- 7 Sep 2021
Today, I will set out the Government’s programme for the year ahead - and our priorities for the duration of this parliament - as we implement the manifesto we were resoundingly re-elected on in May, and our Co-operation Agreement with the Scottish Green Party.
This programme addresses the key challenges Scotland faces, and aims to shape a better future.
It sets out how we will:
- Tackle the challenge of Covid, and rebuild from it;
- Address the deep-seated inequalities in our society;
- Confront with urgency the climate emergency, in a way that captures maximum economic benefit; and
- Mitigate, as far as we can, the damaging consequences of Brexit, while offering a better alternative.
In detail, it sets out plans to invest in and reform our public services; establish a National Care Service; extend and increase the Scottish Child Payment; build more affordable houses; guarantee opportunities for young people; build an economy fit for the future; and show real leadership on the climate crisis.
It also reaffirms the Scottish Government’s commitment to an independence referendum.
Our democratic mandate to allow people to decide the country’s future is beyond question.
And at this juncture in history, it is essential that we consider the kind of country we want to be, and how best to secure it.
As we emerge from the pandemic, choices fall to be made that will shape our economy and our society for decades to come.
Which Parliament - Westminster or Holyrood - should make these choices?
And what principles will they be guided by?
These are questions which cannot be avoided, nor postponed until the die is already cast.
So we intend to offer the choice.
We will do so only when the Covid crisis has passed but our aim, Covid permitting, is that it will be in the first half of this Parliament - before the end of 2023.
Crucially, we will ensure that the choice - when it does come - is a fully informed one.
To that end, I can confirm that the Scottish Government will now restart work on the detailed prospectus that will guide the decision.
The case for independence is a strong one and we will present it openly, frankly and with confidence and ambition. Building a better future for those who come after us should be the ambition of any government.
Of course, the immediate priority of this government is to lead Scotland out of the pandemic.
We are currently experiencing a surge in cases - though possibly seeing an early sign that the rate of increase is beginning to slow.
I will update Parliament on that in more detail tomorrow.
However, we remain focussed on keeping the country as safe as possible in the face of a highly uncertain situation.
We will continue to maximise uptake of vaccines across all eligible groups, and extend vaccination quickly in line with any advice from the JCVI or the Chief Medical Officer.
We will support Test & Protect, and introduce the Coronavirus (Compensation for Self-isolation) Bill.
This will allow health boards to focus on key services, while local and national governments provide support for those asked to self-isolate.
We will work with businesses to ensure safe environments for workers and customers.
As part of this, and to ensure that limited public resources support the most affected sectors, we will introduce the Non-Domestic Rates Covid-19 Appeals Bill to prevent inappropriate use of the material change of circumstance provisions in non-domestic rates legislation.
We will take steps to encourage continued compliance with mitigations such as face coverings, rigorous hygiene and good ventilation.
We will work with local authorities, schools, universities and colleges to put protections in place for young people and minimise disruption to education.
And we will seek Parliament’s approval this week for a targeted system of vaccine certification, as a proportionate alternative to the risk of further closure of higher risk settings.
All of these measures are likely to be essential as we head into autumn and winter.
As we seek to protect against Covid in the short term, we will also prepare for recovery in the longer term.
A Covid Recovery Bill will embed reforms in our public services and justice system that, though necessitated by the pandemic, have delivered improvements. The Bill will also help build resilience against future health threats.
We will also shortly publish our wider Covid Recovery Strategy setting out the targeted actions we will take to address the impact of the pandemic on those hardest hit.
An essential aspect of recovery from Covid is the reform and renewal of our public services.
Our health and care services have performed magnificently in the most difficult of circumstances imaginable. They remain under severe and intense pressure.
The Scottish Government will do all we can to support those who work in health and care.
We have already implemented a 4% pay increase for Agenda for Change staff - the biggest single-year rise in the history of this Parliament and the biggest of all the four UK nations.
We will continue to ensure fair and competitive pay for all who work in the NHS.
And through our work to build a National Care Service, we will deliver national bargaining and improved pay for those who work in the care sector too.
We will support implementation of the NHS Recovery Plan.
To ensure that Covid related backlogs are addressed and waiting times brought back within targets, we will substantially increase NHS capacity.
Inpatient and day case capacity will increase by 10% over the next eighteen months and by 20% over the next five years.
There will be a 10% increase in outpatient capacity by the end of the Parliament.
And over the same timescale, a mix of innovation and extra capacity will deliver 90,000 more diagnostic procedures.
The Recovery Plan will be backed by more than £1 billion of targeted investment.
And I can confirm today that we will increase investment in frontline health services by 20% over the lifetime of this Parliament.
This means that by 2026/27, the frontline health budget will be £2.5 billion higher than it is today.
We will also increase investment in primary care by 25% by the end of this Parliament – with half of all frontline spend invested in community health services so that more care is delivered closer to home.
And I can confirm that having already removed dental charges for everyone under 26 since our re-election, we will abolish dental charges for all.
In the year ahead, we will invest an additional £120 million in mental health services.
And we will increase direct investment in mental health services by 25% over this term - and ensure that mental health commands at least 10% of frontline health spending.
The immediate funding will support the recovery and transformation of services, with a focus on prevention and early intervention. It will also enable the full implementation of the National CAMHS Service Specification and clear historic waiting lists.
We will also invest in the modernisation of the NHS estate.
Capital investment of £10 billion over the next decade will see health facilities built and refurbished across Scotland.
This will include completion of the network of national treatment centres.
I can confirm that 1,500 additional NHS staff members will be recruited to support this network. Centres in Fife, Forth Valley and Highland will open next year.
I can also confirm that we will support the replacement of the Edinburgh Eye Pavilion.
We will also improve public health, with action to cut tobacco use, tackle alcohol misuse and reduce obesity.
Over the course of the parliament we will double to £100 million investment in sport and active living.
We will also address the drugs death crisis. We will do so with urgency and a deep sense of responsibility, and guided by lived experience.
£250 million in additional funding will be invested across this Parliament to support better outreach, treatment, rehabilitation and aftercare in every part of Scotland.
This year, our focus will be on ensuring access to same day treatment and a wider range of treatment options. We will also provide guaranteed funding for grassroots organisations providing essential community support.
Finally, on health and care, I can confirm that we will introduce in this parliamentary year a National Care Service Bill.
This will provide for the establishment of the new service - which we intend to be operational by the end of this Parliament - and implement what is arguably the most significant public service reform since the creation of the National Health Service.
Alongside reform there will also be investment.
I can confirm that we will increase funding for social care by at least £800 million - 25% - over the lifetime of the Parliament
We will also remove charges for non-residential care.
And we will introduce ‘Anne’s Law’, giving nominated relatives or friends the same access rights to care homes as staff.
I know the establishment of the National Care Service will spark much debate and it is vital that we get the detail of it right.
But done well, as we intend, a National Care Service will be one of the biggest ever achievements of this Parliament - and, just like the NHS in the wake of the Second World War, it will be a fitting legacy from the trauma of Covid.
This Programme will also support and reform other key public services.
The measures we are outlining today will help our justice system recover from Covid.
I can confirm that we will protect Police Scotland’s resource budget for the duration of this parliament, and we will also support the modernisation of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
We will upgrade the prison estate, with investment of half a billion pounds.
A new Community Justice Strategy - to be published next year and backed by new investment - will support a substantial expansion of community justice services, and help reduce re-offending.
We will also improve support for the victims of crime with the appointment of a Victims’ Commissioner and also a new fund to support victims’ organisations.
We will introduce a Bail and Release from Custody Bill to improve how decisions on bail are reached and better support release from custody.
And while we are proud of the reputation of Scotland’s justice system and the distinctive Scots law principles that underpin it, we will consider reforms to make it stronger still.
I can confirm that this year, we will launch a public consultation on whether the “not proven” verdict should be abolished.
And we will consult on the potential separation of the dual roles of Scotland’s law officers.
I can also confirm that in this first year of the parliament, we will introduce the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.
I understand that some have sincerely held concerns about this legislation.
It is therefore worth stressing, I think, what it will do - but also what it will not do.
It will make the existing process of gender recognition less degrading, intrusive and traumatic.
In other words, it will make life that bit easier for one of the most stigmatized minorities in our society. I think that is something any Parliament should feel a responsibility to do.
What it will not do is remove any of the legal protections that women currently have.
We should never forget that the biggest threats to women’s safety come - as has always been the case - from abusive and predatory men; from deep seated sexism and misogyny; and, in some parts of the world, from lawmakers intent on taking away basic freedoms and removing the rights of women to control our own bodies.
That is why I can also confirm that in this Parliament we will invest £100 million to tackle domestic abuse and violence against women, and support the frontline organisations who do so much to help them.
And we will take account of the recommendations of the Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice, which is due to report next year.
We will also take forward our ground-breaking Women’s Health Plan.
And move to incorporate key human rights conventions into our domestic law.
We will also take forward a number of measures to tackle longstanding concerns and address past injustice.
We will introduce a Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Bill to tighten the law on the sale and use of fireworks and reduce the misery they cause in communities.
We will make legislative changes to tackle irresponsible dog ownership.
And we will introduce the Fox Control Bill to strengthen the law on the use of dogs to flush foxes and other wild mammals.
Last, but by no means least, we will introduce the Miners’ Pardon Bill to provide a collective pardon for those convicted of certain offences during the 1984/85 miners’ strike. I hope this will bring closure to those convicted, their families, and the communities affected.
In the year ahead and over this Parliament, we will continue our investment in and reform of education.
We will implement the recommendations of the OECD review of the curriculum.
We will continue work to close the poverty-related attainment gap, with further investment of £1 billion over the course of the parliament.
Since the election, over £200 million has already been provided to local authorities, head teachers and other partners.
We will also provide funding for councils to recruit 3,500 additional teachers and 500 classroom assistants.
£50 million of this funding has already been allocated to support the recruitment of the classroom assistants, and the first 1,000 teachers.
We will reduce the cost of the school day.
Since the election, we have abolished music tuition charges and extended universal provision of school meals to children in primary four.
Over the course of the parliament, we will extend free school meals to all primary school pupils all year round.
We will also provide every child with an electronic device and a connection to get online - recognising that this is as essential to education today as jotters and pencils were in years gone by.
Support for children and young people is indeed one of the key themes running through this programme.
One of the landmark achievements of the last parliament was the expansion of free childcare provision for 3 and 4 year olds, and vulnerable 2 year olds.
In this parliament, we will go much further.
We will extend entitlement to funded early years learning to all 1 and 2 year olds - starting with low income households.
And we will also develop a system of wraparound childcare, offering care before and after school and during school holidays.
This will be free for families on the lowest incomes and available at an affordable cost to others. A delivery plan will be published over the coming year.
We will also keep the promise made to care experienced young people in the last parliament to ensure that all young people grow up loved and supported.
We will introduce a new Care Experience Grant, payable to young people with care experience between the ages of 16 and 26, and we will complete a review of the children’s hearing system.
We will do more to avoid children entering care by improving the preventative support available to families before they reach crisis point.
A £500 million Whole Family Wellbeing Fund will support these services over the term of Parliament.
And we will also work with local authorities to introduce a minimum national allowance for foster and kinship care
We, and I hope this is a commitment shared right across this parliament, we are determined to end child poverty.
The Scottish Child Payment - already benefitting eligible families with children up to age 6 - will be extended to cover children up to age 16 by the end of next year.
This year – ahead of full roll-out - we will make bridging payments for all children eligible for free school meals.
In our manifesto, we committed to increase the child payment from £10 to £20 per child per week by the end of this Parliament.
That commitment stands but I can confirm today our intention to deliver this as early within the life of this Parliament as possible.
Given the scale of this commitment, it must be considered as part of the budget process.
However, we will set out how and exactly when this commitment will be met when we publish the Budget Bill - our firm intention is to do this sooner rather than later.
The Scottish Child Payment sits, of course, alongside the wider support provided to families and communities.
During this parliament, we will work to develop a minimum income guarantee.
The aim is to ensure, through a combination of earnings, targeted payments and services, that everyone has a sufficient income to live with dignity.
A cross-party steering group to guide this work has already been established and while it is work important for its own sake, I hope it will also lay the foundations for the introduction of a Citizens’ Basic Income when this Parliament has full powers over tax and welfare.
We will build also on our investment in housing over the last parliament, to further improve the availability of good quality, affordable, energy-efficient homes.
I can confirm that we will invest almost £3.5 billion in this parliamentary term to progress our commitment to an additional 110,000 affordable homes across Scotland.
At least 70% of these will be for social rent.
This Scottish Government funding will support total investment of £18 billion.
As well as delivering affordable homes, this investment will support up to 15,000 jobs.
By the end of the year, we will also publish a new strategy for the rented sector.
This will include a commitment to an effective system of national rent controls and measures to strengthen tenants’ rights.
We will also invest an additional £50 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, and extend the transformative Housing First approach right across Scotland, to ensure access to secure housing and the support needed to tackle the wider causes of homelessness.
Our support for public services and individuals and families must be matched by support for the economy.
A fair, equal society and a strong, sustainable economy are not competing aims - they are interdependent.
Businesses continue to be badly affected by the pandemic.
I am hugely grateful for the efforts of thousands of companies to keep workers and customers as safe as possible.
Just as they are supporting our collective efforts to tackle Covid, so too must we support them.
As we do so, we will work in partnership with business.
I can confirm that we will continue to deliver the most competitive non-domestic rates framework anywhere in the UK.
100% rates relief will continue for the retail, leisure, aviation and hospitality sectors for the whole of this financial year.
And the small business bonus, the fresh start relief and the business growth accelerator will all continue for the entire duration of this parliament.
We will promote growth sectors such as space and life sciences, and support key sectors such as tourism and food and drink.
As part of this, we will introduce in this parliamentary year a Good Food Nation Bill
We will support our culture sector, recognising the enormous benefits it brings not just to our economy, but our international reputation and our wellbeing as a country.
We will do more to support local businesses.
Having already launched the Scotland Loves Local campaign to encourage people to do more shopping in local communities, we will now launch a £325 million Place Based Investment scheme to revitalise town centres.
We will also support our rural economy.
In the next 12 months, we will launch a fund for rural entrepreneurs to support the relocation or creation of 2,000 new businesses.
We will set out plans to support farmers after our forced withdrawal from the European Common Agricultural Policy and we will consult on an Agriculture Bill to be introduced later in the parliament.
I can also announce that we will double the community land fund over the course of the parliament - to support further community buyouts of land and property in both rural and urban areas.
We will also support and promote the digital economy.
Our R100 programme will help make superfast broadband available to every business and every household in Scotland.
Our Connecting Scotland programme will help connect 300,000 households who might not otherwise have the means to do so.
We have opened the £25 million Digital Boost Fund to help small and medium sized enterprises get access to both the skills and equipment they need.
And of course we will continue to implement the Logan Review of the technology sector – for example by supporting tech scalers in 6 of our cities.
We will also enhance our international competitiveness by implementing the Vision for Trade.
We will strengthen ties with Nordic and central European partners, by establishing Scottish Government bases in Copenhagen and Warsaw - adding to our existing network of overseas hubs.
And we will introduce a Moveable Transactions Bill to make certain commercial transactions less expensive and more efficient and enable easier access to finance.
We will do more to promote fair work across our economy.
We will apply fair work first criteria to public sector funding and to contracts.
We will support pilots of a 4-day working week - backed by a £10 million fund for participating companies.
And we will develop a longer term plan for the economy, designed to recognise and harness the vast benefits of decarbonisation.
This 10 year strategy for economic transformation will set out how we can, and will, become a net-zero economy in a way that enhances prosperity, equality and wellbeing.
When this strategy is published, we will also set out the criteria for a new National Challenge Competition.
Backed by £50 million, this will fund projects with the greatest potential to drive and accelerate our net zero transformation.
This national work will be supported by Regional Economic Partnerships which will be established over this coming year.
We will also implement the recommendations of the Just Transition Commission.
As an early commitment to this work, we will establish a ten year £500 million Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray – recognising the particular challenges for the region of the transition from oil and gas to renewable and low carbon sources of energy.
We are also determined that this generation of young people will not bear the long term burden of the pandemic.
I can confirm that up to £70 million will be invested this year to support the Young Person’s Guarantee, intended to give all young people between 16 and 24 the guarantee of a job, a place in education or training, or a formal volunteering opportunity.
That is part of a wider commitment to skills and employment across all age groups.
We will invest an additional £500m to promote good and green jobs, address skills gaps, many of them being caused by Brexit, and help people retrain.
This is essential to protect our economy from the severe consequences of Brexit, but also to achieve the net zero transition.
We have already established a Green Jobs Workforce Academy, and later this month we will make the first allocations from our £100 million Green Jobs Fund.
We will also work to secure greater benefit from the renewables and low carbon revolution for the Scottish supply chain – for example, through the current ScotWind leasing round.
And we will invest £200 million this year, and £1 billion over the parliament, in the Scottish National Investment Bank - which has as one of its key missions the transition to net zero.
Over this parliament we will deliver capital investment of more than £33 billion.
And in the coming year, we will start work to establish a National Infrastructure Company to ensure that all public infrastructure investment delivers the greatest possible public good.
In summary, today’s programme aims to ensure that individuals and businesses and the country as a whole are equipped to meet the challenge of the net zero transition – but also realise the benefits in the form of jobs, investment and revenue for our country.
Tackling the climate emergency is both a moral and economic imperative.
In less than two months, Glasgow will host COP26.
It represents the world’s best chance – possibly the last chance – to limit global warming to 1.5°C in line with the Paris Agreement.
The Scottish Government will do everything possible to support the success of the summit and secure a Glasgow Agreement that allows us to look future generations in the eye.
To help support that outcome we must lead by example.
We must act fast to decarbonise heat and transport - just as we have already done for electricity.
I can confirm today that we will invest at least £1.8 billion over the course of this parliament to make homes and buildings easier and greener to heat.
This will enable the decarbonisation of one million homes by 2030.
We will lead a green travel revolution.
By 2024-25, at least 10% of the transport budget will be dedicated to active travel.
Building on the pilots underway, free bikes will be provided to children whose families cannot afford them.
These policies will encourage healthier lifestyles but also reduce carbon emissions.
They will also help our aim of 20 minute neighbourhoods - where people live within 20 minutes of key amenities like shops, services and green space.
One of the most valuable assets in many communities is the local library.
Libraries don’t just provide access to books - vital though that is. They also host a range of services that support wellbeing.
The pandemic has hit libraries hard and so to help, I am announcing today a fund of £1.25 million to help get and keep libraries open, particularly in areas of deprivation.
I am also proud to confirm that from January everyone under 22 years old will be eligible for free bus travel.
By the end of 2023, the vast majority of diesel buses will have been removed from Scotland’s roads.
And by 2030 we will have ended the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.
We have also started the process of taking Scotrail into public ownership, and aim to complete this by March.
We will make progress in this Parliament towards full decarbonisation of our railways by 2035 - this will include trialling the first hydrogen-powered train later this year.
All of these measures will reduce Scotland’s overall car use by 20% by 2030 and significantly reduce transport emissions.
We will also protect Scotland’s biodiversity and natural habitats. We will publish a biodiversity strategy by next autumn, which will be followed later in the parliament by a Natural Environment Bill. This will establish statutory targets for restoring and protecting nature.
We will designate a new national park, and ensure that 10% of Scotland’s marine environment becomes highly protected.
And over the parliament, we will invest £500 million in our natural economy – restoring more woodlands, peatlands, and other natural habitats.
The climate crisis is inseparable from the nature and biodiversity crisis.
Scotland has a duty to show leadership on both.
This parliament must support the transformational changes that will shape the next generation.
And as we begin our recovery from the pandemic, the year ahead will be particularly crucial.
In the face of the challenges we face, our ambition must be, and is, bold.
This programme sets out clear plans to lead Scotland out of the greatest health crisis in a century and transform our nation and the lives of those who live here.
We will deliver a National Care Service; we will double the Scottish Child Payment; and we will invest in affordable, energy efficient homes and green travel.
We will ensure that businesses have the support, and people the skills, to succeed in the low carbon economy of the future.
We will show global leadership in tackling the climate crisis.
And we will offer people an informed choice on Scotland’s future.
This programme addresses our current reality, but it also looks forward with confidence and ambition to a brighter future.
It recognises that out of the many challenges we currently face, a better Scotland - as part of a better world - is waiting to be built.
And it sets out detailed plans to deliver that.
I am proud to commend this Programme for Government to Parliament.