Week ahead at Holyrood: Sturgeon quizzed by conveners

Nicola Sturgeon last appeared before the conveners group in October

Nicola Sturgeon will face Holyrood committee conveners this week to discuss the Scottish government’s agenda

The session with the first minister will take place over lunchtime on Wednesday.

Key topics including Brexit, health and education will be covered.

Wednesday’s session will last for two hours, longer than the usual 90 minutes allotted to these meetings.

The bi-annual sessions allow conveners to probe Ms Sturgeon about the areas their committees cover.

Brexit dominated the discussion in last October’s meeting.

What else is happening at the Scottish Parliament this week?

Tuesday – age of criminal responsibility

handcuffs

Raising the age of criminal responsibility will be the focus of Tuesday afternoon as MSPs debate the proposed legislation for the final time.

Currently Scotland has the lowest age in Europe at which a person can be held criminally accountable – at just eight. The bill seeks to increase this to 12.

But some campaigners and MSPs have called for the Scottish government to raise it further, to either 14 or 16.

A series of amendments to that effect were lodged by Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton but were defeated at Stage 2, as neither SNP nor Tory MSPs backed the move.

However, Children’s Minister Maree Todd has set up a new panel to explore raising the threshold again within three years.

While this will not effect this bill, the debate around what age a person can be held responsible for criminal actions will continue.

Afterwards, SNP MSP Bruce Crawford leads a member’s debate on the gigabit city programme, designed to expand broadband coverage.

In the morning, the economy committee will begin its consideration of the long-awaited, Scottish National Investment Bank Bill.

The Scottish government wants to have the bank up and running by 2020, with £2bn committed for investment in Scottish businesses over 10 years.

Wednesday – Scottish Labour debates

Scottish Labour have the floor on Wednesday afternoon, splitting their debate time to cover two topics: Scotland’s future and health.

The former will no doubt present a chance for MSPs to mark the 20th anniversary of the first Scottish Parliament elections, while Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has called for Holyrood to recapture the “radical” spirit of devolution.

The topic of the health debate will be confirmed later.

Ahead of this, social security and finance ministers face portfolio question time.

A member’s debate led by Tory MSP Miles Briggs on CPR training in schools will close the day.

Holyrood Live will cover the local government committee in the morning as it hears from Audit Scotland on councils.

A recent report found that Scotland’s councils had improved and maintained most services in the last year, but warned reduced funding could lead to less flexibility over spending decisions in the future.

Since the Scottish Greens secured a commitment from the Scottish government during the budget process to rethink local government funding, this could change.

As ever, the balance between centralisation and ensuring there is no postcode lottery for services will be at the heart of discussions.

Thursday – NHS Highland bullying allegations

Dr Iain Kennedy
Dr Iain Kennedy, one of the clinicians raising the concerns, said some staff have felt ‘intimidated’

The statement on the allegations of a “bullying culture” at NHS Highland has been rescheduled to take place this Thursday.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman will respond to the findings of a review led by John Sturrock QC.

The review was instigated after a group of senior clinicians , claimed there had been a culture of “fear and intimidation” at the board for at least a decade.

This will be followed by portfolio questions on the environment, before MSPs turn to the second piece of justice legislation of the week: the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill.

This will allow vulnerable victims in the most serious cases to give pre-recorded evidence instead.

But there have been calls for the Scottish government to go further by adopting the full Barnahus model, which offers treatment, as well as interviews and support, for child victims and witnesses in one centre.

Thursday will also see Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson battle it out at first minister’s questions, following Ms Davidson’s return from maternity leave.

Carer holding hands with an elderly person

A trio of ministers will give evidence to committee’s on Thursday morning.

Holyrood Live will be covering Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville discussing devolved benefits with MSPs.

This follows Audit Scotland warning there is no clear understanding of what is needed to deliver welfare payments to Scotland’s expected 1.4 million claimants.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman discusses medical care in rural areas with the petitions committee and Trade Minister Ivan McKee is before the external affairs committee.