What's on at Holyrood? Government to set out its plans for the year

By Louise Wilson
Holyrood Live

Image source, PA

MSPs return to the Holyrood chamber following their 2018 recess and in this first week back the Scottish government will set out its programme for the year ahead.

Twelve new bills will be brought forward over the next 12 months (13 are being carried over from the last session), as well as new non-legislative policies relating to the economy, mental health and social security.

We are expecting an announcement on low carbon infrastructure, which the Scottish Greens have already slammed as "green window dressing", and on the next phase of the long-awaited Scottish National Investment Bank.

No doubt Brexit will be a key feature of the FM's speech on Tuesday afternoon (tune in on Holyrood Live at approximately 2:20pm) though whether this will put any meat on the bones for preparation plans is yet to be seen.

So, what else is on at Holyrood this week?

Tuesday - draft budget

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Just three committees take place on Tuesday morning, one of which is in private.

Holyrood Live will be watching the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee as it hears from a raft of stakeholders on the draft budget.

The session will primarily focus on the carbon impact of the budget, including any implications for the Climate Change Bill.

Later in the day, MSPs will head to the chamber with a minute's silence planned for shortly after 2pm for former presiding officer Sir Alex Fergusson, who died during the recess.

After topical questions, we get down to the meaty business of the programme for government with a statement first from Ms Sturgeon, to be followed by three days of debate.

The final debate of the day will celebrate the European Championships held in Glasgow and Berlin over the summer, led by SNP MSP Bill Kidd.

Wednesday - education reform

While the programme for government debate trundles on in the afternoon, the highlight of the day could well be in committee on Wednesday.

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Holyrood Live will provide coverage of the Education and Skills Committee as it takes evidence on education reforms from stakeholders and Education Secretary John Swinney.

It follows the shelving of the Education Bill the week before summer recess started, with the cabinet secretary insisting changes could be delivered faster using a non-legislative route.

Mr Swinney was also subject to a grilling over recess due to controversies surrounding assessments for pupils in P1, leading to confirmation last week that changes would be made. This might come up.

Meanwhile, UK Trade Policy Minister George Hollingbery and Brexit Minister Mike Russell will (separately) be discussing the Trade Bill with the Finance and Constitution Committee.

Later in the day, political anoraks may be interested to know that former minister Keith Brown will lead his first members' debate since returning to the backbenches - on the ten-year anniversary of the University of Stirling becoming a "university for sporting excellence".

Thursday - Michelle's Law

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Image caption,
Michelle Stewart was 17 when she was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend

An interesting members' debate is scheduled for after FMQ's, with Tory MSP Liam Kerr calling for the implementation of "Michelle's Law".

His party says it wants to strengthen the rights of victims of crime, specifically in relation to giving families a say on the prospect of early release from prison.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf previously said the much of what was being sought by the campaign could be easily introduced.

While other committee's are expected to publish their agendas for Thursday morning, two are already worth pointing out:

  • the equalities committee begins taking evidence on the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill, which will raise the age for which children are responsible for criminal behaviour to 12
  • the justice committee is meeting unusually at 1pm to discuss Brexit and the justice system with Scottish Secretary David Mundell

Thursday will also be the final day of debate on the programme for government, where opposition parties and government will be given a chance to round up all the contributions.