Scotland politics

Week ahead at Holyrood: MSPs debate council funding

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Image caption Councils have statutory obligations to delivery education, health and social care

With just over two weeks to go until the Scottish budget, MSPs turn their attention to council funding.

Scottish Labour is leading a debate on investment in local government on Wednesday.

The local government umbrella body Cosla has called for £1bn extra to be provided.

Labour says councils have been subject to significant cuts but the Scottish government says it has done its best despite "UK government cuts".

It follows a warning from the public spending watchdog that councils were increasingly relying on money from their reserves.

The debate comes against a backdrop of a delayed draft budget, which will unusually come before the UK government sets out its plans.

What else is happening at Holyrood this week?

Tuesday - support for veterans

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Topical questions will see queries about the Police Scotland budget and the future of HIAL air traffic control.

Veterans Minister Graeme Dey will make a statement on services and support available to veterans in Scotland.

The UK government, along with the devolved administrations, published the veterans strategy in 2018. The Scottish government has been consulting on how to meet its aims since.

Afterwards MSPs will debate legislation to establish the long-awaited Scottish National Investment Bank.

The bank is designed to make longer-term investments in Scottish businesses, with £2bn committed by the government for 10 years.

It was first announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in her 2017 programme for government speech.

The evening member's business will focus on the impact of Robert Burns on the Scottish economy. SNP MSP Joan McAlpine will lead it.

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Image caption The committee's inquiry will look at purchasing, prescribing, dispensing and the consumption of medicines

In the morning, the health committee begins its inquiry into the supply and demand for medicines.

This first session will focus on purchasing. A range of stakeholders will give evidence, including the chief pharmaceutical officer, the UK medicines watchdog and the Scottish Medicines Consortium.

Meanwhile, at the justice committee, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf will briefly discuss changes to home detention curfews and electronic monitoring.

New regulations came into force before Christmas, but concerns about a lack of parliamentary scrutiny have been raised.

Wednesday - ferry orders

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The rural economy committee meets on Wednesday morning to discuss Ferguson Marine.

The shipyard was taken into public ownership last year to prevent the loss of 300 jobs.

Ferguson went into administration following a dispute with Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd - which buys and leases CalMac ships on behalf of the Scottish government - over the construction of two ferries under a £97m fixed price contract.

Ministers confirmed in December the cost of completing two ferries has more than doubled.

The turnaround director and representatives of the programme board overseeing completion of the ferries will be giving evidence to MSPs.

Meanwhile, the education committee hears from the Scottish Qualifications Authority. The session is expected to cover multilevel teaching and the body's international work.

Aside from the Labour debate, the afternoon includes constitution and culture portfolio questions and a member's debate led by Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour on the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.

Thursday - consumer rights

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MSPs will debate proposed legislation to create a new consumer advocacy and advice body.

Consumer Scotland would be tasked with reducing harm and increasing confidence of consumers.

But concerns have been raised that the body would duplicate the work of other organisations, such as Citizens Advice Scotland.

Before this there will be a statement on providing financial stability for farmers and crofters.

First minister's questions will take its usual midday slot, followed by Lib Dem MSP Beatrice Wishart leading a debate on air traffic control at Inverness airport.

General questions and education questions will also take place.

In the morning, the Social Security Committee will be considering benefits uptake. Among those giving evidence are representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions.

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