Programme for Government 2012-13
First Minister Alex Salmond has unveiled the Scottish Government’s programme for the new Parliamentary year with a pledge to create 'a better Scotland' for future generations.
Mr Salmond revealed the package of 15 bills – led by the flagship Referendum Bill, which will legislate for a vote on independence in the autumn of 2014 – during the first day of the new Parliamentary session.
Among the 14 other bills being put forward by the Scottish Government during the 2012-13 Holyrood session are measures to create jobs, improve economic growth, make more free early learning and childcare available and improve care for older people.
And as part of further increased investment in children, parents and families, the First Minister also announced a package of £18 million support for families from the Early Years Change Fund, describing it as 'an investment in building the foundations of a better Scotland'.
Prioritising economic growth, Mr Salmond also confirmed a switch from resource to capital spending in the Budget Bill and demanded an immediate release of capital from the UK Government in order to boost construction.
The First Minister said:
"The new parliamentary session promises to be a pivotal one in the history of this country.
"Work will get underway in earnest on the Referendum Bill, laying the groundwork for Scotland's most important decision in 300 years. Only with the full economic and decision-making powers of independence can we ensure Scotland lives up to its full potential. Our children and young people deserve nothing less.
"With the powers we do have, we have managed to secure free university education, offer the best free early learning and childcare package in the UK and guarantee a training opportunity to every 16-19 year old who is not already in education, employment or training.
"We are also investing in creating jobs and strengthening the economy – bringing forward more than £300 million of capital spending between 2008-2010, supporting 5,000 jobs, and announcing just a few weeks ago a further £105 million.
"Any plan to support growth should focus on immediate public sector capital investment and over this year and the next two, we will switch over £700m of spending from resource to capital.
"We are prioritising economic growth and Westminster must do the same. Again, I call on the Prime Minister to unlock capital investment immediately in order to boost construction – there has never been an economic recovery without a recovery in the construction sector.
"Today I am announcing a further package of investment in helping families and children during the early years. We will invest £18 million from our early Years Change Fund in supporting families – as well as introducing legislation to parliament in this session to deliver the best package of early learning and child care support in the UK.
"This legislative programme of 15 bills, with the Referendum Bill at its heart, uses all of the powers we currently have to support jobs, growth and opportunities for all and paves the way for Scotland’s most important decision in three centuries. But only with independence can we create the best possible Scotland for our future generations.
"This morning I visited Dr Bell's Family Centre in Leith - exactly the type of support today's £18 million investment will help make available to more people. I met parents and some of the young children who would be the first to grow up in an independent Scotland. We want them to live in a fair and prosperous society that supports private enterprise and values public services.
"If we are to realise these aspirations to the full, we need full control over the economy and welfare policy – the normal responsibilities of any independent nation."
The announcement of £18 million from the Early Years Change Fund is to develop community information strategies and co-ordination of family support and facilitation of initial delivery; and, any supporting processes of assessing need along with local assessment and identification of what exists, what works well, what gaps exist and what more needs to be built upon and developed.
This will contribute to high quality, co-ordinated family support accessible by all, with clear supported pathways and intensive services where needed. Community information strategies will ensure everyone knows where to go as a first point of contact. This will be to be carried out in partnership across all sectors. An initial allocation of £3 million per year from 2012-13 – 2014-15 will be made to Local Authorities, with a further allocation of £9 million being driven by the work of the Early Years Task Force.
Details of legislation:
The Bill will make provision for an independence referendum to be held in autumn 2014 to allow the people of Scotland to vote on the way Scotland is governed. The referendum will allow the people to decide whether Scotland should be an independent country, a choice the people have never been offered before. The Bill will include provisions for the date of the referendum, the franchise and the procedures to be followed. It will provide for oversight arrangements that ensure the referendum is run to the highest international standards. The Electoral Commission and Electoral Management Board will be fully involved in these arrangements.
The annual Budget Bill provides Parliamentary approval for the Scottish Government’s spending plans, allowing the allocation of resources to the Government’s strategic objectives and supporting progress towards its Purpose of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.
Procurement Reform Bill
The Bill will establish a national legislative framework for sustainable public procurement that supports Scotland’s economic growth by delivering community benefits, supporting innovation, considering environmental requirements and promoting public procurement processes and systems which are transparent, streamlined, standardised, proportionate, fair and business-friendly.
The Bill will modernise bankruptcy law for the 21st century. It will ensure access to fair and just processes of debt relief and debt management for the people of Scotland, which takes account of the rights and interests of those involved. It will ensure Scottish debt solutions are fair to both the indebted individual and creditor, returning as much as possible to creditors.
Better Regulation Bill
Businesses benefit from regulation which is transparent, consistent, accountable, proportionate, and targeted only at cases where action is needed. The Bill will therefore take steps to improve the way regulations are applied in practice across Scotland, providing for example national regulation systems and standards. The Bill will also include specific measures to further reform planning and deliver a simpler and more effective legislative framework for environmental regulation and enforcement.
Land and Buildings Transaction Tax Bill
The Bill will set out how the proposed replacement tax for Stamp Duty Land Tax will operate under a distinctly Scottish based approach and will better embed provision in Scots Law and practices.
Landfill Tax Bill
The Bill will put in place a replacement for Landfill Tax in Scotland, establishing the administration, charges and rules governing a uniquely Scottish Landfill Tax.
Adult Health & Social Care Integration Bill
The Bill will reform planning and provision of adult health and social care services, establishing effective integration between partners in order to deliver improved, nationally agreed outcomes for services. It will establish joint accountability by Health Boards and Councils for delivery of outcomes, integration of budgets, and improved commissioning and planning of services.
Children and Young People Bill
The Bill will improve the outcomes for all children and young people in Scotland, in particular the most vulnerable, by putting in place a coherent statutory framework for planning and delivery of services provided to children and young people. It will also increase transparency, scrutiny and accountability around the public sector’s approach to the practical realisation of children’s rights, and it will make provision to deliver the commitment to a minimum of 600 hours free early learning and childcare provision.
Post-16 Education Reform Bill
The Bill will provide an underpinning legal basis for some aspects of the Scottish Government’s ambitious programme of post-16 learning reform. It will support the development of a system that is better aligned to meet the needs of learners and employers, and therefore help drive jobs and growth. It will address key issues such as college and university structure and provision, college regionalisation and widening access.
Forth Estuary Transport Authority Bill
The Bill will enable the Scottish Government to adopt the most cost-effective and coordinated approach to the management and maintenance of the Forth Road Bridge and the new Forth Crossing.
Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill
The Bill will allow same sex couples to marry, and will also allow civil partnerships to be registered through a religious ceremony. It will ensure that no religious bodies and celebrants have to take part in same-sex ceremonies, unless they wish to do so. Ministers are also deeply committed to freedom of speech and religion, and the concerns of those who do not favour same sex marriage require to be properly addressed. The Scottish Government will consult stakeholders on any provisions that are required, in either statute or guidance, to protect these important principles and address specific concerns that have been expressed.
Victims and Witnesses Bill
The Bill will improve the support available for victims and witnesses, putting victims’ interests at the heart of improvements to the justice system and ensuring that witnesses are able to fulfil their public duty effectively. The Bill will include provision to widen access to special measures (such as the use of CCTV links) to protect vulnerable witnesses and ensure that offenders contribute to the cost of supporting victims.
The Bill will establish a new, simplified statutory framework for tribunals which determine matters falling within devolved competence. It will bring together those existing tribunals which currently operate in a disparate manner and establish a new system for appeals. This will create a more user-focused and coherent tribunal system in Scotland.
Criminal Justice Bill
The Bill will reform and modernise the system for investigation and prosecution of crime in Scotland. It follows from the thorough, expert reviews of Lord Carloway in relation to criminal procedure generally, and Sheriff Principal Bowen in relation to sheriff and jury procedure. It will ensure Scotland is at the forefront of human rights practice in relation to suspects and accused persons, while at the same time promoting the rights of victims by removing outdated rules on sufficiency of evidence.