Dey pays his respects to the "real heroes" who work in the field, citing the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh specifically.

He notes that two bird nests failed to produce any chicks this year due to natural causes and feels this is evidence for the counter argument that nest failure can be due to other causes rather than illegal persecution.

He says he hopes tonight a message can be sent from Parliament: "We want to see many more estates participating in this scheme".

Scottish Environment LINK
Scottish Environment LINK
Scottish Environment LINK

Labour MSP is buzzing for this debate

David Stewart MSP

Labour MSP David Stewart is the species champion for the great yellow bumblebee - and is sporting a badge to prove it.

He says bumble bees are facing as much risk as hen harriers.

David Stewart MSP and bumblebee
Scottish Environment LINK

'Are we listening to bird song or are we listening to dinosaur song?'

SNP MSP Christine Grahame is the species champion for the house sparrow
Scottish Environment LINK
SNP MSP Christine Grahame is the species champion for the house sparrow

SNP MSP Christine Grahame says the house sparrow, as a small seed eating bird it is very close to the dinosaur that survived the alleged asteroid that is said to have wiped them out.

Ms Graham asks: "Are we listening to bird song or are we listening to dinosaur song?"

She says the house sparrow can survive the Scottish weather wich is why it survived the asteroid attack.

Data is lacking on wildlife crime, says Tory MSP

Tory MSP Donald Cameron is species champion for the merlin
Scottish Environment LINK
Tory MSP Donald Cameron is species champion for the merlin

Tory MSP Donald Cameron calls for collaborative work to protect birds of prey.

He says one of the main challenges is collecting data, particularly on crime.

Mairi Gougeon calls on shooting and conservation groups to work together

Mairi Gougeon

Ms Gougeon says there have only been 16 sightings of hen harriers across Angus and Aberdeenshire in 2017.

Illegal persecution is the main cause of a fall in harrier numbers - there are only 460 breeding pairs in Scotland. In the last 12 years the population of hen harriers has fallen by 27%, she says.

The SNP MSP highlights the Heads Up for Harriers campaign, which is identifying, monitoring and protecting nests as they find them to get a better understanding of natural threats to the species.

Mairi Gougeon is calling on shooting groups and conservation groups to work together and have dialogue in order to protect hen harriers.

She says "only there is there a chance" that the species will survive.

Mairi Gougeon wants the 'magnificent raptor' to flourish

Scottish Environment LINK
Scottish Environment LINK
Scottish Environment LINK

Opening the debate, SNP MSP Mairi Gougeon speaks about the state of hen harriers, which are now red-listed species.

She says the bird is a "magnificent raptor I want to see flourish in Scotland".

Half of Scotland has the habitat that hen harriers need to survive - almost 37,000 square km is suitable territory.

Background: Record number of hen harriers tagged across UK

In August, it was revealed a record number of hen harrier chicks have been fitted with satellite tags in an effort to discover why their numbers have declined so significantly.

The RSPB said 24 young birds had been fitted with transmitters in the UK so far – double the number tagged in 2016.

The majority of the tagged birds are in Scotland.

The charity hopes the tags will help reveal where the birds go and more about the dangers they face.

Read more here.

Hen harrier

Background: Species champions

First launched in 2013, Scottish Environment LINK’s species champion initiative invites MSPs to learn about their species and lend support to their protection.

Currently, 95 MSPs are species champions.

Species champion profile
Scottish Environment LINK/RSPB

Debate on hen harriers and special champions starts shortly

SNP MSP Mairi Gougeon will now lead a debate on the Heads Up for Harriers Project and the Role of Species Champions.

Hen harrier

Her motion focuses on declining numbers of hen harriers and the Heads Up for Hen Harriers Project, which is aiming to reverse this trend.

Hen harriers motion
Scottish Parliament

Named Person stage 1 deadline removed

That dull sounding business motion was in fact quite important - the Named Person bill deadline has been removed following objection from the education committee.

Named Person bill motion
Scottish Parliament

The motion as amended by the Scottish government passes

The Conservative motion as amended by the Scottish government is agreed to.

64 MSPs voted for it and 56 voted against.

Conservative motion
Scottish Parliament
Scottish government amendment
Scottish Parliament

Scottish government amendment is agreed to

The amendment from Finance Secretary Derek Mackay is agreed to with 64 MSPs for it and 56 against.

All the other amendments fall.

Scottish government amendment
Scottish Parliament

Decision time

MSPs vote on the motion and amendments from the Scottish Conservative debate on finance.

Tory MSP argues against any increase to income tax

Tory MSP Dean Lockhart MSP is closing the debate for the Conservatives, arguing that any increase to tax would break a manifesto promise.

He argues the SNP has failed on three counts:

  • Economic growth - he points to low growth, low wages and productivity
  • Mismanagement of public services
  • Wasting taxpayers money through overspending
Tory MSP Dean Lockhart

"My colleagues have made a powerful and compelling case against any increase on tax."

He argues there is no mandate to do so.

The Tory MSP says the economic case against raising income tax is sound as it would cause lasting damage to the economy.

Alternative proposals: Approach 4

Approach 4
Scottish government

Here's the big one: option four, with six different bands.

Yes, that's double what we have right now, and Tory leader Ruth Davidson has already warned of "unintended consequences" of such complexity. But it's by no means unprecedented; Japan and the USA havesevenbands. Ms Sturgeon argues that there is some evidence that more bands means more progressive.

This is option three - dividing the standard and higher rate cohorts in two, with 1p increments - with the addition of a newlowerrate in the form of a 19p band for those at the lower end of the earnings scale.

This is not in fact a negligible group; some 386,000 taxpayers are on a gross income which is more than the tax-free allowance, but below £15,000 - so quite a few people would end up taking home more money at the end of the month.

This means this model might not raise quite as much money as options two and three - between £150m and £220m, adjusted for behavioural change - but it does tick that "more progressive" box in Ms Sturgeon's four tests.

However, this comes at the cost of added complexity - lowering taxes for those on low incomes could cause complications with social security payments, for those who receive them.

Welcome back from the jungle

A blurry image but Kezia Dugdale is back....
A blurry image but Kezia Dugdale is back....

Tory MSP Adam Tomkins welcomes Kezia Dugdale back from the jungle to the chamber.

Well spotted sir.