Scotland politics

Week ahead at Holyrood: Brexit continues to dominate

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Image caption The impact of Brexit on universities will be one focus at Holyrood

Brexit continues to dominate the political agenda with key votes possible at Westminster this week.

Although Holyrood will play no central part on where the Brexit story goes next, the issue will be a topic of discussion for MSPs.

On Thursday afternoon there will be a statement on how Brexit impacts further and higher education, as well as Brexit portfolio questions.

The bulk of the ministerial statement will be on how universities and colleges are preparing for leaving the EU, after some warned that no deal was "one of the biggest threats" the sector had ever faced.

What else is happening at the Scottish Parliament this week?

Tuesday - future of fisheries

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Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing will give a statement on the future of fisheries on Tuesday afternoon, after the topical question on reports that the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital faces a repair bill of up to £50 million.

The Scottish government published a discussion paper at the start of the month on what will follow the common fisheries policy (CFP).

The UK leaves the CFP when it leaves the European Union.

The paper commits to "preventing any attempt by the UK government to allow permanent access to the Scottish zone as part of future trade deals" - a prospect which has troubled fishermen over the last two years.

After that, MSPs will debate the government's recently published fair work action plan which commits to ensuring 25,000 more people earn the living wage by 2022.

It also highlights resources given to social care work after in inquiry found staff frequently worked beyond contracted hours and did unpaid overtime.

To end the day, Green MSP Andy Wightman leads a member's debate on land ownership in Scotland, in which he will criticise the lack of transparency in this area.

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In the morning, the environment committee looks at the wildlife crime annual report with Police Scotland, the Crown Office and the SSPCA giving evidence.

There was a 36% fall in recorded birds of prey crimes between 2016 and 2017 - but data from satellite-tagged raptors continued to show birds suspiciously "disappearing".

Elsewhere, NHS Borders is under the microscope at the health committee, while the justice committee looks at amendments to the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill.

Wednesday - city deals

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Image caption The Tay Cities deal, signed in November, covers Dundee, Perth, Angus and north Fife

City region deals will be scrutinised by the local government committee on Wednesday morning.

Representatives from Clackmannanshire, Stirling and North Ayrshire councils will be giving evidence alongside the Edinburgh and Tayside city deal teams.

There has been some tension between the Scottish and UK governments about the amount of funding each is putting into the deals and the time it has taken for plans to come to fruition.

Then the committee will take evidence from Housing Minister Kevin Stewart on the minimum income standard in relation to the Fuel Poverty Bill.

The minimum income standard seeks to define a level of income which households need to reach an acceptable standard of living.

Elsewhere, the finance committee is looking at Scottish VAT assignment - in other words the calculation of how much cash the Scottish government receives from VAT.

In the afternoon, transport and justice ministers face portfolio question time before MSPs debate the Year of Young People 2018.

Then Tory MSP Liz Smith marks the centenary of Sir Hugh Munro's death - a founding member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club and the first person to publish a complete list of Scotland's munros.

Thursday - a leading space nation

First minister's questions will take place from noon.

Then Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur leads a member's debate on the 50th anniversary of the Longhope lifeboat disaster, in which eight crew members died.

After lunch, the addition of portfolio questions to a Thursday puts Brexit and constitution ministers in the hot seat.

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Image caption It has been proposed that microsatellites could be launched from Sutherland

The statement on Brexit and universities will be followed by a government-led debate on tech and engineering in the space sector.

The A'Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland will be the location of the UK's first spaceport, to launch some time in the early 2020s.

It is hoped this will allow Scotland to become Europe's leading space nation.

Why is this important? Having spaceports would allow UK industry to offer the full "turn key" product to their customers - from design, to build, to launch.

But some campaigners oppose the use of the Melness Crofting Estate for the spaceport, raising concerns about its impact on the environment, local roads and crofting rights.

As ever, it will be about balancing competing rights - something MSPs will be grappling with during the debate.

Beginning the day the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee taking evidence on UK-EU Inter-institutional relations post-Brexit.

MSPs will then take evidence from Global Radio, following the announcement that it will replace the 40-plus local breakfast shows with three nationwide programmes.

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