Week ahead at Holyrood: Scottish Greens lead Brexit debate

By Louise Wilson
Holyrood Live

The Green bloc at the People's Vote march in LondonImage source, Twitter/@patrickharvie
Image caption,
Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie joined campaigners at the People's Vote march in London

Friday may no longer be Brexit Day, but this week remains very much key for the UK's future with Europe.

The earliest the UK will now leave the EU is 12 April, giving politicians room to breath as the next steps are figured out.

So, there will be plenty happening at Westminster, but, not wanting to be outdone, MSPs will also take part in a debate on Europe on Wednesday afternoon.

This one will be led by the Scottish Greens.

The pro-EU party will no doubt seek to highlight the benefits of EU membership and rising support for a so-called People's Vote.

The Greens have also backed the recent petition to cancel Brexit.

What else is happening this week?

Tuesday - south Scotland enterprise agency

The long-awaited south of Scotland enterprise agency will be a step closer after this week, with the legislation to set it up being debated on Tuesday afternoon.

The rural economy committee backed the bill earlier this month, highlighting "overwhelming support" from stakeholders.

The committee identified a number of challenges facing the economy in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders.

The member's debate, led by Tory MSP Maurice Corry, will focus on financial scam prevention.

Scams are estimated to cost UK citizens more than £9bn per year, with many victims being older people.

In the morning, Holyrood Live will be reporting on the economy committee as it continues its inquiry into construction.

Scottish Futures Trust - the arms-length company set up by the Scottish government to deliver infrastructure investment - will be giving evidence. The body has come under fire in the past following concerns about transparency and sustainability.

Wednesday - climate change

In addition to their debate on Europe, the Scottish Greens will also lead a debate onclimate change.

It follows school children across the country going on "strike" for the last two Fridays to call for more action on climate change.

Green MSPs have long been critical of what they believe to be a lack of movement on transitioning to a low-carbon society.

They have called for a Climate Emergency Bill to implement a target of net-zero emissions by 2040 (with an interim target of 77% reduction by 2030).

The Scottish government previously insisted it would set a net-zero target once it has a clear pathway to achieving it.

After the two Green debates, SNP MSP Shona Robison will use a member's debate slot to highlight a petition calling for an end to celebrity endorsement of weight loss products.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned ScotRail last week that the remedial plan was a 'last chance saloon'

What else is there to watch out for?

  • Brexit Secretary Mike Russell will appear before the Finance and Constitution Committee to discuss leaving the EU. What he'll have to say may very much depend on what happens at the beginning of this week in Westminster.
  • ScotRail is under the microscope at the connectivity committee. Managing director Alex Hynes and a representative from Network Rail Scotland will appear before MSPs, followed by Transport Secretary Michael Matheson. The Scottish government put ScotRail on remedial notice following a series of failings on the rail network.
  • The education committee discusses efforts to get more young people into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) from a range of witnesses, including a primary teacher who introduced an hour of "engineer time" for P7 pupils.

Thursday - disability equality

Image source, Getty Images

Thursday afternoon will be dominated by a debate on progress on improving equality for disabled people.

The Scottish government's delivery plan, published in December 2016, set out five ambitions: to promote independent living; improve employment rates and incomes; boost accessibility; protect rights; and encourage participation.

Over two years on, MSPs will debate whether these aims have been met.

Before this, there will be the weekly session of first minister's questions, a member's debate on misogyny, racism and sexism led by Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, and finance portfolio questions.

While full committee listings are yet to be published, options so far for the morning include:

  • Children's Minister Maree Todd and Green MSP John Finnie discussing the smacking ban bill with the equality committee, in what will be the final evidence session before the committee gives its verdict;
  • a range of stakeholders are giving evidence on social security support for housing.