As Holyrood gets closer to dissolution on 23 March, a mixed bag of political news filled the column inches this week. Housing and construction news centred on the Law Society of Scotland’s response to the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill as well as the news that there was to be increased funding to support Scottish homelessness. Elsewhere, the Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland (IPPR Scotland) warned the next Scottish Government faced a funding gap of more than £2 billion each year by 2020. Meanwhile, the SNP challenged opposition parties in Scotland to outline their own proposals for local taxation after criticism last week of Nicola Sturgeon’s reforms to council tax. More on these stories as well as an overview of the key themes of this week’s EU referendum debate are included in this report.
Housing and construction news
Law Society of Scotland comments on Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill
The Law Society of Scotland released a paper this week outlining its position on the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. These included the transactions to which the tax applies, the additional amount of tax, the application of the tax in relation to certain types of buyer, repayment of the tax in certain cases and rules about the meaning of ownership of dwellings for the purposes of the tax. The full paper can be read here.
More funding outlined to prevent Scottish homelessness
A project that focuses on preventing homelessness was awarded an additional £150,000 this week. Housing Minister Margaret Burgess MSP announced the investment will go to the five nationwide Housing Options Hubs which are run by local authorities.
Keith Brown visits the Shieldhall Tunnel
The Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown visited the site where Scotland’s biggest storm water storage facility is being built: the Shieldhall Tunnel. The project represents the biggest investment in waste water infrastructure in Glasgow for more than a century.
EU Referendum – Weekly Update
- Former UK Liberal Democrat leader Lord (Menzies) Campbell is to lead the Scottish arm of a pro-EU campaign
- The Bank of England’s Mark Carney warns Brexit is biggest risk to Britain’s financial stability
- EU referendum campaign ‘quite male dominated’, claims Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom
- To date, only so far only 11 of 20 Conservative MEPs back staying in the EU (but only a single Tory MSP has backed pulling out)
- Electoral Reform Society poll finds only one in six Brits feel informed about the EU referendum
General political news
Think tank warns of funding gap
A report issued this week by the Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland (IPPR Scotland) warned the next Scottish Government faced a funding gap of more than £2 billion each year by 2020. The report noted that welfare cuts planned at a UK level would see benefit spending in Scotland fall by £600 million a year by 2020/21.
High-tech firms set to benefit from new spending
In an interview with The (Dundee) Courier this week, Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon MP pledged to increase funding for some of Scotland’s high-tech companies. He told the publication: “If we are to keep up with our adversaries, it is Scottish brainpower and high value technology that we need.”
BBC Scotland to host televised party leader debates
BBC Scotland will host two televised party leader debates as part of its Holyrood election coverage, it was announced this week. The first will take place on 24 March and the second will be broadcast on 1 May, just days before the 5 May election.
SNP challenge opposition parties to outline council tax spending
The SNP challenged opposition parties to set out their own proposals for local taxation after criticism last week of Nicola Sturgeon’s reforms to council tax. Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: “It’s rich of the SNP to make demands like these, when its own council tax plans were a straight lift from Scottish Conservative-commissioned recommendations barely a month ago.”
Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland 2014-15 figures released
The publication of Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) 2014-15, which estimates expenditure and revenue balances relating to the Public Sector in Scotland, was announced on Wednesday. Total expenditure for the benefit of Scotland by the Scottish Government, UK Government, and all other parts of the public sector was £68.4 billion.
First Meeting of the Fifth Session of the Parliament
The Presiding Officer has announced that, following consultation with party leaders, she intends the first meeting of the new Parliamentary session to be on Thursday 12 May 2016. The Parliament will meet from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm for the purpose of Members’ oath-taking, and again at 2.30 pm for the purpose of electing the Presiding Officer and two Deputy Presiding Officers. Newly elected Members will be notified after the election. That means that the new Ministerial line-up may not be finalised until a week or so after the 5 May elections. The committees will be the following week at the earliest.
Murdo Fraser (Conservative, Mid-Scotland and Fife): To ask the Scottish Government what action it takes to ensure that wind turbine construction near (a) public and (b) private water sources does not damage drinking water quality.
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