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.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice

Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP

Scotland's biggest and best resource is our people. I want everyone who lives here to have equality of opportunity and live in a fairer country where they can thrive. I do not want barriers such as poverty or prejudice to stop people reaching their potential. Principles enshrined in our social security system are fairness, respect and dignity – and these should be the guiding principles for our society. I will work to reduce inequalities and promote equality and human rights so that everyone in every community is treated equally, with government policy making which reflects that.

I want people to live fulfilling, happy and healthy lives in a society which supports them to do so. Therefore, tackling poverty and improving and striving towards full equality no matter your background, is critical, and I will work with my colleagues in government to achieve this.

It is vital that we tackle deep-seated and multi-generational child poverty and stop the cycle that reduces opportunity and leads to further inequalities such as in our health. Driving action to achieve our statutory child poverty targets by 2030 and ensuring child poverty is at the heart of Cabinet decision making are central to achieving our mission to tackle poverty and protect people from harm.

I know what a challenge that will be without the full powers of an independent country but we will use all the powers we have to tackle poverty and inequality, build a fairer Scotland, and support those most in need during the cost of living crisis. And we will build the case for further powers so we have all the levers we need to tackle poverty with the urgency it requires.

I will work across government on actions from delivering improved employment opportunities, to increasing the availability of flexible childcare, and delivering affordable homes. I will continue to build our social security system and deliver Scottish Government benefits to around two million people, mitigating the impacts of UK Government policies, such as the benefit cap and bedroom tax. Our work will continue to maximise household incomes, saving money for people who need it most through provision of services such as childcare, transport and free school meals, and providing support to disabled people and carers.

Like many advanced economies around the world, Scotland's population is ageing and our birth rate is falling. Migration has been impacted as a result of a hard Brexit imposed upon Scotland. Our population strategy provides a platform for economic success, prosperity and wellbeing. We want our communities to be attractive places to work, live, bring up families and to move to. I will lead the work of the Ministerial Population Taskforce and give renewed cross-government focus to address our demographic challenges.

The Scottish Government cannot create a more just society on its own. I stand ready to work in partnership with Local Government, communities, businesses, social enterprises and third sector organisations who will help us build a more equal and just society; it takes all of us to build a fairer Scotland.

As the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, working with my Cabinet colleagues, I commit that by 2026 I will have:

  • Reduced child poverty rates through delivery of our tackling child poverty plan Best Start, Bright Futures, using all available levers.
  • Invested a further £1.3 billion in our game-changing Scottish Child Payment – which is forecast this financial year to lift 50,000 children out of poverty.
  • Built on the successful establishment of our social security system and delivered Scottish Government benefits worth £18 billion to over two million people, treating them with dignity, fairness and respect.
  • Transferred the awards of over 700,000 people from the Department for Work and Pensions to Social Security Scotland.
  • Delivered affordable homes across the country, the majority of which will be for social rent, driving towards our 2032 target.
  • Published a Remote, Rural and Island Housing Action Plan; setting out our approach to rural housing delivery, including support for community housing trusts, and actions to allow suitable properties, including empty homes, to be purchased, or long leased, and turned into affordable housing for those who need them in rural areas, including key workers.
  • Delivered legislation on a new deal for tenants, and new prevention of homelessness duties, subject to the agreement of parliament.
  • Worked with partners including Local Government to identify ways to reduce the number of people living in temporary accommodation, taking account of the recommendations of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group (HPSG) Temporary Accommodation Task and Finish Group.
  • Acted decisively to protect lives by assessing and remediating medium and high rise multi-residential buildings with unsafe cladding and by holding developers to account for their commitments to residents and homeowners.
  • Provided sanctuary to people displaced by war in Ukraine, and ensured support is available for those fleeing conflict and persecution to integrate into our communities in line with the New Scots Strategy.
  • Delivered world leading Human Rights legislation, subject to the agreement of parliament, protecting economic, social and cultural rights and established an Equality and Human Rights Mainstreaming Strategy across the public sector.
  • Established the first independent Anti-Racism Observatory for Scotland, recommended by the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity, signalling our commitment to anti-racism.
  • Progressed Fairer Funding arrangements, including exploring options to implement multi-year funding deals, enabling the third sector to secure the resilience and capacity it needs to support the transformation and delivery of person-centred services for Scotland's people and support our thriving social enterprise economy.
  • Supported people and employers to navigate the complex UK immigration system when moving to Scotland, through the establishment of a Talent Attraction and Migration Service, and begun to address community depopulation challenges, including through tailored, community-driven migration solutions which support local economies and public services, through an Addressing Depopulation Action Plan.
  • Continued to press the UK Government to provide further powers to the Scottish Parliament so we can tackle poverty, and make the vital immigration reforms required to meet Scotland's needs, including making the strongest case possible for tailored migration solutions such as a Rural Visa Pilot.


Email: pfg@gov.scot

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