Equality, opportunity, community: New leadership - A fresh start
This publication sets out the First Minister’s vision for Scotland and the outcomes he and his government aim to achieve by 2026.
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance
Shona Robison MSP
Good governance begins with sound public finances. The shocks of recent years have strained our budgets and stretched our resources. Achieving and maintaining a balanced budget, while delivering against our three central missions, will be my highest priority and my most important work. Sound finances are the strong foundations from which we will deliver for people and progress the vital missions set out by the First Minister.
The financial situation facing the Scottish Government is, by far, the most challenging since devolution. The shocks of over a decade of austerity, a hard Brexit, the COVID pandemic, and the war in Ukraine are placing extreme inflationary pressure on the public finances. We have strived to settle fair and affordable pay awards, but ultimately our in-year budget is effectively fixed and constrained by UK Government spending decisions and our lack of borrowing powers.
There remain real pressures on the Scottish finances. The funding available to the Scottish Government, with the exception of demand-led social security expenditure, is projected to fall in real terms by 2026-27. It is more important than ever to prioritise support to those that need it most, and ensure value for money in our public services. I will set out more detail on our approach to managing the public finances in the Medium Term Financial Strategy by the end of May.
As the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, working with my Cabinet colleagues, I commit that by 2026 I will have:
- Managed the Scottish public finances on a sustainable trajectory, balancing our budgets through maximising the value of public spending and putting robust policies in place to support and sustain effective public service delivery.
- Used our tax powers to deliver the most progressive tax system in the UK, making tax policy choices that are informed by public and stakeholder views and ensuring that the revenue we generate helps us to achieve the Government's three critical and inter-dependent missions.
- Prioritised our capital investment to achieve net zero and to maintain high quality public infrastructure and services across Scotland.
- Completed the first review of Scotland's Fiscal Framework – subject to negotiation with the UK Government – which underpins the principles of fiscal devolution to Scotland.
Ensuring Scottish public finances are on a stable and sustainable footing will mean growing our economy and by extension our tax base, embedding delivery and value for money at the heart of our public services. Central to this will be overseeing public service reform, focused on delivering more efficient, person-centred public services, that continue to embed Fair Work principles at their heart.
Reforming public services will mean that, by 2026, in partnership with Local Government, trade unions and the third sector, amongst others, I will have:
- Progressed a ten-year programme of public bodies and public service reform that seeks to achieve effective and person-centred, fiscally sustainable public services.
- Strengthened the resilience of our public services and our communities by increasing the number of people who have good, increasingly productive jobs which meet the principles of Fair Work, and who make a positive contribution to our society and our economy.
- Targeted both short term efficiencies and wider, deeper, and longer term reform, including through rolling out modern digital services that are easy to access, reliable and effective. This will remove the need for manual processing, reduce failure demand and meet people's expectations of how they want to interact with government, securely and in a manner which protects their privacy.
- Published a Rural Delivery Plan, showing how all parts of the Scottish Government are delivering for rural Scotland. As well as policies on agriculture, land reform, marine, and our Islands Plan, this will cover areas such as transport, housing, social justice, repopulation, digital connectivity and economic development.
I am committed to resetting the relationship and working collaboratively with Local Government. By 2026, in partnership with Local Government, I will have:
- Agreed and implemented a New Deal for Local Government, including a fiscal framework, enabling better collaboration to jointly deliver our shared priorities, tackle the collective challenges we face, and improve outcomes for people – building on the constructive work already ongoing with our partners in COSLA.
- Delivered, subject to the agreement of parliament, legislation giving councils the discretionary power to apply a Local Visitor Levy on overnight stays in commercially let accommodation, increasing the opportunities for councils to raise revenues.
- Through the Joint Working Group on sources of Local Government funding, including council tax, we will have considered further reforms for council tax building on the joint publication on 17 April of a consultation on the treatment of council tax for second homes and long term empty properties.
Supporting the vital work of the First Minister's National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) is another priority. By 2026, in partnership with the First Minster and colleagues across government, I will have:
- Worked with the NACWG to ensure that we collaborate to make the gains for women's equality in Scotland we all want to see.
Finally, to improve how we deliver for the people of Scotland we will also learn lessons from the past. This Government will engage with both the Scottish and the UK Public Inquiries into the COVID pandemic in a constructive spirit of openness and transparency. The COVID inquiries will be central to our determination to ensure Scotland learns the lessons of the pandemic and is as prepared as possible for such events in the future.
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