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Summary

  1. PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR LIVE TEXT COVERAGE
  2. The Devolution Committee took evidence on the fiscal framework
  3. MSPs raised issues about new marine protected areas, the universalism principle and mental health Barnett consequentials, during general questions
  4. Nicola Sturgeon was quizzed by opposition party leaders and back benchers during first minister's questions
  5. SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell led a debate entitled: Protecting Children from Harmful Content Online
  6. MSPs debated the Higher Education Governance bill for the first time
  7. The Scottish Fiscal Commission bill was also debated at Stage 1 of its consideration

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Colin Bell

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all from Holyrood Live on 14 January 2016

    That's all from Holyrood Live's coverage of the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 14 January 2016.

    We'll be back next Tuesday with further coverage of Holyrood.

    Holyrood at night

      Until then, have a lovely weekend.  

  2. The government remains unconvinced about the SFC producing forecasts

    Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick says the government has published five year forecasts for devolved taxes, which the SFC scrutinised.

    When the additional powers come to the parliament, the government will look at expanding the role of the SFC, says Mr Fitzpatrick.

    Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick

    The minister says it is not in the power of the deputy first minister to block the publication of two sets of figures, one from the government and one from the SFC.

    He says the government is listening to the Finance Committee and it remains unconvinced about its call for the SFC to produce forecasts.

  3. Labour want to see the Scottish Fiscal Commission Bill strengthened further

    Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald says everyone agrees on the need for an independent SFC for Scotland.

    Mr Macdonald asks whether the current proposals for the SFC make it fit for purpose, or if it needs more powers.

    Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald

    He says Labour want to see the Scottish Fiscal Commission Bill strengthened further. 

    The Labour MSP says without the powers of the OBR the SFC will be wholly reliant on the Scottish government's figures for making its assessment.

  4. Governments will have an optimism bias in their forecasts - Tory MSP

    Scottish Conservative MSP Gavin Brown says it is worth the government reflecting on the Finance Committee's report

    Mr Brown says if the bill is passed as is we will be left with highly qualified advisers and there will not be the scrutiny that is required.

    Scottish Conservative MSP Gavin Brown

    The Tory MSP says the SFC "will be the only fiscal institution on the planet that scrutinises solely the government's forecasts".

    He says governments will have an optimism bias in their forecasts. 

  5. The Tory MSP says there are 'glaring weaknesses in the bill'

    Mr Brown says the SFC told the Finance Committee it will not focus on outcomes.

    The Tory MSP says there are "glaring weaknesses in the bill" and there is a lack of transparency.

    Money in hands over Scottish flag

    The deputy first minister said any disagreement over number with the SFC will remain private, says Mr Brown.

    He says the government will try to prevent the commission publishing any disagreement over numbers.

  6. Tories say the bill as it stands is inadequate

    Scottish Conservative MSP Gavin Brown welcomes the formation of the Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC).

    Mr Brown says the bill as it stands is inadequate.

    The Conservative MSP says the SFC can only decide if the government forecasts were "reasonable".

    Scottish Conservative MSP Gavin Brown

    He says reasonable is a very low threshold.

    Mr Brown says the devolved taxes forecast is £671m next year  and he asked the SFC what number below or above that could be said to be unreasonable.

    The SFC told him that was impossible to do, says Mr Brown.

    He says the changes to forecasts will not be made public.

  7. SFC should undertake the forecasting - Labour MSP

    Ms Baillie says the SFC must be completely open and transparent and be independent and be seen to be independent.

    The Labour MSP says many witnesses to the finance committee expressed a wish for the SFC to undertake the forecasting.

    Jackie Baillie

    Scottish Labour's wealth creation spokesperson says it should be able to originate its own independent original forecasts.

    The Finance Committee agreed on this, but the government regrettably has not says Ms Baillie.

  8. Labour would welcome the SFC doing the forecasts

    Labour MSP Jackie Baillie says it was a year ago Labour set out its plans for a Scottish Office of Budget Responsibility.

    Ms Baillie commends the speech from SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson, something he will not hear often, she says.

    The Labour MSP says new powers will require experts free from political manipulation in a watchdog holding ministers to account over economic and financial forecasts.

    SNP MSP John Mason and Labour MSP Jackie Baillie

    SNP MSP John Mason asks if Ms Baillie accepts that the SFC should not do the forecasts if she calls it a watchdog.

    She says she would welcome the SFC actually doing the forecasts.

  9. Commission should publish its own forecasts

    Finance Committee Convener Kenneth Gibson says the committee learned a lot from visits to the Swedish and Irish fiscal committee boards. 

    The SNP MSP says the commission should publish its own forecasts and that there must be greater clarity on how the commission works. 

    Finance Committee Convener Kenneth Gibson

    Mr Gibson says the committee agrees with the OECD that there must be transparency in the way the forecasts are arrived at.

    He says that, although the commission is independent, it should produce it's own forecasts but the committee and government will have a role of holding them to account if the forecasts are incorrect. 

  10. Background: Scottish Fiscal Commission

    According to its website, the Scottish Fiscal Commission was established in June 2014 to provide independent scrutiny of Scottish Government forecasts of receipts and economic determinants from taxes devolved to Scotland. 

    At present there are two devolved taxes in Scotland, Scottish Landfill Tax and Land and Buildings Transaction Tax. The Commission also scrutinises the Scottish Government’s assumptions about the economic determinants that drive income from Non-Domestic Rates.

    The minister says the SFC should not make its own forecasts, crystal ball
    Image caption: The minister says the SFC should not make its own forecasts

    The Commission’s initial, non-statutory purpose, remit and duties are set out in a Framework Document agreed between the Commission, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. The key roles set out in that are to:

    • Undertake independent scrutiny and assessment of forecasts, prepared by the Scottish Government, of receipts from Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and Scottish Landfill Tax and of the economic determinants underpinning Scottish Government forecasts of Non-Domestic Rate Income;
    Lady Susan Rice, chair of the Scottish Fiscal Commission
    Image caption: Lady Susan Rice, chair of the Scottish Fiscal Commission
    • Lay before the Scottish Parliament a report of its assessment of the Scottish Government’s forecasts of tax receipts from the devolved taxes and of the economic determinants underpinning forecasts of Non-Domestic Rate Income, at the time the Scottish Government publishes and lays before the Scottish Parliament its Draft Scottish Budget;
    • Conduct its business independently with integrity and transparency.
  11. Minister says SFC should not make its own forecasts

    Mr Fitzpatrick says the comprehensive reports on the draft budget from the Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC) and the government are a good indicator of good practice.

    The parliamentary business minister says the independent checking function would be lost if the SFC prepared its own forecasts.

  12. Background: Calls for greater role for the Scottish Fiscal Commission

    The Scottish Fiscal Commission should have a greater role in scrutinising Scottish government finances, a Holyrood committee has said. 

    The Scottish Parliament is considering the Scottish Fiscal Commission Bill, outlining the basis and purpose of the new independent commission. 

    Open palm holding coins
    Image caption: The Scottish Fiscal Commission could be given a role producing official forecasts on tax rates

    The Finance Committee called for a "substantial widening" of the commission's role, including assessing the sustainability of public finances. 

    MSPs also said it should produce official forecasts on devolved taxes. 

    Committee members said producing the forecasts, which would be put together by the Scottish government under current proposals, would enhance the independence of the commission. 

  13. Scottish Fiscal Commission Bill Stage 1 Debate:

    Finance Secretary John Swinney is unable to lead the first debate on the Scottish Fiscal Comission Bill, so Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick steps into the breach.

    Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick
  14. Minister calls for MSPs to back the general principles of the Higher Education Governance Bill

    The education secretary says she hopes the chamber can move forward with this important bill.

    Education Secretary Angela Constance
  15. Why has the government not taking evidence on ONS reclassification? Tories

    Conservative MSP Liz Smith asks why the government can take evidence about ONS reclassification for other projects, but it cannot be taken for this bill.

    The Conservative MSPs remain unconvinced by the bill and will vote against its general principles
    Image caption: The Conservative MSPs remain unconvinced by the bill and will vote against its general principles

    Ms Constance disagrees and says there has never been anything in this bill that increased the risk of ONS reclassification. 

    The minister says the government is not altering the statutory rights rectors already have.

  16. At its heart this bill allows every voice on campus to be heard says the minister

    Education Secretary Angela Constance says the principles of this bill are consistent with where a modern SCotland sits.

    Ms Constance says modern day governance should have participation and transparency at its heart.

    Education Secretary Angela Constance

    The minister says this bill is very much aligned with the government's commitment to a fairer and more inclusive Scotland.

    She says staff and students should participate in decision making.

    At its heart this bill allows every voice on campus to be heard says Ms Constance. 

  17. The Labour MSP commends the cabinet secretary for accepting she got it wrong

    Labour MSP Mark Griffin says all parties have recognised the importance of the higher education sector to Scotland's economy.

    Mr Griffin says we extol the virtues of our historic and new universities.

    Labour MSP Mark Griffin

    He says it is necessary to avoid restricting the freedom that lies behind the success of our universities.

    The Labour MSP commends the cabinet secretary for accepting she got it wrong with the bill as originally drafted.

  18. Ministers should not be playing chicken with the ONS on reclassification - Lib Dems

    Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur welcomes the removal of sections 8 and 13 which risk universities being reclassified by the ONS.

    Mr McArthur says ministers should not be playing chicken with the ONS on reclassification. 

    Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur

    The Lib Dem MSP says all the evidence shows that the best universities are those exercising the greatest level of autonomy.

    He says universities should be accountable and transparent, but not via the blunt instrument of legislation.

    Mr McArthur says the bill should just "vanish altogether".

  19. Tories will vote against the general principles of the bill at decision time

    Conservative MSP Liz Smith says when it comes to the question of maintaining the strong link between chair and board, the government says it has not made any analysis of this.

    Ms Smith says this bill does not promote good governance of higher education institutions.

    students

    He says it could undermine the very foundations and principles of the sector that has thrived for hundreds of years.

    That is why the Conservatives will vote against the general principles of the bill at decision time.