Foreword by the First Minister
In the last decade, we have achieved many things. We have developed our economy, protected jobs and businesses and made record investments in public services. We have expanded free early learning and childcare, abolished prescription charges, kept access to university free of tuition fees, confronted climate change head-on and transformed our infrastructure. We have fashioned Scotland as a modern and outward-looking place.
I am proud of our work and all that we have achieved. Now, we again look to the future. It is time to refocus our efforts and refresh our agenda to meet the changing needs of our people and the unprecedented challenges of our times.
We must navigate the uncertainties of Brexit.
As technology rapidly advances, so too must our economy.
We have a moral responsibility to tackle climate change and an economic responsibility to prepare Scotland for the new, low carbon world.
As our population ages, we must meet the needs of our older citizens while ensuring fairness across the generations.
In the face of continued Westminster austerity, we have a duty to protect our cherished public services.
And we must uphold the rights and values of an open, inclusive, diverse, tolerant and progressive democracy at a time when the forces of isolation and protectionism appear to be on the rise.
In each of these challenges, we will find opportunities. It is our job to seize them.
This Programme for Government is our plan to shape the kind of Scotland we all seek - an inclusive, fair, prosperous, innovative country, ready and willing to embrace the future.
It includes major reforms in education, health and justice, new opportunities for our communities and important measures to safeguard the environment and improve the quality of housing.
It commits to lifting the public sector pay cap - vital to living standards and our ability to recruit staff for our precious public services.
And it opens a debate about how to best use our tax powers - responsibly - to protect public services and strengthen the social contract in the face of continued Westminster austerity.
Crucially, this Programme for Government also sets out a bold and forward-looking economic vision - sending a clear message to our people, businesses, schools, colleges and universities, and to the wider world: Scotland's ambition is to be the inventor and the producer, not just a consumer, of the innovations that will shape the lives of our children and grandchildren.
We will seize the economic opportunities of tackling climate change, helping existing industries adapt to the future and using developments in data and digital technology to make our economy more competitive, productive, innovative, fair and profitable. As a key step in getting Scotland ready for our low carbon future, this Programme for Government sets out a bold new plan to electrify our roads network.
Vital to all of what we aspire to as a nation is our commitment - my personal commitment - to raise the bar and close the gap in education. All children and young people, whatever their background or circumstances, deserve the same chance to reach their full potential.
From the Baby Box to the expansion of free high quality early learning and childcare, and from our work to tackle child poverty to the school reforms that will put more power and resources into the hands of teachers, the year ahead will see us take the next bold steps to give our children the best start in life. Our focus is an education system that will give them the skills, support and experiences they need to fulfil their ambitions and make Scotland the economic success we want it to be.
Our Programme for Government also sets out the next steps in a more inclusive approach to helping unemployed people find work, and creation of a new social security system with dignity and respect at its core. In the coming weeks, we will confirm the configuration of the new social security agency that will ensure effective delivery of the new, devolved benefits, starting with an increased Carer's Allowance next year.
This Programme also renews our mission to tackle the deep-seated and intractable challenges of homelessness, rough sleeping and drug use. While these problems are not unique to Scotland and affect a minority of our population, they blight too many lives and tarnish the reputation of our nation. With cuts from Westminster austerity now exacerbating these problems, we will redouble our own efforts to tackle them.
Dignity, too, is the watchword as we adapt to an ageing population. In this Programme for Government, we reaffirm our commitment to record investment in our NHS while also delivering the reforms that will see more care delivered in the community through primary and social care services.
We will also continue to tackle the challenge of poor public health, matching our actions on smoking and alcohol misuse, with bold new initiatives to reduce obesity, boost active travel, improve mental health and tackle air pollution.
Modern governments across the globe face the challenge of securing equality across the generations - dignity for those in old age and a fair deal for the next generation of young people who will live, work and bring up their families here.
This Programme sets out our commitment to providing young people with the skills they need to succeed in tomorrow's economy, while also delivering more affordable homes and doing all that we can to boost wages and raise living standards. Just as free personal care has been
a substantial investment in our older generation, free childcare and free tuition mirror that investment for our young people and young families.
Of course, Brexit will continue to provide the backdrop to much that we do over the next year. The Scottish Government will continue to make the case for remaining in the single market and customs union. We will take whatever steps we can to protect our economy from the damage Brexit will do. But, Brexit poses a threat to more than just our economy. It is also a threat to our rights as citizens. That's why we will work to protect human, environmental, employment and consumer rights. And we will protect the Scottish Parliament by resisting any attempt at a power grab by the UK Government.
Over the next few months, we will also set out the case for further extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament in areas such as immigration, social security, employment rights and trade - and highlight where additional powers would enable us to better achieve the ambitions in this programme. We will seek to build consensus across the political spectrum and civic society.
As we reflect on the progress of the last decade and look ahead to the challenges and opportunities of the future, our purpose is clear - we want Scotland to be the best place in the world to bring up children, the best place to grow up and be educated, the best place to live, work, visit, invest and do business, the best place to be cared for in times of sickness, need or vulnerability and the best place to grow old.
This programme sets out our next steps in creating the better future we all want for our nation.
Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP
First Minister of Scotland