Scotland politics

Week ahead at Holyrood: Strengthening child protections

child playing football Image copyright Thinkstock

Legislation to modernise child protection laws will be debated by MSPs on Thursday.

The Disclosure Bill ensures background checks would be carried out on everyone who works with children.

This will include sports coaches and scouts and follows a series of allegations of historical child connected to football.

The proposals are also expected to strengthen protections for vulnerable adults.

Currently PVG checks are only required for regulated work but the bill would make them mandatory for anyone working with children or vulnerable adults.

Lifetime membership of the scheme will also end, with PVG certificates instead having to be renewed every five years.

What else is happening at Holyrood this week?

Tuesday - Gypsy/Travellers

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Image caption The Gypsy/Traveller debate was postponed last week

A debate on improving the lives of the Gypsy/Traveller community - previously scheduled for last week but postponed due a debate on Brexit legislation - will fill most of Tuesday afternoon.

An action plan backed by £3m to tackle discrimination was launched in October.

It followed a report published in 2018 finding just two sites for travelling people in Scotland met government standards.

Topical questions will precede this debate, with queries about Caledonian Sleeper complaints and primary school overcrowding.

A member's debate on the Showmen's Guild will follow the debate, to be led by SNP MSP Richard Lyle.

In the morning, the Justice Committee will continue examining the Children Bill. This legislation is aiming to improve the experience of children in family courts.

Among those giving evidence are representatives of Relationships Scotland, the organisation behind the majority of child contact centres in Scotland, which will be regulated by the bill.

Concerns have been raised that the bill does not go far enough in protecting children's best interests. Relationships Scotland has said it falls short on specialist risk assessment, and promoting alternatives to court and support services.

Elsewhere, the environment committee continues its inquiry looking into the impact of Brexit. A range of stakeholders are giving evidence, including WWF, SEPA and Scottish Natural Heritage.

The committee is likely to discuss strategy, principles, governance and how the government may keep pace with EU law.

Wednesday - period poverty

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Labour MSP Monica Lennon will lead discussions with the Communities Committee about her bid to make period products free.

Speaking to MSPs last week, minister Aileen Campbell said legislation was not required - a stance described as "deeply disappointing" by Ms Lennon.

The Scottish government currently funds the provision of free sanitary products in public places like libraries and leisure centres, but supporters of the bill want to see a legal guarantee that this will continue.

This is likely to be the last evidence session on the bill before it goes to the chamber for a vote.

After rural economy and transport questions, the Scottish Tories have the floor.

Their focus will be on education, specifically subject choices in schools.

Last September the the Scottish government ordered a full review of the senior phase of education in secondary schools.

The move followed a critical report by MSPs on the Scottish Parliament's education committee, who examined how S4, S5 and S6 work.

A pair of member's debate will bookend afternoon proceedings. Tory MSP Alexander Stewart will highlight the role of prison monitors, while Green MSP John Finnie will celebrate World Wetlands Day.

Thursday - FMQs

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First minister's questions will take place as usual at midday after general questions.

Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald will lead the lunchtime member's debate focusing on sustainable development goals.

There are a couple of very interesting committees in the morning.

The public audit committee will take evidence on Audit Scotland's report into the delay in opening Edinburgh's new children's hospital.

At the same time MSPs on the standards committee will debate Stage 2 amendments to the Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill, with the largest political ruckus likely to emanate from prisoner voting proposals.

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