Week ahead at Holyrood: First Scottish budget vote

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Magnifying glass over budget blockImage source, Getty Images

The Scottish government faces its first budget hurdle of 2020 with a stage one debate on Thursday.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has downplayed the prospect of a deal being struck before then.

As a minority government, the SNP needs help from at least one other party.

The Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill could continue through parliament if one party abstains allowing more talks. The final vote, by which a compromise must be reached, is next week.

In the last three years the SNP has struck a deal with the Greens before the first vote as other parties ruled themselves out.

But every party has said it would be willing to work with the government this year.

What else is happening at Holyrood this week?

Tuesday - period poverty

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A bill to make period products available free of charge is likely to pass its first vote after the Scottish government's U-turn last week.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon introduced the Period Products (Free Provision) Bill in a bid to tackle period poverty.

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell previously told MSPs that "legislation is not required" as the government has already rolled out a scheme to provide free products.

Now the SNP will support the bill but it is expected to bring amendments to allay "significant" concerns.

A topical question on declining pupil exam performance, a brief debate on "Short money" for opposition parties and a member's debate on a campaign to end child restraint in schools are also scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

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In the morning, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) will discuss its call for Scotland to "walk the talk" ahead of the climate summit in Glasgow in November.

The environment committee will discuss progress on emissions targets, land use and net-zero planning.

In addition, the health committee will be discussing the budget with the health secretary. MSPs will quiz Jeane Freeman on delayed discharge, social and primary care, and the performance of health boards following several being placed on special measures.

Wednesday - police funding

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The Scottish Tories will use debate time on Wednesday to call for a "fair funding settlement" for Police Scotland.

It follows the Scottish Police Authority warning of an "unsustainable" deficit of £49m, despite being allocated an additional £37m in the budget.

Specific issues on funding for vehicles, buildings and IT infrastructure have been highlighted, and the Scottish Tories have raised concerns about the impact on police morale.

But the Scottish government has insisted the annual budget has increased, comparing this with falling police numbers in England.

Culture and education ministers are quizzed at portfolio questions ahead of this. The member's business debate is scheduled to be on the National Parent Forum but this may change following the promotion of Jenny Gilruth, who was set to lead it.

The local government committee continues its inquiry into building regulations and fire safety in the morning. MSPs will focus on difficulties of verifying whether cladding used on homes meets post-Grenfell safety standards.

Thursday - police watchdog

Image caption,
Former Labour MSP Susan Deacon took up the role of SPA chairwoman in December 2017

MSPs on the public audit committee will consider the annual report on the Scottish Police Authority, which revealed an £36m overspend and a payment of £125,000 to former chair Susan Deacon.

Ms Deacon, who resigned in December saying the system was "fundamentally flawed", will be giving evidence alongside former colleagues.

When she was appointed in December 2017 her salary was £76,000, but the Scottish government later asked the former health minister to spend 20 days a month in the role as opposed to 12.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone will also appear before the committee. The Audit Scotland report found £18.9m of the overspend was due to additional police officer and staff costs.

Nicola Sturgeon will be quizzed by opposition leaders and party backbenchers at midday. This will be followed by a member's business on Scottish war memorials.