Scotland politics

Week ahead at Holyrood: Budget scrutiny with new finance secretary

Kate Forbes Image copyright Andrew Cowan
Image caption The new Finance Secretary Kate Forbes will give evidence on the budget to a number of committees this week

It's all about the budget this week, as new Finance Secretary Kate Forbes appears before a number of Holyrood committees to detail her plans.

The 29-year-old became the first woman to set out a budget at Holyrood or Westminster following the resignation of Derek Mackay.

On Tuesday, Ms Forbes will give evidence on extra funding aimed at tackling the "climate emergency".

Council funding will be the focus on Wednesday morning.

Opposition parties have put council spending at the top of their list of concerns, but Ms Forbes has already said there would be no extra money available.

MSPs are due to debate the plans on 27 February, giving her only a few weeks to secure a budget deal.

What else is happening at Holyrood this week?

Tuesday - prescribing exercise

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Health and Sport Committee looked into the social prescribing of exercise

The prescribing of social activities, like exercise groups and art classes, will be debated in the chamber, following an inquiry by the Health and Sport Committee.

It looked into the benefits of sport and physical activity, as they are seen as key contributors to preventative self-care for health and wellbeing.

Before that MSPs will have queries about the closure of the Queensferry Crossing, recent flooding and elevated flaring at Mossmorran, during topical questions.

The evening's member's debate looks at the decision by Western Isles Council to teach P1 children in Gaelic from this year, unless their parents opt out.

In the morning from 9.30am Kate Forbes will join Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Secretary Roseanna Cunningham to discuss the budget before the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee.

The new finance secretary has announced a total of £461.8m will be spent on the environment, climate change and land reform - an increase from £426.6m

Later on in the morning the Justice Committee will take evidence from Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf on the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill, which is emergency legislation introduced by the UK government following the terrorist attack in Streatham, south London.

Wednesday - Cash for councils

Image caption Opposition parties have put more cash for councils top of their demands if a budget deal is to be struck

Back with the budget, the issue of council funding is the focus of the Local Government and Communities Committee's scrutiny.

Councils are calling for an extra billion pounds from the Scottish government to stop cuts to local services.

The local government umbrella body Cosla says the government must "invest in councils before it is too late".

Cosla will be joined by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives in the first evidence session beginning at 09:30.

Then Kate Forbes will return to the fray, this time accompanied by the Communities and Local Government Secretary Aileen Campbell, to put the government's case on council funding.

Ms Forbes has announced that total Scottish government funding for local government will be £11,832.5m, but opposition parties want more before a deal can be done.

In the afternoon Scottish Labour will lead a debate in the chamber for most of the afternoon, focusing on the NHS.

There are two member's debates, one calling for a ban on smoking in play parks and outdoor sports facilities, with the other celebrating the uncovering of the Cochno Stone.

Thursday - Votes for prisoners

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Image caption Prisoners serving a sentence of less than 12 months may get the right to vote

MSPs will debate the Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) (Scotland) Bill for the final time.

This legislation would see prisoners serving a sentence of less than 12 months getting the right to vote in Scottish Parliament and local government elections.

It would also extend the franchise to all those with a legal right to live in Scotland, including those who have been granted refugee or asylum status.

To pass, the bill would require the support of at least two-thirds of MSPs.

Before that Nicola Sturgeon will be quizzed by opposition party leaders from the usual time of noon.

The lunchtime member's debate is on the role of Scottish agriculture in tackling climate change.