First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP wrote to the Prime Minister on 31 March seeking an early start to discussions on a section 30 order to enable a second independence referendum to take place.
Scotland Act 2016 powers
The powers devolved through the Scotland Act 2016 have come into effect in several policy areas.
From 3 April 2017, the transitional services Work First Scotland and Work Able Scotland will start to deliver employment support. This is ahead of the full devolved service, Fair Start Scotland, which will begin in 2018.
In terms of social security, the Scottish Government now has control over Discretionary Housing Payments – the benefit used to mitigate the Bedroom Tax.
Powers over the revenue and management of Crown Estate resources in Scotland have also been transferred to the Scottish Government. From 1 April 2017, Scottish Ministers have control over thousands of hectares of rural land, approximately half Scotland’s foreshore and leasing the seabed for rights to renewable energy.
Infected Blood Support Scheme
The new Scottish Infected Blood Support Scheme is now operational. It takes over from the existing UK schemes (Eileen Trust, Macfarlane Trust, MFET Ltd, Skipton Fund and Caxton Foundation) in providing support for Scottish beneficiaries.
From 1 April 2017, new rules apply to the sale and purchase of tobacco and nicotine vapour products, known as NVPs or e-cigarettes. These changes, introduced under the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016, include making it illegal to sell NVPs to anyone under 18. Restrictions around advertising NVPs and a ban on NVP vending machines will be introduced later this year.
The UK Government has published a white paper on the Great Repeal Bill, setting out its proposals for ensuring a functioning statute book once the UK has left the European Union.
The Exiting the European Union Committee of the House of Commons published its report on the UK Government’s negotiating objectives on 4 April. The recommendations include calls for the UK Government to set out what contingency planning is taking place in case there is no deal by the end of the negotiating period, and to respond formally to the options papers of the devolved administrations as a matter of urgency.
The House of Commons Library has published a briefing summarising the starting-points of the UK and the European Union institutions at the beginning of the Article 50 process.
Mental health strategy
The Scottish Government has launched a mental health strategy for 2017 to 2027. Actions include increasing the mental health workforce and reforming the Adults with Incapacity legislation so it complies with the best international standards.
The Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Ken Macintosh MSP, Clare Adamson MSP and Edward Mountain MSP will be representing the Parliament in North America during Scotland Week. They will visit Winnipeg, Ottawa and New York, meeting with parliamentarians, Scottish organisations working in North America and helping to mark Tartan Day in New York on 6 April.
Welsh Assembly powers
New powers relating to the Welsh Assembly came into force on 31 March 2017. These include the power for the Assembly to decide on a new title if Members wish.