Week ahead at Holyrood: Budget set for approval

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Kate ForbesImage source, Andrew Cowan
Image caption,
Kate Forbes secured her budget deal with the Greens ahead of the Stage One vote

MSPs are set to pass the Budget Bill on Thursday evening.

The SNP and Greens struck a deal last week allowing it to clear the first parliamentary hurdle.

A free bus travel scheme for under-19s and more cash for councils and police was the price of Green support.

The legislation will be amended on Wednesday morning at the finance committee, while income tax rates for the year will be agreed that afternoon.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes will be quizzed on where the extra money came from, having said repeatedly that all funds were allocated.

Questions will also be asked on the free bus scheme, as the feasibility of it will need to be tested ahead of the planned rollout by January 2021.

What else is happening at Holyrood this week?

Tuesday - shop worker assaults

Image source, CO-OP

The economy committee is taking evidence on a bill to increase protection of shop workers.

The Protection of Workers Bill, lodged by Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, would create new offences around the assault and abuse of workers who sell age-restricted items such as alcohol and cigarettes.

It has received the backing of unions and some other retail sector groups, who will be speaking to MSPs on Tuesday morning.

However, the Scottish government said it would not support it as existing laws already provide protection against such behaviour.

After topical questions in the afternoon, MSPs will mark International Women's Day and Tory MSP Miles Briggs leads a debate on pre-eclampsia.

Wednesday - Stem learning

The education committee has called for systemic change to tackle disadvantages in Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning.

A report published in November warned gender discrimination, deprivation and living in rural areas may hinder Stem education. It called for improved teacher training, adequate internet connectivity and better monitoring of gender balance.

MSPs will debate this report on Wednesday afternoon after examining the Scottish rate resolution.

Local government and social security questions also take place. SNP MSP Emma Harper will then lead a debate on Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

In addition to the finance committee scrutinising the 2020-21 budget, the rural economy committee will be continuing its inquiry into ferry construction.

Two new ferries for Arran and the Hebrides are three years late and £100m over budget after a disagreement over the contract. Ferry operator CalMac and parent company David MacBrayne will be giving evidence.

Thursday - FMQs

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Nicola Sturgeon will be quizzed from midday at first minister's questions, followed by Labour MSP Neil Findlay leading a debate on mental health stigma.

Finance questions precede the final Budget Bill debate.

Full committee listings will be published later. Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has a busy morning, first discussing the Civil Partnership Bill with the equalities committee and then appearing before the social security committee.