Programme for Government 2018 to 2019

Sets out our plans for the next year, including the Bills that will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament.

Introduction from the First Minister

Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP
First Minister of Scotland

Last year’s Programme for Government set out bold and ambitious plans to tackle some of the big challenges of our time – getting our economy fit for the future, preparing for demographic change and tackling inequality. It spoke to the sort of Scotland we want to see – one that is innovative, welcoming, caring and productive. Our aim is a Scotland where every person and community is able to achieve their full potential.

It is not possible to ignore the uncertainty caused by Brexit – uncertainty that is being made worse by the blundering of the UK Government. But, equally, we must not let it define us, curtail our ambitions or halt Scotland’s progress.

And the progress we’ve made so far is significant.

Over the past decade we have delivered radical changes in our country – free prescriptions, over a quarter of a million modern apprenticeships, equal marriage, world-leading action on climate change and the modernisation of our infrastructure. And before we know it, our more recent innovations like Baby Boxes for newborns, fairer systems of taxation and social security, and minimum unit pricing for alcohol will be taken as the norm.

We should be proud of what we, as a country, have achieved in making Scotland a better place – a country where businesses are profitable and people are treated fairly; a country where we nurture, help and protect those who need it most, and where our public institutions, whether our NHS, schools, social security system or enterprise and skills agencies, belong to, and listen to, the people they serve.

The next wave of progress has already started.

We are now delivering a transformational expansion of early learning and childcare, that will save families thousands of pounds and ensure that every child has the best start in life. We are investing in an economy that delivers for everyone, with spending on economic development in Scotland higher than the UK as a whole.

The modernisation of our infrastructure too is progressing – we have exceeded our target of 95% fibre broadband coverage across Scotland and are now taking forward our commitment to 100% superfast connectivity.

Strong public services are an essential part of building a strong economy and we continue to invest for the future.

We have recently awarded 147,000 NHS staff a minimum pay rise of 9% over the next three years and we are investing record amounts in our NHS to help it adapt to the challenges of a changing society. Our communities are benefiting from significant investment in new and affordable homes and recorded crime at its lowest level since 1974.

We have put in place new legislation setting international standards for tackling domestic abuse and will now take forward plans to better support victims and witnesses of crime. This past winter we were able to keep more people from sleeping rough – and now our work to fundamentally change how we tackle and prevent homelessness will intensify.

All of our work is now supported by a fairer tax system – which asks those who can most afford it to pay a little more to protect our public services, while ensuring slightly lower bills for the majority.

So much has been achieved but there is still much more we want to do.

This Programme for Government continues the major reforms that are under way in our health, education and justice systems. And it builds on the progress we have made in tackling inequalities.

A strong, sustainable and inclusive economy is central to that.

In this Programme for Government I am committing to the most ambitious long-term level of infrastructure spend that Scotland has ever seen – that is investment in schools, hospitals and transport, and in digital connectivity and clean energy.

In the coming year we will introduce legislation to underpin the Scottish National Investment Bank and take forward a package of measures to increase the export of Scotland’s innovations and products to the rest of the world.

We will also work with industry and trade unions to ensure that our people have the skills they need to benefit from the technological change that is transforming our world and workplaces.

To be a more successful country we need to close the gap between the health of our wealthiest communities and that of our poorest, and we need to see an overall improvement in our population health.

We know that ensuring good health, both physical and mental, is not just the job of the NHS – indeed, good health is directly linked to our economic success as a nation. However, a modern, fit-for-purpose NHS, focused on prevention and speedy treatment where necessary, is essential. Our health service, like that of other nations, is facing the challenges of changing demographics and rising demand. We are determined to support it to meet those challenges.

We will continue to invest record sums and later this month we will publish a plan to substantially and sustainably improve waiting times.

Mental health is just as important as physical health and we recognise that, right now, support for our children and young people in particular is not good enough. This Programme for Government commits to changing that. We plan a significant investment in the range of support available to our young people, which will see issues tackled earlier and where possible in the community, while ensuring speedier access to specialist care for those who need it.

The defining mission of my government remains our commitment to education – for every child to have the best start in life and to fulfil their potential. I want young people to continue to benefit from the free, quality education that I was privileged to have. We will build on the work that is under way to close the attainment gap and, with our colleagues in local government, we will pick up the pace of the reforms needed to put power in the hands of headteachers, schools and communities. Our new packages of careers advice and student support will also help us to continue to make progress on equal access to university by 2030.

Our new, more compassionate social security system will make its first payments this month through the Carer’s Allowance Supplement and we will start making payments from our Best Start Grant by the end of the year – more than six months ahead of schedule. This will put more money into the pockets of families on lower incomes – by providing £600 on the birth of a first child and £300 on the birth of any further children, more than the current UK Government arrangements.

And we will make progress on reducing child poverty, with children in school this year being among the first entitled to a national minimum school clothing grant of £100. We will also extend access to free sanitary products to more women and girls and deliver on radical recommendations to end homelessness.

There is still work to be done to tackle the prejudices and attitudes that fuel intolerance and we will consult on new hate crime laws that are fit for 21st-century Scotland. We will also take forward a package of measures to better support the victims of crime, and put victims and witnesses at the heart of our reforms to our justice system.

We are learning more and more about the impact of adverse childhood experiences on our life chances and we have a moral imperative to do more, not only to prevent them from happening in the first place, but to limit the damage they do to people, families and communities in the longer term. Our expansion of the Family Nurse Partnership and increased recruitment of school nurses and counsellors will help to deliver practical support in communities to those that need it most.

We will continue to take world-leading action on climate change and reduce the burden of plastics in our seas – banning the manufacture and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds. While we protect our natural environment and its biodiversity for future generations we will continue to make the most of the economic opportunities of our natural infrastructure through tourism, innovation in the circular economy and clean energy. Moving beyond the design of our deposit return system we will consult on what additional measures should be considered to improve the use and reuse of other materials.

And as we make progress we will continue to look outwards.

We will continue to be innovative, pioneering, inclusive and creative and to give the record number of people coming to visit us the warmest of welcomes.

Everyone who wants to be part of Scotland’s progress must feel welcome to live, work and study here. All of our population growth in the next 25 years is predicated to come from migration. So we want those healthcare professionals, teachers, students and entrepreneurs – indeed people from any walk of life who will add to the richness of our country – to do us the honour of making Scotland their home and help us create a more successful country.

Of course we cannot ignore the fact that Brexit puts all of our progress at risk and we will continue to call upon the UK Government to divert us from the damaging course of a hard and unnecessary Brexit.

We recognise, however, our responsibility to Scotland to prepare for all exit possibilities in order to protect the Scottish economy in what are and will continue to be very uncertain times. So we must be prepared to act quickly and be flexible in our response, anchored by our values and our determination to do right by all of Scotland.

As we look to the future, however, one thing is certain: our commitment – my commitment – to making sure that all of Scotland flourishes, and that we remain outward looking and confident, will be undiminished.

This Programme for Government sets out what I want us to achieve in both the short and long term. But the vision it underpins will not be delivered by government alone – it is for all of us. It is Scotland’s plan for the future.

This Programme for Government sets out an ambitious plan that will deliver for people, communities and businesses now and make the investments that will benefit future generations. The plans we are setting out in this Programme for Government include:

  • increasing investment in Scotland’s infrastructure so it is £1.5 billion per year higher by 2025-26 than in 2019-20. This increased investment will help us support faster broadband, improved transport and more low-carbon energy
  • delivering the first Best Start Grant payments before Christmas – 6 months earlier than planned – helping parents on low incomes with £600 on the birth of their first child and £300 on the birth of later children, to buy the pram or other big essentials that new families need
  • recruiting 430 new school, college and university counsellors as part of a new package to help support wellbeing and prevent mental ill-health
  • implementing new powers for headteachers, making them the key decision makers in the life of their school
  • making payment of the living wage, transparency on gender-equal pay and exclusion of zero-hours contracts criteria for the award of job-related public sector grants like Regional Selective Assistance
  • supporting 750 new, extended or refurbished nurseries as part of our commitment to double the provision of early learning and childcare
  • developing ‘A Trading Nation’ – an enhanced export plan, backed by £20 million of investment, to help boost the value of our overseas exports and provide additional help to those considering overseas trade
  • rolling out the electrification of Scotland’s roads with 1500 new charge points and £20 million to help people and businesses switch to electric vehicles
  • reducing our carbon footprint with 500 new ultra low emission vehicles in the public sector and over 100 new green buses
  • enshrining children’s rights by incorporating the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into law


Email: Kathryn Fergusson

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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