1. This Programme for Government sets out our programme of policy delivery and legislation for 2014-15. Since being elected in 2007, we have had a clear, overriding purpose to create a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth. That remains at the heart of all that we will do.
2. The historic referendum on Scottish independence has seen people take an unprecedented interest in shaping the kind of Scotland we live in and the political process that supports it. We believe that independence would have unlocked unparalleled opportunities for our country, but we respect the outcome of the referendum and are working constructively with the Smith Commission in order to bring more powers to the Scottish Parliament.
3. There is no question that a very substantial proportion of the Scottish people want to be heard and contribute to real change. A defining feature of the referendum was the engagement of people whose voice previously went unheard. Our programme shows how we are responding positively to this, inviting communities to have more say over what is done in their name, and to be part of the solutions.
4. Although Scotland's economic performance is improving, poverty remains an issue for too many people. In order to tackle this, we must ensure not only that we are getting more people into work which is fairly paid, but also that we are tackling the underlying causes of poverty, by, for example, raising educational attainment.
5. Our success as a nation depends on working together to deliver a strong economy supporting a fairer society. These go hand in hand, and we cannot have one without the other. Therefore, the focus of our Programme for Government 2014-15 will be on the following themes:
- Creating More, Better Paid Jobs in a Strong, Sustainable Economy.
- Building a Fairer Scotland and Tackling Inequality.
- Passing Power to People and Communities.
Creating More, Better Paid Jobs in a Strong, Sustainable Economy
6. Scotland is a wealthy and productive country, rich in natural and human resources. In the coming year we will build on these strengths, developing our economy in partnership with businesses and communities. Our focus is ensuring more people are lifted out of poverty through getting them into work which is fairly paid. To support this, we will:
- Maintain Scotland's position as the best place to do business in the UK with a package of business rates relief worth an estimated £594 million for 2014-15 and £618 million for 2015-16. Two in every five business properties across Scotland benefit from zero or reduced rates through the Small Business Bonus Scheme alone
- Continue our support for the living wage, ensuring this is paid to all staff covered by the public sector pay policy. We will take a range of measures to further promote the living wage across the private sector, including, providing an additional £200,000 to the Poverty Alliance for work in this area. With this funding, we are setting a target to more than double the current number of organisations signed up to the Living Wage Accreditation Scheme from 70 to at least 150 by the end of 2015.
- Help get more women into work through our proposals for expanding childcare and taking action to improve gender balance on Boards.
- Provide 30,000 new Modern Apprenticeship opportunities every year by 2020, having already exceeded our current target of 25,000 per year.
- Work with Scottish businesses to further grow our economy, and in particular support Small and Medium Enterprises for example by providing £30 million of ring-fenced support for smaller developers within Help to Buy Scotland.
- Introduce a new Scottish Business Pledge.
7. We will also ensure competent delivery of the additional revenue raising powers which will become the responsibility of the Scottish Government from 1 April 2015, and have laid already out our spending plans for the year ahead in our Budget Bill.
A Fairer Scotland, Reducing Inequalities
8. We are committed to ensuring people are provided with the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty through fairly paid work. We must also take action to tackle the underlying causes of poverty, enabling people to take advantage of these opportunities. Raising educational attainment, tackling ill health and ensuring we promote equality and human rights are all crucial to enabling people to access work, and thus to address the underlying causes of poverty.
9. In order to provide young people with the opportunity to fulfil their potential we will:
- Deliver our commitment to 600 hours of childcare for over 120,000 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds. We also want to build upon that to almost double the number of free hours to 30 hours a week of free childcare by the end of the next Parliament and will begin planning for this expansion immediately.
- Take action to raise educational attainment through putting in place an Attainment Advisor for each Local Authority, who will reach into every learning community in Scotland to build capacity in our schools.
- Introduce an Education Bill which will promote children's and parental rights, including in relation to Gaelic education.
- Better prepare all young people for employment by implementing the recommendations from the Young Workforce Commission's Education for All report.
- Begin work on a new target to close the equality gap in terms of university access and will set up a Commission on Widening Access to advise us on critical steps and milestones towards this goal.
- Provide £2 million in 2015-16 to double the funding available for local widening access initiatives through the Scottish Funding Council's Impact for Access Fund.
- Introduce a Higher Education Governance Bill which will ensure that the governance of our universities is transparent, democratic and accountable.
10. The Scottish Government is committed to helping people to sustain and improve their health, especially in disadvantaged communities, and ensuring better, local and faster access to health care. In particular, we will:
- Reaffirm our commitment to NHSScotland, ensuring that the revenue budget of our NHS is set to rise in real terms for the remainder of this Parliament and beyond.
- Increase funding to tackle delayed discharges.
- Continue to progress our ambitious programme of health and social care integration, ensuring that health and social care provision across Scotland is joined-up and seamless, especially for people with long-term conditions and disabilities.
- Introduce a Carers Bill to provide further support for carers and young carers to help achieve their personal outcomes.
- Introduce a Public Health Bill which will deal with those extreme cases where people in health and social care settings have suffered the worst cases of neglect and ill-treatment, and implement measures to reduce the attractiveness and availability of non-medicinal e-cigarettes and tobacco.
- Give power to the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate to order closure of wards on the grounds of patient safety, a key recommendation of the Vale of Leven inquiry report.
11. A fair and equitable justice system is crucial to ensure that our people and communities can take control of their own affairs and thrive. We will:
- Reaffirm our support for our police and maintain our commitment to over 1,000 more police in our communities.
- Take measures to tackle domestic abuse, including consulting formally on introducing a new specific criminal offence of committing domestic abuse and also bring forward legislation to address 'revenge porn'.
- Introduce a Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill which will give police, prosecutors and other agencies the powers to make Scotland a hostile environment for human traffickers, and which will help to identify and support the needs of victims.
- Take forward a Community Justice Bill to create a stronger community justice system that provides local leadership, decision-making and service delivery.
- Introduce a Fatal Accident Inquiries Bill which will modernise the way FAIs are handled in Scotland.
- Introduce a Succession Bill to ensure that the law in this area is fairer, clearer and more consistent. We also plan to consult in the coming year on further legislation on succession which will aim to radically overhaul the current law in this area. As part of this modernisation the distinction between movable and immovable property would be removed to give children, spouses and civil partners appropriate legal rights over both forms of property. This should ensure a just distribution of assets among a deceased's close family to reflect both societal change and expectations. These changes will be an important aspect of our series of measures in respect of Land Reform.
12. The best way to tackle poverty is to ensure people can do this for themselves through access to fairly paid jobs. However, it is also important to have a fair and compassionate welfare system. The Scottish Government is committed to challenging the UK Government for fairer welfare reform and to take action to ensure that safeguards are in place for those who need them most. We will:
- Provide £104 million in 2015-16 to mitigate the welfare reforms being imposed by Westminster, via the Welfare Fund (£38m) Bedroom Tax support (£35m) council tax reduction scheme (£23m) and advice services (£8m). We will continue to progress the Welfare Funds Bill through the Scottish Parliament to provide a statutory basis for a permanent local welfare safety net.
- Introduce the Community Charge Debt Bill to end collection of historic Poll Tax debts.
- Appoint an independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequality reporting directly to the First Minister to advise on actions needed to tackle poverty.
Passing Power to Our People and Communities
13. The Scottish Government alone does not have all the answers we need to deliver a strong economy and support a fairer society. Government, communities, trade unions, businesses and the third sector must all come together in a sustained national endeavour to achieve this. We will take a range of actions to invite these partners to take control of the decisions and actions they need to deliver change. Measures to support this include:
- Ensure progress of our Community Empowerment Bill which was introduced to the Parliament earlier this year, and is already proposing measures to improve civic and community engagement and empowerment, including on the use of public assets.
- Establish a new Empowering Communities Fund which will encompass our existing People & Communities Fund, and will have an additional £10 million to allocate next year - more than doubling the existing resource.
- Our new Land Reform Bill will take forward radical land reform and ensure Scotland's land reform debate focusses on how Scotland's land can be best managed in the public interest to ensure it is of benefit to all of the people of Scotland. The measures in our Land Reform Bill will be accompanied by a range of non-legislative action building on the excellent work of the Land Reform Review Group. Increasing the transparency of who owns Scotland will be a major theme throughout these actions, as we believe that transparency in itself can help create the conditions for on-going reform. That on-going reform will be secured through the establishment of the Land Reform Commission which will ensure than Land Reform is a continuing process.
- Invite our rural communities to take more control of their own affairs through Scotland's Rural Parliament and in terms of our work to give more powers to our island communities. We will formally re-launch the Islands Area Ministerial Working Group and consult on measures to be included in an Islands Act. Our Harbours Bill will implement a number of technical changes to ensure our harbours have a secure future.
- Give people and communities better access to the information they need to take control of their own affairs through increased free provision of Wi-Fi in public buildings. We will provide funding of £1.5m to support this.
Continuing to Deliver
14. The last year has demonstrated that through working together the Scottish people and the Scottish Government can achieve real change. As well as hosting a conversation on Scotland's future which has fundamentally changed the way in which politics works both in Scotland and the UK, we have also continued to deliver a huge range of other programmes. The growth in international interest in Scotland which has occurred in 2014 gives us a tremendous platform to strengthen our voice in European and international affairs to the benefit of the people of Scotland.
15. This has particularly been demonstrated by Scotland's successful Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the legacy programme which will continue to provide benefits for our communities for years ahead, and through the more recent Ryder Cup. However, these high-profile events should not detract from the huge range of other areas on which we have delivered in the past year, in achieving real improvements in things that matter most to people, such as our economy, schools and NHS. The Scottish Government will continue to work in full partnership with the people of Scotland to achieve social justice and create an inclusive, strong and sustainable economy.