Holyrood Highlights: The normal folk’s guide to Tuesday in parliament


The Continuity Bill… continues

DESPITE THE FERVENT HOPES of the Scottish Conservatives, the Scottish Government’s controversial alternative legislation on Brexit, intended to secure and defend 111 returning EU powers by right of devolution, isn’t going away.

While the bill looks set to dominate much of Scottish political discourse over the next the next few weeks, with discussion set against the deadline mandated by its emergency status, for now most of that debate will be kept within the cloisters of the Scottish Parliament’s committees.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing of consequence going on in the chamber. CommonSpace rounds up all the major details below.

Parliamentary business

Labour MSP Colin Smyth gets his Member’s Business in early today, with a recognition of a new cross-party report on atrial fibrillation published in January. The condition causes irregular or abnormally fast heart-rate, increases the risk of stroke and affects an estimated 145,000 people across Scotland. Given that being in parliament can also play hell with one’s heart-rate, some recognition of the advisory panel and experts behind the report is welcome.

Later on, there will be a Ministerial Statement on the Scottish Government’s continuing efforts to widen access to higher education. Since every parliamentary appraisal such efforts inevitably becomes a debate over the Scottish Government’s never-knowingly-uncontroversial education policies, one can expect a combative stance from all concerned.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will then be seeking parliament’s agreement with the draft Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order, following provisions made for local authority funding in the most recent Scottish Budget. One can expect particular contributions from the Scottish Greens, who have been consistent in advocating the expansion and reform of local government financing.

The Land and Buildings Transaction Tax will receive extended focus today, covered by both a Stage 1 debate and a Financial Resolution. MSPs will seek to determine with relief should be applied to some of what is paid under the tax, and whether married couples, civil partners and cohabitants, along with their children, should be treated as one economic unit (which they typically are, in order to reduce the risk of properties being moved between individuals for the sake of tax avoidance).

It may sound a little dry, but there’s always the chance that the debate will cover how many properties are owned by certain MSPs, which is always fun.

Committee business

As noted earlier, the Continuity Bill will be much discussed today. With Mike Russell appearing before them, the delegated powers and law reform committee will arguing over whether the Continuity Bill can receive appropriate scrutiny, while at the same time attempting to… scrutinise it. This is what’s known as ‘multitasking’.

Elsewhere, the environment, climate change and land reform committee will be consider its future approach to issues concerning Scotland’s marine environment, following the Scottish Government’s commitment in the recent Budget to developing four Marine Protected Areas for the conservation of Scottish marine wildlife.

Visits and events

Today, the cross-party group on Germany will be meeting in Holyrood, which given that Angela Merkel has just barely succeeded in hammering together an increasingly weak ‘grand coalition’ against a backdrop of growing far-right sentiment, is unlikely to be a barrel of laughs.

Also meeting on Tuesday are the cross-party group on Scottish Horseracing and Bloodstock Industries – perhaps time you’ll see Scottish political journalists rub shoulders with correspondents from the Racing Post… outside of a bookie, anyway.

Picture courtesy of David Clay

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