Scotland politics

Week ahead at Holyrood: Government to oppose Brexit bill

Mike Russell and Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Scottish government says it cannot support a bill which would result in "significant damage" to Scotland

The stage is being set for a fresh battle over Brexit this week.

The Scottish government has recommended MSPs do not consent to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB).

Scotland's Brexit Secretary Mike Russell will discuss this position with the constitution committee on Wednesday morning.

Then MSPs will debate the bill from 3.10pm that afternoon, with the crucial vote at decision time.

The WAB would see Boris Johnson's deal with the EU put into UK law and is to be concluded at Westminster on a fast-track timetable by Thursday.

But the Scottish government has said this agreement would be "damaging to Scotland's interests", with specific concerns about creating a competitive disadvantage to Northern Ireland.

Since the Scottish Parliament remains overwhelmingly pro-EU, it is likely MSPs will vote to refuse consent to the WAB.

What else is happening at Holyrood this week?

Tuesday - empty homes

Image caption More than 3% of Scotland's 2.62 million dwellings are empty

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant will ask an urgent question about the timing of the Scottish budget, now we know the UK budget will take place on 11 March 2020.

Queries about drug-related deaths, ferry cancellations and ATMs charging for cash withdrawals will be asked during the first topical questions of the year.

MSPs will then debate how to reduce the number of empty homes in Scotland, after a local government committee report called for the introduction of compulsory sales orders to tackle the issue.

More than 3% of Scotland's housing stick is currently empty and the committee highlighted public support for bringing such properties back into use.

Other recommendations include employing empty homes officers, reviewing the use of council tax and better mapping of empty homes in Scotland.

After this debate, SNP MSP Tom Arthur will highlight the Levern Valley Defibrillator Community Partnership.

In the morning, the Justice Committee will continue its consideration of the Children Bill.

This proposed legislation aims to improve the experience of children involved in family courts, including better regulation of child contact centres.

MSPs will hear from children's and domestic abuse charities.

Wednesday - MSPs debate Brexit Bill

While the timing of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill debate now confirmed for 3.10pm, the debate on improving the lives of Gypsy/Travellers has been postponed.

Prior to the debate, there will be a ministerial statement on short-term lets. There have been repeated calls for regulation of the sector in the recent past.

A lunchtime member's debate will be led by Tory MSP Miles Briggs on place of death, while the evening debate will be on women, peace and security led by SNP MSP Emma Harper.

In the morning the local government committee will consider the provision of free period products with Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell and council finance with the Accounts Commission.

Thursday - police DNA samples

Image caption The bill aims to regulate how DNA samples and fingerprints are stored and retained

Proposals to create an independent commissioner to improve police handling of biometric data will be considered on Thursday afternoon.

This includes storage, use and disposal of DNA, fingerprints and facial images.

DNA samples are the very essence of personal data yet there is no code of practice for the police and justice agencies, who rely on the information it contains to help them fight crime.

Nicola Sturgeon will be quizzed at the first First Minister's Questions on 2020 from noon, to be followed by Tory MSP Maurice Corrie celebrating the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. After lunch and portfolio questions, there will be a statement on digital connectivity.

We begin the day with the public audit committee taking evidence on the Scottish Police Authority.

The former chairwoman of the SPA, Prof Susan Deacon, resigned last month.

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