The Scottish Parliament closed its doors last night for the two-month summer recess. Chamber business resumes on 4 September. The big news this week was Nicola Sturgeon’s long anticipated ministerial reshuffle, her first since the May 2016 elections. SNP Deputy Leader Keith Brown left the government to take over an enhanced campaigning role for the party and under fire Health Secretary Shona Robison resigned (to be replaced by Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman). Full Cabinet details including new responsibilities: https://news.gov.scot/news/new-cabinet-appointed
In other news Education Secretary John Swinney was heavily criticised for using the backdrop of the reshuffle to address the Chamber with an update, effectively amounting to a postponement, of the Scottish Government’s proposed Education Bill. Mr Swinney said that key reforms can be introduced more quickly without changing the law, but it faced opposition from teaching unions and some opposition parties. Some of the proposals will now be introduced through an agreement with councils instead.
Still at Holyrood, and there was the traditional rush of non-contentious business in the last few days, with the key one being news that a bill will be introduced in early 2019 to implement the recommendations of the Barclay Review of Non-Domestic Rates. In advance of this, a consultation has been launched on ways to enact the recommendations from the review. It will close for evidence on Monday 17 September. Green MSP Andy Wightman said the Government should investigate ways of raising additional revenue, while Labour criticised the “shambolic” implementation of the rates revaluation.
The First Minister has appointed one of Scotland’s best-known businessmen, Benny Higgins, as the strategic adviser for the establishment of the Scottish National Investment Bank. Mr Higgins, former CEO of Tesco Bank, developed an implementation plan for the bank and the Scottish Government has accepted all 21 of his report’s recommendations. His new role will build on this work. As strategic adviser, Mr Higgins will play the leading role in the development of the bank, providing advice to and working with the First Minister and other ministers, and building support for the bank among civic and business organisations.
And as the NHS prepares to celebrate its 70th birthday, a majority of Scots would be prepared to pay more tax to help the NHS, according to a new poll published this week. 46 per cent believe standards in the NHS in Scotland have become worse while about a quarter (26 per cent) think they have improved. The Sunday Times Scotland survey found that 52 per cent of Scots would be willing to pay more in tax to better fund the health service, with less than a third (29 per cent) opposed to a tax hike and 18 per cent are unsure.
And finally, one of the new Ministers named in Nicola Sturgeon’s new Cabinet lost her role as Junior Education Minister before it even began as a result of “offensive and inappropriate comments” in a blog from 2007. Opposition parties questioned the appointment and it was later confirmed the Aberdeenshire East MSP was out of the running for the role.
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