So they’re back.  The Holyrood faithful are returning from the recess, fighting fit and raring to go.  All the newbies have had the summer to practise writing MSP after their name, some of them might even have managed to work out why there are different lifts for different floors in the Parliament and the Cabinet has discovered parts of Scotland it never knew existed during its summer tour.

First up, the business and legislative programme and expect a very different approach from the last SNP Government.  No longer cowed by the lack of a parliamentary majority and having learned that you can ask the public sector nicely to do stuff but without the weight of law behind it, they can stick two fingers up at you, this second SNP Government will be embarrassing us with legislative riches.  What might we expect to see in the First Minister’s announcement on Wednesday?

Top billing goes to the minimum alcohol pricing bill.  No messing this time, the bill will be short and to the point and the Government will hope to create a landmark with its first piece of legislation of its second term in office.  The Lib Dems will support it this time round, the Tories will still oppose and who knows what Labour will do.  Hopefully they will.  And soon.

Children are going straight to the top of the agenda.  Music to the burdz ears.  The SNP manifesto promised an early years bill and the Scottish Government has already said that it will be published in the New Year.  But this week, it also announced intentions to embed children’s rights in legislation as part of a wider children’s services bill.  This latter one is due later in the parliament.  Work has already begun to shape a national parenting strategy and the needs of children should – I hope – feature in new frameworks to support victims and witnesses.  Indeed, we will also get a Victim Rights’ bill this year… I promise never to complain again about no one bothering about children’s needs.  Well, not for a while anyway.

There will also have to be some kind of public services reform bill (though it might not be called that) to give effect to the proposals to do away with multiple police forces and fire services.  There will be a budget bill of course, and that too will progress at breakneck speed, though not until after the Spending Review is announced later this month.  And while it is unlikely to be legislated for, there will be a souped-up Concordat (flagged up before the election) between local and national government, that gives rewards for compliance and fiscal consequences for failure to deliver.  Expect too, for preventative spending to furrow members’ brows at regular intervals during the year, and indeed every year, until they reach another election and can leave a legacy for the next lot that urges them to work out how to implement this most common sense approach to public expenditure without having got around to doing it themselves.

Same-sex marriage may feature but is more likely to proceed at a leisurely consultative pace, with a draft bill appearing perhaps at the end of this parliamentary term, unless of course an MSP loses patience and slaps down a member’s bill.  A review of the law on damages will commence this autumn – how knotty, complex and controversial the proposals are will determine if we get a bill this year or next.  Measures tightening up procedure and process in rape cases has also been promised – if it does not require further consultation, this might well feature in Wednesday’s announcement.  Of course, a bill promising to amend the existing Freedom of Information Act “to add clarity and strength to the legislation” instantly makes us all suspicious that the aim is to dilute and to weaken it.

Anyone looking for a big education bill is likely to be disappointed:  there will be amending legislation covering rural schools’ closures but everything else will be delivered through guidelines, frameworks, toolkits and strategies.  Expect the outcome of the McCormac review to dominate parliamentary proceedings and media headlines for a considerable period.  There will, however, be legislation on higher education to increase access from poorer communities and a review of college provision which may result in legislation at some point in the future.

The Scottish Government promised to introduce a living wage for government employees, which may or may not require legislation – if it does, Ministers might settle for allowing John Park MSP to do all the hard work and preparation, then assume his bill as their own.  It worked for Jack McConnell and the smoking ban…. It may be too early in the parliamentary term for the proposed Community Empowerment and Renewal bill which will enable communities to assume ownership of under-used assets.  It sounds simple but working out how to give it legislative effect might prove more complex.

Finally, the piece de resistance, the icing on the Scottish Government’s dense legislative cake – a bill to tackle high hedges‘ disputes.  I seem to recall this issue pre-occupying then Justice Minister, Jim Wallace MSP, without a legislative solution ever being put forward.  Roseanna Cunningham MSP may succeed where mere men have tried and failed.

And if this little lot doesn’t keep our MSPs out of mischief this parliamentary year and next, I’m not sure what will.  Oh yes, some local government elections next May and of course, constituents, surgeries, local issues and events….