What 2020 holds for Scottish politics

MSPs are heading back to work at Holyrood while newly-elected MPs gear up to pass a Brexit deal at Westminster. After a tumultuous 2019, what does 2020 hold in store for Scottish politics?

Getting Brexit done

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption MSPs are heading back to Holyrood – and have a busy year in store

The first and most obvious result of the general election is that Boris Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done” will become a reality on 31 January.

With a comfortable Conservative majority, Westminster deadlock over a withdrawal deal is a thing of the past – but that doesn’t mean Brexit is going away as an issue.

There’s still the small matter of agreeing a future relationship with the EU and laying the foundations for a trade deal – all inside an 11-month transition period.

Expect the familiar talk of no-deal cliff edges to continue through much of the year – in debate at Holyrood as well as Westminster, with much of the Brexit legislation set to cut across devolved areas.

The Scottish government are digging in over Holyrood’s consent for such bills, and will use every one of them to drive home a reminder of the 62% majority for Remain north of the border.

Holyrood’s budget

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Derek Mackay has not yet had a chance to set out his budget plans

Normally at this time of year, Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay would be locked in negotiations with opposition parties seeking support for his budget plans.

This year, there’s something missing – the budget. Mr Mackay had planned to announce it on 12 December, but instead found himself in a polling booth.

The UK government is yet to set out its plans, and this means Mr Mackay doesn’t know exactly how much money he has to spend. The knock-on effect is that councils and health boards don’t know how much money they have to spend either.

By the time Chancellor Sajid Javid confirms the UK budget, on March 11, there will be very little time for debate, scrutiny or deal-making. The Treasury insists Mr Mackay will have enough information to set out his plans whenever he wants, but he says there has been “absolutely no engagement”.

Holyrood’s budget process is meant to last months. The way things stand, it may have to be compressed into a matter of days.

The Salmond inquiries

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Alex Salmond’s trial is a matter for the courts, not politics – but it will be quickly followed by a series of inquiries

In March, former first minister Alex Salmond will go on trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

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