Scotland politics

Week ahead at Holyrood: MSPs examine budget proposals

Derek Mackay Image copyright PA
Image caption Derek Mackay has said he will work to build a consensus ahead of a final vote on the budget

As MSPs return to the Scottish Parliament the key focus will be on budgets.

Holyrood Live will be following scrutiny closely on both Tuesday and Wednesday morning as the committees examine the minutiae of 2019-20 tax raising and spending plans.

The budget focus will mean a busy week for Derek Mackay, who gives evidence to the economy committee on Tuesday morning and to the local government committee on Wednesday morning.

The Scottish government will need the support of one other party to pass the budget, but the Scottish Greens - who have partnered up with the SNP for the past two years - have said they will not support the government unless there is movement on its approach to local tax.

And what else is happening this week?

Tuesday - transport

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The first debate of 2019 will focus on ultra-low emission vehicles.

The Scottish government is expected to highlight what it sees as successes in the sector and its efforts to increase the size of the charge point network.

Expect the inclusion of charge points in new developments and rural areas, the first low emission zone in Glasgow and wider emissions targets to surface throughout the afternoon.

Sticking on the theme of transport, Tory MSP Brian Whittle will then lead a member's debate on infrastructure in South West Scotland from 5pm.

In particular, the road works on the A77 and A75 while trains were not running between Stranraer and Ayr will be criticised.

If budget scrutiny is not your bag, another interesting option in the morning is the Justice Committee as it concludes its evidence sessions on the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill. MSPs will put questions to Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf.

Wednesday - life sciences

Image copyright Martin Shields

A statement on improving animal welfare will be delivered after portfolio questions on Wednesday afternoon. We are anticipating an announcement on CCTV in abattoirs.

Then MSPs will celebrate the life sciences sector - though the impact of Brexit and possible loss of European research links will likely be raised too.

Ending the day will be SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald leading a debate to praise his local rotary club for recycling computers and donating them to schools in Africa.

The local government committee will be doing some budget scrutiny and the finance committee will also be gathering evidence specifically focusing on forecasts with the Scottish Fiscal Commission and the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Recent changes to devolution means the accurate predictions are vital to the Scottish government, as these are used to estimate how much revenue comes in from tax and therefore how much cash is in the kitty.

Also of interest is the education committee is it begins its inquiry on the recently announced Scottish National Standardised Assessments inquiry.

Education Secretary John Swinney announced an independent review into P1 testing would be carried out, following concerns about the pressure put on children.

Thursday - rural policy

After the first First Minister's Questions of the new year, Labour MSP Mark Griffin will highlight the problems faced by carers.

A recent report from Marie Curie and Macmillan Cancer Support found local authorities and health care workers were not routinely identifying issues for carers and therefore not receiving support.

Image copyright PA

After lunch, MSPs will debate the future of rural policy and support.

Both the Scottish government and UK government has been the subject of criticism over the lack of clarity for agriculture post-Brexit.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has previously raised concerns about the end of direct support payments and called for the UK government to state its plans on funding.

In addition, MSPs will likely discuss the future of the Scottish Rural Development Programme - a subset of EU Common Agriculture Policy payments which funds economic, environmental and social schemes in rural Scotland. The current programme ends this year.

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