Scotland politics

Week ahead: Election watchdog quizzed on indyref2 framework

Voter at Bannockburn Polling Station Image copyright PA

The Electoral Commission will give its view on the indyref2 framework bill on Wednesday morning.

MSPs will hear from the elections watchdog as Holyrood's constitution committee continues its consideration of the Referendums (Scotland) Bill.

The commission has called for the bill to be amended to require any referendum question to be assessed by it - even if it was the same one used in 2014.

This contrasts with the view of the Scottish government, which has insisted the question has already been "tested".

The question on the ballot paper five years ago was: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Last week, Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell insisted any change could cause confusion, particularly since a number of polls since 2014 have used identical wording.

However some opposition MSPs have said the Electoral Commission should be able to "make a ruling or recommendation" on the question.

What else is happening this week?

Tuesday - immigration powers

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MSPs will debate the impact of the UK government's family migration policy on Scotland on Tuesday afternoon.

The Scottish government is to call for greater powers over immigration policy, warning that ending freedom of movement could reduce the number of workers.

Current UK migration rules mean British citizens must show they earn at least £18,600 a year to sponsor their non-European spouse's visa.

The UK government's migration system proposals would see this extended to EU citizens after Brexit.

Prior to this debate, MSPs will discuss investment in credit unions and ministers will face topical questions.

SNP MSP Clare Adamson will lead the evening member's debate on Macmillan Cancer Support's coffee morning.

The Justice Committee undertakes pre-budget scrutiny in the morning, this week focusing on prisons and related support.

Among those giving evidence are representatives from HM Inspectorate of Prisons Scotland, the Prison Officers Association and SACRO.

Spending on prisons, prevention, aftercare and community-based alternatives will all be discussed.

Wednesday - sentencing

The Scottish Conservatives have the floor for much of Wednesday afternoon, splitting their debate time between health and justice.

The motions will be published later on Monday, but the justice debate could focus on sentencing following the launch of the party's 'Honesty in Sentencing' campaign.

It is calling for:

  • an end to automatic early release
  • whole-life sentences
  • ending the presumption against short-term sentences
  • giving victims more clarity on sentencing

Research from the Scottish Sentencing Council concluded more needed to be done to explain sentencing to the general public.

But recent moves to end short sentences and increase community-alternatives are hoped to lower re-conviction rates, which are currently at a 19-year low.

The Scottish Tories health debate may focus on the delayed opening of the new Edinburgh sick kids' hospital.

Also on Wednesday afternoon, health and education ministers face portfolio questions and Tory MSP Miles Briggs will lead a member's debate on CHAS (Children's Hospice Association Scotland).

Other than scrutiny of the Referendums Bill, two other committees will be looking at the constitution: the education committee is considering the impact of Brexit on universities, while the rural economy committee will consider Brexit and agriculture.

Thursday - cutting early access to data

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The economy committee will call for an end to the Scottish government getting early access to economic data.

A report from the committee concluded such data should be accessible to all - and MSPs are set to bring forward a bill to this end.

The committee's four SNP MSPs did not agree with the group's decision, and Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has argued that early access to figures is "essential" for ministers coming up with policy responses.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will face her weekly grilling at first minister's questions at noon, followed by SNP MSP Shona Robison marking Social Security Scotland's first anniversary in a member's debate.

The full committee schedule is yet to be published, but the Social Security Committee is to consider the legislation to introduce the Young Carer Grant.

This will see 16-18 year old carers who do not already receive support get a £300 annual lump sum.

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