2023-24 Programme for Government published.
Reducing poverty, delivering growth, tackling climate change and providing high-quality public services will be the Scottish Government’s top priorities for the year ahead, First Minister Humza Yousaf has pledged.
Outlining his first Programme for Government, the First Minister described it as “unashamedly anti-poverty and pro-growth”. The package of measures aims to help build a more equal society through concerted efforts to eradicate poverty, tackle the cost of living crisis, and create opportunities for businesses and individuals.
The Programme supports the Scottish Government’s wider work in building a fair, green and growing economy, and strengthening public services.
Key commitments include:
- expanding access to funded childcare
- paying social care workers in a direct care role and frontline staff providing funded early learning and childcare in the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) sector, at least £12 an hour from April
- speeding up renewable energy projects with a new deal for the onshore wind industry
- delivering a new £15 million support package to unleash entrepreneurial talent
- expanding free school meals in primary schools
The First Minister said:
“The Scottish Government will always be on the side of the people we serve. Scotland is – certainly should be – a land of opportunity, but I know it doesn’t always feel like that to people bearing the brunt of the UK Government cost-of-living crisis, to families living in the poverty, to struggling businesses, to those who still face consequences of discrimination and inequality. I get that.
“This Programme is an opportunity to be explicit about the driving mission of this government. So let me make it abundantly clear, we are a government who will maximise every lever at our disposal to tackle the scourge of poverty in our country.
“But let me be equally clear, we also need to support economic growth. Not for its own sake but so we can tackle poverty and improve our public services. And we will be unapologetic in taking the action necessary to ensure a sustainable future for our children and planet.
“The unfortunate reality is that the Scottish Government is currently operating with one hand tied behind our back. In the last five years we have spent more than £700 million in countering the impact of UK Government welfare cuts alone.
“That’s why this government will never stop believing that decisions about Scotland should not be made by a government based in Westminster, but by the people of Scotland. In proposing the case for independence we will set out a positive vision for Scotland’s future.
“Scotland’s economy already performs better than most parts of the UK, we have world-class universities and colleges, and significant strengths and potential in many of the key economic sectors of the future. Today’s Programme for Government sets out how we will build on these strengths, to make people’s lives better.
“In the year ahead, we will support more than 300,000 children with more than £1,000 a year through the Scottish Child payment. We will expand the availability of high quality childcare – providing funding in six early adopter local authority areas to offer increased access to childcare from nine months through to the end of primary school. And we will invest in raising the pay of childcare and social care staff.
“We will also safeguard the rights of tenants, promote payment of the living wage, and provide help for disabled people with complex needs, so that they can live independent lives.
“We will do all of this – first and foremost because it is the right thing to do. And also, as I know well from my own family history, because providing people with support and security helps them to contribute to society and to create opportunities for others. This Programme for Government shows how we will make progress towards a fairer, wealthier and greener Scotland.”
The Programme for Government will see 14 new bills introduced over the 2023-24 parliamentary term. This is in addition to the existing 11 pieces of Scottish Government legislation which Parliament is currently considering.
The 2023-24 Legislative programme: Programme for Government
To help ensure delivery is at the heart of the Programme for Government, the First Minister has agreed Mandate Letters with all Cabinet Secretaries: Policy priority agreements - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
Key commitments from the new Programme for Government include:
Equality: Tackling poverty and protecting people from harm
- expanding access to funded childcare from nine months through to the end of primary school in six ‘early adopter’ local authorities, alongside starting to phase in a national expansion for families with two-year-olds from next year, focused on tackling child poverty
- testing a new digital services to give parents and carers more scope to manage and choose their childcare
- aiming to recruit 1000 additional childminders by the end of the Parliamentary session
- providing funding so staff in the private, voluntary and independent sector who deliver funded early learning and childcare are paid a minimum of £12 an hour from April next year
- continuing to implement education and skills reform and driving forward work to ensure excellence and equity for all children, young people and lifelong learners in Scotland
- bringing forward legislation to ensure the right structures and organisations are in place to help make Scotland the best place in the world to be educated
- working with COSLA to prepare for the expansion of universal free school meal provision for all pupils in primaries six and seven, starting with those in receipt of the Scottish Child Payment
- investing £5.3 billion in 2023-24 through devolved benefits, including more than £400 million in the Scottish Child Payment (currently worth £25 per child per week) to help more than 300,000 children across the country
- providing up to £9 million to reopen the Independent Living Fund in the next financial year, ensuring disabled people with especially complex needs get the support they need in order to live independent lives
- introducing a Housing Bill to deliver a New Deal for Tenants by creating new tenants’ rights and powers for the introduction of a system of long term rent controls
- introducing a Cladding Remediation Bill to provide greater power to tackle unsafe cladding in medium and high-rise buildings
- introducing a pilot for the removal of ScotRail peak-time fares, beginning in October, to make rail travel more affordable and accessible
- consulting on a proposal to ban the sale of single-use vapes to help reduce vaping among young people and mitigate the harm single-use vapes are having on the environment
- taking action to improve care and support for people who have miscarriages, providing access to progesterone prescriptions, and securing separate spaces in hospitals within maternity wards for people who suffer a miscarriage.
Opportunity: Building a fair, green and growing economy
- delivering a new £15 million package of measures to help entrepreneurial talent from all walks of life and parts of Scotland and implement the recommendations of the New Deal for Business Group
- establishing a new Small Business Unit to ensure the interests of small businesses are always considered
- establishing a sector deal with the onshore wind industry to help maximise the benefits of onshore wind for Scotland’s economy and communities, underpinned by an ambition to speed up the consenting process by halving the average determination time for section 36 applications to 12 months where there is no public inquiry
- developing a Green Industrial Strategy to help businesses and investors realise the enormous economic opportunities of the global transition to net zero and of creating good, well-paid jobs in sectors such as offshore wind and hydrogen, while also supporting the development of sectoral Just Transition Plans
- through the draft Climate Change Plan, continuing to drive down emissions with bold action across transport, heat, and other areas
Community: Delivering efficient and effective public services
- continuing to work with Health Boards to reduce waiting lists and protect planned care, including opening the National Treatment Centre (NTC) in Forth Valley and delivering the second phase of the NHS Golden Jubilee NTC - providing significant additional capacity in endoscopies, as well as orthopaedics and general surgery, by the end of 2023
- paying social care workers in a direct care role at least £12 an hour from April
- working with local authorities to embed the Verity House Agreement that sets out how the local and national governments of Scotland will work together and progress shared priorities of tackling poverty, the just transition to net zero and sustainable public services
- continuing to support schools and local authorities to improve the attainment of children and young people impacted by poverty, with a particular focus on literacy and numeracy – underpinned by the £1 billion investment in the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
- supporting justice agencies to reduce court backlogs, including aiming to end the backlog of summary cases during 2024 and reduce waiting times for justice - while taking forward a comprehensive package of legislation to reform Scotland’s justice system.
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