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Scottish Parliament Round-Up

This week's highlights at Holyrood.....

The week started with the Scottish Government announcing its 13th new benefit using the social security powers now available under the devolution settlement. The Low Income Winter Heating Assistance will replace the UK Government’s Cold Weather Payments, providing an annual winter heating benefit of £50 to around 400,000 low income households.

Applications also opened for the Best Start Grant School Age Payment, which is available to families who get Universal Credit, tax credits or certain benefits.

In parliament, the Health and Social Care Committee considered alternative pathways to primary care in private while the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Liberties Committee heard evidence on the proposed Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

On Wednesday, Conservative MSP Graham Simpson asked an Urgent Question in the chamber on provisions being made for Scotland football fans to return home in light of train timetable changes. Urgent questions are not common in the parliament, so this was a unique change to the business.

The Tories also had an opposition day debate that afternoon, where they challenged the government’s spending plans and called for a finance bill mechanism to be introduced to evaluate the effectiveness of public spending.

Elsewhere, both the Criminal Justice Committee and Covid-19 Recovery Committee considered the Scottish Government’s proposed Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) Bill at stage 2.  

On Thursday, the Scottish Government published its Bail and Release from Custody Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to refocus the way remand is used, with greater focus on the rehabilitation and reintegration of people leaving prison to help them resettle in their communities.

At FMQs, the First Minister faced questions from opposition party leaders and backbench MSPs on mental health waiting times for children and adolescents, expansion of universal free school meal provision, concerns about restraint of children in schools and the super sponsor scheme for displaced Ukrainians. 

Following this, MSPs heard statements from the Minister for External Affairs on Scotland’s Census and from the Health Secretary on the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry.

The week was rounded off with a Member’s Debate from Bill Kidd on making Scotland a safe place for Ukrainian refugees, recognising the need to mitigate the risks of human trafficking and modern slavery.