It's clear that the Scottish political spectrum leans more clearly in support of the Palestinian cause

THIS year Holyrood's summer recess is a little unusual.

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The Government goes into "purdah" a month before the referendum, setting legal constraints on what they can do as Ministers.

Of course, the SNP, like all the parties, will be campaigning furiously, but it would have been bizarre if Parliament had been meeting while Ministers were barred from answering the most basic of questions.

This problem doesn't happen with elections, because Parliament stops meeting and MSPs revert to being candidates at the same time as purdah begins.

There were only two possible solutions - adding an extra three or four weeks of unnecessary recess or breaking it up into two chunks.

Because of that, this is the first of three weeks of parliamentary business which take place between those 'chunks', and my concern was that it would all feel a bit odd and awkward.

But the way things have worked out, there is a long list of issues which need to be addressed, and I'm very glad that we don't need to wait till after the referendum to discuss them.

First, the horrific situation in Gaza. While foreign policy is reserved to Westminster, it's clear that the Scottish political spectrum leans more clearly in support of the Palestinian cause, and that voice deserves to be heard.

As well as joining the global condemnation of the brutal attacks against the people of Gaza, I'll be keen to press the Scottish Government to endorse the call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions targeted at the Israeli government.

THEN we have Police Scotland's disturbing drift toward putting armed police routinely onto the streets, rather than keeping such deadly force for situations which really merit it.

Many MSPs, including my independent colleague John Finnie, have been raising this issue, and want the Government to come off the fence.

The UK Government's "emergency legislation" on data retention also needs to be debated.

Rushed through Westminster in a day with no meaningful scrutiny, this will undermine our civil liberties, and also has devolved implications.

Then there's the Commonwealth Games to discuss, and the need to make good on all those "legacy" commitments.

Of course there will also be "set-piece" debates in which the Yes and No sides will set out their stalls on independence issues like scrapping Trident, rebuilding a welfare state, investing in childcare, shifting to renewable energy, building a more equal society… you know, just the wee things.

As people prepare for the decision itself, with postal votes beginning in just three weeks, it's important that all these issues and more get a proper airing.

What might have looked like an awkward three week session could allow some of the most important debates Holyrood has ever seen.

lThe views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Evening Times.

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