Scotland politics

Week ahead at Holyrood: FM to set out indyref2 plans

Independence march Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Pro-independence marches have taken place throughout Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to outline this week her next steps for a second Scottish independence referendum.

On Wednesday afternoon MSPs will debate Scotland's future.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already rejected a request from the Scottish government to hold another ballot.

But the first minister insisted the UK government was trying to "deny democracy".

The combined support of the SNP and Greens mean the debate motion, expected to indicate support for indyref2, is likely to pass.

The SNP's Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said his party would now embark on "a broad-based campaign" to mobilise public opinion for indyref2.

What else is happening at Holyrood this week?

Tuesday - QEUH update

The health secretary will update MSPs on the situation at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

Glasgow's health board was placed in "special measures" following the deaths of two children at the hospital, meaning an oversight board was put in place.

An independent review into infection risk will be published in the spring.

Meanwhile, the health board is pursuing legal action against a contractor involved in the construction of the hospital.

Before the statement there will be two topical questions, the first calling for details of the Scottish government preparations in response to the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The second question asks about the first minister's Scottish visa proposal.

Following the QEUH statement, MSPs will mark Holocaust Memorial Day. This year is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The evening member's debate, led by SNP MSP Sandra White, will celebrate the life of Alasdair Gray. The Scots writer and artist died at the end of last year.

In the morning, the energy committee will be looking at how to boost electric vehicle use.

Wednesday - budget

Image copyright PA
Image caption Derek Mackay has been critical of the UK government's approach to the budget process

MSPs on the finance committee will be discussing the next Scottish budget.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will set out his tax and spending plans on Thursday 6 February - a month ahead of the UK budget.

A representative from the Fraser of Allander Institute will be giving evidence to the committee members. The economic think tank has been critical of the UK government's handling of the situation.

In a blog post, it warned the Scottish government faced the "risk that subsequent policy changes by the UK government make Scottish policy choices look unsustainable or unviable".

A brief debate has been added at lunchtime on the flying of the European flag outside Holyrood. It was agreed by the SPCB earlier this month it would be lowered at 23:00 on 31 January, at the moment the UK officially leaves the EU. Several SNP MSPs have spoken out against the decision and the Scottish government is putting it to a vote.

Health and local government ministers face questions during portfolio questions in the afternoon, while Labour MSP David Stewart will lead the member's debate on the right to palliative care at home.

Thursday - Brexit and drug deaths

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With a day to go before the UK leaves the European Union, Brexit Secretary Mike Russell will make a statement.

The Brexit Bill was given royal assent last week, despite the Scottish Parliament and the assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland all rejecting it.

The UK will enter into a transition period that is scheduled to end on 31 December 2020.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Denmark opened its first safe consumption space in 2012

After the statement, MSPs will debate drug and alcohol misuse.

Scotland has the highest drug-death rate in the EU, with 1,187 dying in 2018. There were also 1,136 alcohol-specific deaths that year.

The Scottish government has repeatedly called for a change in law to establish safe consumption rooms. These allow users to take their own drugs under the supervision of medical staff in a safe and clean environment.

The UK government has ruled out such a move - but Tory MSP Annie Wells has called for the idea to be given further consideration.

In addition to reserved matters, MSPs will also debate the support and services available from devolved bodies.

First minister questions will take place as usual at noon, followed by SNP MSP Keith Brown leading a member's debate on the Public Works Loan Board rate. Social security questions take place after lunch.

In the morning:

  • MSPs will consider the longest running petition in the history of Holyrood. It is on youth football contracts and the exploitation of young players. The committee will hear from Scottish FA.
  • At the culture committee Fiona Hyslop will be discussing changes to the 2021 census, including questions about sex and gender identity.