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Scottish Parliament Weekly Round-up

Find out what happened this week at Holyrood....

On Tuesday, the First Minister outlined to parliament some further easing of Scotland’s covid restrictions. The following changes will come into effect:

-Hybrid working is allowed from 31 January

-Face coverings are no longer required for adults who are taking part in indoor activities when interacting with children under the age of 5

-Fully vaccinated international travellers are no longer required to take a test when arriving back in Scotland

Following the statement, the parliament agreed the appointment of a new Junior Minister to the government. Neil Gray becomes the new Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development after his predecessor, Jenny Gilruith, was appointed Transport Minister following Graeme Dey’s decision to step down.

MSPs then debated stage three of the Transvaginal Mesh Removal Bill. The legislation will establish a scheme to repay mesh removal costs which will be administered by National Services Scotland. The Bill was unanimously backed by parliament.

Away from the chamber, important work took place across committees. The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee continued with its inquiry into the health and wellbeing of young people. This week, MSPs heard evidence from stakeholders on health an wellbeing in schools and education.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 Recovery Committee considered the Coronavirus (Discretionary Compensation for Self-Isolation) Bill at stage two following its passage through stage one in the chamber last week. The committee agreed on the amendments to the legislation and it now proceeds to its final stage.

The Scottish Government also announced that it will introduce the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) Bill to parliament. The legislation proposes the permanent adoption or temporary extension of some measures brought into effect during the pandemic. MSPs will now have time to consider the proposals before they are brought to the chamber.

At FMQs this week, the First Minister answered questions from opposition leaders and backbench MSPs on issues such as access to maternity services, staffing pressures in the social care sector, the new adult disability payment regulations in Scotland and spending on private sector contracts for the proposed National Care Service.

A Member’s Business Debate brought forward by Jackson Carlow on Holocaust Memorial Day then followed. It was an opportunity for MSPs to reflect on and remember the terrible atrocities of the Holocaust.

Parliamentary business concluded with the Finance Secretary presenting the 2022-23 Scottish Budget to parliament for its stage one debate. The Minister described the budget as being “clear in its missions” to tackle the climate emergency and reduce poverty. Some of the spending proposals include:

-Funding of £18billion to support health boards

-£4 billion targeted in social security payments, including doubling the Scottish Child Payment from April

-A real terms increase of over 5% for local authority budgets for the coming year

However, opposition parties criticised the plans for not going far enough to increase funding for local authorities, warning that it could lead to council tax rises and further pressure on local services. Nevertheless, the Budget Bill passed its first stage, despite all opposition parties opposing it.

The proposals will next face scrutiny from the Finance and Constitution Committee before returning to the chamber for its final vote before the end of February.