The race to the finish line

With the summer recess fast approaching, the Parliament is going at full tilt to meet its legislative timetable. Last week, members sat late two nights in a row as part of a mammoth stage 3 on the Planning (Scotland) Bill that began at 3 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon and ended at half past 5 on Thursday afternoon, when Kevin Stewart, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, concluded the debate on the motion that the bill be passed with the words:

“It is time to roll our sleeves up, grasp the opportunity and work hard, together with communities, to deliver great places.”

Shortly afterwards, the motion was agreed to by 78 votes to 26 and the bill was passed.

Planning (Scotland) Bill Stage 3 (18 June 2019)

Planning (Scotland) Bill Stage 3 (19 June 2019)

Planning (Scotland) Bill Stage 3 (20 June 2019)

Meanwhile, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee continued its epic consideration of the Transport (Scotland) Bill at stage 2, again starting its Wednesday morning meeting at 8 o’clock, such was the number of amendments that it had to get through. Among those that were agreed to were John Finnie’s on the proposed workplace parking levy, on which members of the committee remain deeply divided along party lines. Several members indicated that they would bring their amendments back at stage 3, in the autumn, when the bill will be considered by the whole Parliament. The final stage 2 meeting, which is sure to be another lengthy affair, takes place on Wednesday.

Another legislative milestone was reached on Thursday morning, when the Equalities and Human Rights Committee dealt with the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill at stage 2. Part of the stage 2 process involves each section of a bill and its “long title”—the wording at the start of a bill that explains its purpose(s)—being agreed to individually, regardless of whether it has or has not been amended. Usually, this is a mere formality. However, in this case, Conservative members of the committee Annie Wells and Oliver Mundell recorded their dissatisfaction with both section 1 and the long title of the bill.

Among those committees not looking at legislation, the Finance and Constitution Committee held an interesting session on internal markets and how Brexit might affect the UK’s internal market, in which it transpired that the implications of the cassis de Dijon judgment, rather than being confined to partakers of fruit liqueurs, go far wider than might have been imagined.

Members and staff face one more late finish on Tuesday evening, to complete stage 3 of the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill, before business ends for the summer with First Minister’s question time at lunch time on Thursday. That’s not quite it for the summer, though—on Saturday, the Queen will address the chamber to mark 20 years of the Scottish Parliament and there will be a special series of birthday events for the public.

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