Programme for Government 2017 to 2018

Sets out the actions we will take in the forthcoming year.

This document is part of a collection

Executive Summary

A future of opportunity

A future-proofed, high-tech, low carbon economy

The world economy is changing at a dramatic pace. The successful economies of the future will be resource efficient and low carbon, and they will harness the power of technology. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to grasp Scotland's competitive advantage in these technologies - as an inventor and producer, not just a consumer. Scotland can, once again, help shape the new world now being built.

We also have established strengths in key sectors like renewable energy, creative industries, life sciences, tourism, food and drink and advanced manufacturing - we intend to build on these strengths.

We must create the best possible business environment in Scotland, focus our enterprise and skills agencies on increasing productivity and supporting the growth of key sectors, and send a clear signal that Scotland is the place to be for investment in low carbon and digital technology.

To create the best conditions and infrastructure for business, the actions we will take over the next year will include:

  • increasing spending on business research and development
  • beginning work to establish a Scottish National Investment Bank to provide patient capital for growth and support our overall economic strategy
  • urgently responding to the recommendations of the Barclay Review of business rates
  • introducing a Planning Bill to streamline the planning process
  • driving forward the 'Reaching 100%' project to deliver access to superfast broadband to all residential and business premises by 2021
  • investing heavily in our health, education, housing and transport facilities, including the infrastructure projects valued at more than £6.4 billion which are in construction or estimated to start in 2017

To support businesses to grow and expand, particularly in key sectors, we will:

  • appoint a new Strategic Board to focus our enterprise and skills agencies even more firmly on supporting the growth of key sectors and ensuring that our universities, colleges and wider training programmes are producing the skills that businesses and our people need
  • confirm the location and lead partners for a new National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland this year and begin onsite work in 2018
  • create a new Screen Unit within Creative Scotland and increase public funding for our film and screen sector to £20 million a year
  • promote locally-sourced and produced food and drink
  • support implementation of the industry-led Life Sciences strategy
  • confirm this autumn a network of Trade Envoys to champion and represent Scotland's export interests and strengthen our market intelligence capacity
  • open a new Hub in Paris to maximise opportunities for Scotland in France, our third largest export market
  • establish interim arrangements for the south of Scotland enterprise agency while developing legislation for its formal establishment

To send a clear signal that Scotland is the place for innovation in digital and low carbon technology, we will:

  • take the lead in promoting the use of ultra-low emission vehicles ( ULEVs), with a target to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032, eight years before the rest of the UK
  • underline that commitment by setting out our plans for the expansion of the charging network; collaborating with industry and academia to find solutions to challenges, such as our high proportion of tenement properties; the extension of the Green Bus Fund; the acceleration of procurement of ULEVs in the public and private sectors; and increasing awareness and uptake of ULEVs by private motorists
  • establish an Innovation Fund to invest a further £60 million to deliver wider low carbon energy infrastructure solutions across Scotland, such as electricity battery storage and sustainable heating systems and electric vehicles charging. This will build on the momentum generated by the European-supported Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme and will benefit consumers, communities and businesses up and down the country
  • become a more entrepreneurial government by:
    • launching the Unlocking Ambition Challenge to invest in a group of up to 40 talented individuals and early-stage entrepreneurs who have big ideas and ambitions and who will be chosen, mentored and led by some of Scotland's leading entrepreneurs
    • doubling our support for CivTech ®, our way of harnessing the creative ability of our entrepreneurs to tackle societal problems and support the public sector
  • establish an independent organisation 'FinTech Scotland', backed by public, private and academic partners, which will accelerate development of the financial services technology ecosystem in Scotland
  • provide leadership on carbon capture and storage by providing early stage support for the newly proposed Acorn Project at St Fergus
  • continue our investment in digital and mobile connectivity to further unlock the potential of our communities, especially in rural and remote areas

Taken together, we want to be clear to our businesses and investors: Scotland is a forward looking, innovative nation with great businesses, academics, people and natural resources - our potential is massive and we have the determination to match it.

Cleaner, greener and healthier

We will support the circular economy and tackle climate change. Creating a cleaner, greener Scotland matters to the health and quality of life of all of us right now. We must reduce air pollution, encourage more physical activity to prevent ill health and promote sustainable forms of transport. The actions we will take in the next year include:

  • introducing a new Climate Change Bill to set even more ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • creating a Low Emissions Zone ( LEZ) in one of our cities by the end of next year - and working with local authorities to introduce LEZs into our four biggest cities by 2020 and to all Air Quality Management Areas by 2023
  • developing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers for roll-out across Scotland
  • establishing an advisory group to consider fiscal and other measures to reduce waste and boost the circular economy - for example, a possible levy on single use coffee cups
  • doubling investment in active travel from £40 million to £80 million a year from 2018-19
  • introducing a Transport Bill to provide local authorities with flexible options to improve bus services in their local areas
  • identifying a public body to bid for the next ScotRail franchise contract and setting out the next steps in preparation of the bid

Services fit for the future

Improving public services

Over the last ten years, public services have become better integrated and more responsive to the needs of our diverse communities. They now provide a more joined up and flexible service to the public.

But we cannot stand still.

To ensure services are fit for the future - and ready to meet the same technological and demographic challenges faced by our economy overall - it is essential that we continue to reform.

We must focus on those who most require support and redesign the way in which some services are provided to ensure we are using public resources in the long-term interests of the country.

Our focus on prevention and early intervention will:

  • target the earliest years of a child's life, to build strong foundations and reduce the number of adverse childhood experiences that we know have lasting impacts on our children and shape their lives as adults
  • encompass action across government to increase activity levels, tackle diet and obesity and improve air quality to reduce the long-term challenges facing our health service and allow our people to live healthier for longer
  • in justice, focus on diverting people from crime, reducing reoffending and supporting communities to ensure more people are able to live fulfilling lives and make their full contribution to society
  • continue to break down the barriers between health and care services, particularly for our older people. More support must be provided in people's homes and communities, enriching their lives and extending healthy life-expectancy

The best place in the world to grow up

As we look ahead to the Year of Young People 2018, our mission is to improve the life experience and life chances of our children and young people, so they can thrive and be equipped to take advantage of tomorrow's opportunities.

Our driving principle is simple: if we invest in our young people now, everyone will benefit.

So, it is the right time to address the rights of children and young people as enshrined in the United Nations ( UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child. This will pose questions of the whole public sector, and of society at large, and drive better decisions that prevent harm and encourage development of our young people.

The early years

To give our children the best start in life, this year we will:

  • deliver a Baby Box to all newborns
  • reform the support given to mothers and their babies in light of the maternity and neonatal services review
  • ensure all eligible first-time mothers benefit from the support of a Family Nurse Partnership
  • increase the number of health visitors as part of the reform and improvement of health visiting services
  • prepare for the introduction of the new Best Start Grant for low income families by summer 2019
  • take the next steps towards the near doubling of funded early learning and childcare, including setting out minimum levels of multi-year funding to deliver the expansion and provide certainty to our councils and providers

Excellence and equity in our schools

We are determined to close the attainment gap and raise standards for all in our schools. We believe that teachers, children and their parents are best placed to make decisions about a young person's learning - we must do more to support them. We will implement our radical reform of the education system. This will put more power and money in the hands of headteachers to raise attainment and increase the support classroom teachers get with expert help from Regional Improvement Collaboratives.

The actions we will take this year to reform and improve our education system for children, teachers and parents include:

  • introducing new standardised assessments in P1, 4 & 7 and S3 from autumn this year
  • implementing the National Improvement Framework to provide children, teachers and parents with more information on improvement than ever before
  • continuing the Pupil Equity Fund, as part of the broader Scottish Attainment Challenge - putting more resources directly into the hands of headteachers
  • introducing an Education Bill to reform school governance - giving more powers to headteachers, more support to teachers and strengthening the role of parents
  • working with teachers, schools, local authorities, business and third sector partners to design and implement the Regional Improvement Collaboratives
  • developing a new route into teaching to attract high quality graduates into priority areas and subjects
  • increasing support to improve STEM learning and teaching in the school curriculum through the recruitment of specialist advisers

Beyond school

We must also continue to break down barriers beyond school to help our young people succeed. Through reforms to university access, the learner journey and student support we can help our young people through some of the most exciting, and stressful, transitions of their lives. The actions we will take over the year will include:

  • continuing to drive forward the recommendations of the Commission on Widening Access, to meet our commitment to equal access to university by 2030
  • providing full, non-repayable bursaries to care experienced young people awarded a place at university
  • setting out plans to reform student funding, based on the independent review that will report in the autumn
  • continuing to increase the number of modern apprenticeships, to meet our commitment of 30,000 by 2020
  • implementing the recommendations made by the independent advisor on poverty and inequality in her second report, 'The Life Chances of Young People' - vital to delivering fairness across the generations
  • meeting the tuition costs for all EU undergraduate students starting a course
    at a Scottish university in 2018-19

Children and young people's rights

2018 is Scotland's Year of Young People, which presents an opportune moment to realise more fully the rights of children and young people and further embed a rights based approach in all that we do. Scotland has a proud record in recognising and protecting the unique rights and needs of every one of our children but we believe it is time to go further. For the majority of our children, Scotland is a fantastic place to grow up with a world of opportunity to explore. Sadly, that is not the case for everyone and by embedding these rights we can help to fully realise our goal of getting it right for every child.

The actions we will take over the next year will include:

  • undertaking a comprehensive audit on the most effective and practical way to further embed the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into policy and legislation, including the option of full incorporation into domestic law
  • raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 through our Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill
  • supporting the proposals in the Member's Bill to introduce a legislative ban on the physical punishment of children

Building strong and safe communities

Recorded crime in Scotland is now at a 42-year low. However, the nature of crime and people's expectations of the police are changing, and our understanding of how to tackle reoffending and the causes of crime is improving. We must ensure that our laws keep pace with changing behaviours, and that our police, fire and wider public services are equipped for the challenges of the future. We have undertaken one of the most important reforms to our public services in a generation through the creation of Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. This gives us the chance to move into another phase where we focus our efforts on tackling reoffending, supporting victims and witnesses and reforming the way in which we treat female offenders.

We start from a strong foundation. Just as the crime rate in Scotland has fallen, so too has the reconviction rate. It is now at an 18-year low as a result of more community based alternatives to short-term prison sentences. We have achieved this by being bold and progressive in our approach to offending and sentencing. It has worked and it is time to go further.

The actions we will take over the next year will include:

  • extending the presumption against short sentences from 3 to 12 months. We will commence this change after the provisions of the Domestic Abuse Bill are fully in force so as to secure safeguards for people who are victims of those crimes
  • continuing the development of the new estate for female offenders, with far greater community focus and support for these offenders and their families, who often have complex needs
  • introducing a Management of Offenders Bill which includes extending the use of electronic monitoring of offenders in the community and enabling the use of new technology where appropriate
  • modernising the existing law on the rehabilitation of offenders

To reduce the stress of giving evidence in court for victims of and witnesses to crimes, we will also introduce a Vulnerable Witnesses and Pre-recorded Evidence Bill to reduce further the need for children and vulnerable witnesses to give evidence in a courtroom.

The nature of crime is also changing. Technological advances mean there are new avenues for criminals to explore and organised crime continues to have too big an impact on our communities. Police Scotland has already set out in its Policing 2026 Strategy its plans for reform of its service to adapt to its future workload. This year, we will:

  • protect the frontline police budget and support the implementation of the Policing 2026 Strategy
  • improve public sector resilience against cyber attacks
  • ensure that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Police Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service are supported to fulfil their counter-terrorism roles
  • create a new criminal offence of drug driving to come into force in 2019
  • complete the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill, further underlining our determination to eradicate violence against women and girls

As part of our responsibility to keep Scotland safe, we will also learn and apply lessons from the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, through the work of our Ministerial Working Group.

The best place in the world to be cared for and be healthy

The NHS is our most cherished public service and we are determined to ensure it is properly equipped for the future.

We still suffer from too much ill health that could be prevented through healthier living. We will ensure record investment in the NHS, but we know that money alone is not enough. The NHS must reform and change - medicine is advancing, the population is ageing, and care is becoming more complex. In common with health care systems across the UK and indeed the world, our NHS also faces recruitment challenges - challenges which will be exacerbated by Brexit.

In everything we do, we will maintain the NHS's founding principles - publicly owned, publicly delivered and free at the point of need - but the NHS needs to evolve and adapt to meet the challenges of the future.

We must also expand our focus on the prevention of ill health, matching our past actions on smoking and alcohol with new initiatives to reduce obesity, boost active travel, improve mental health and tackle air pollution.

The actions we will take over the next year will include:

  • ensuring at least a real terms increase in the frontline NHS budget, as part of our commitment to increase health resource funding by £2 billion over the life of this Parliament
  • investing an increasing proportion of the budget in primary, community, mental health and social care services - to support the shift in the balance of care that is required
  • taking forward our new Mental Health Strategy
  • implementing the Health and Social Care Delivery Plan
  • introducing a Safe Staffing Bill to enshrine safe NHS staffing in law, starting with nursing and midwifery
  • lifting the 1% pay cap for NHS and other public sector workers to raise living standards and aid recruitment
  • beginning the implementation of 'Frank's Law', providing free personal care to those under 65 who need it
  • introducing legislation for a 'soft' opt-out system of organ and tissue donation through the Organ and Tissue Donation Bill
  • limiting the marketing of products high in fat, sugar or salt
  • taking a range of actions to improve the quality of the air that we breathe and boost active travel and physical activity

Supporting public sector workers

We will remove the 1% pay cap from 2018-19. Future pay policy will take account of the cost of living, continue to protect the lowest paid and ensure public sector budgets remain in balance. Our objective is to secure pay rises that are affordable, reflect the real life circumstances people face and recognise the valuable contribution of the public sector workforce.

Paying for public services

Health care, a strong and fair justice system, excellent public education and support for the vulnerable are cornerstones of the social contract between this Government and the people of Scotland. We believe that the damaging austerity policies of the UK Government have damaged both Scotland and the rest of the UK. We also face the unwanted challenge of Brexit and its potential impact on both our economy and public services. This Government has sought to protect our public services over this time but we think it is now time to open a fresh debate about how we continue to maintain appropriate investment in our public services, while recognising the pressure that household incomes are under. To inform that debate ahead of setting the budget for 2018-19, we will publish a discussion paper on income tax and possible options for using our powers to ensure the sustainability of our public services and give long-term certainty to taxpayers.

Key Scottish Government
Supported Projects Since 2007

Key Scottish Government Supported Projects Since 2007

Building a fairer Scotland

We are committed to upholding the rights and values of an open, inclusive, diverse and progressive democracy. We do this in the face of continuing austerity and an increasingly punitive approach to welfare from the UK Government, and at a time when there is a real and present danger posed by Brexit to our rights as citizens.

We believe that giving everyone the support they need to get on, protecting the most vulnerable in society and tackling poverty are crucial to building a fairer society. We will:

  • use new social security powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to transform the service people receive through a system based on dignity and respect
  • challenge the austerity-driven rise of child poverty, investing in tackling its root causes and mitigating its worse effects where we can
  • deliver more high-quality affordable homes and commit to ending rough sleeping
  • empower communities to take more decisions themselves, placing greater control of budgets in the hands of the people who know best what a community needs - those who live in the community itself
  • defend our social, economic, democratic and human rights, with more action on race and a new drive on gender recognition

Social security

Scotland's first Social Security Bill was introduced to Parliament in June and will complete its passage later this year. Just as we have established in devolved areas, this is an exciting opportunity for the Scottish Parliament and Government to show how we can better serve people in Scotland. This Bill will enable us to design and build a social security system based on dignity and respect and reverse some of the harshest impacts of austerity and so-called welfare reform.

The actions we will take over the next year will include:

  • confirming the configuration of the new social security agency and continuing to recruit at least 1,500 members of staff to work as part of it
  • delivering the first of the newly devolved benefits - an increased Carer's Allowance - from summer 2018 and backdating it to April 2018
  • preparing for the effective delivery of the new Best Start Grant and the new Funeral Expense Assistance by summer 2019

Tackling poverty

Our Child Poverty Bill - setting statutory targets to tackle child poverty - is also due to complete its passage through Parliament later this year. Following the success of the Independent Advisor on Poverty, we have established a new Poverty and Inequality Commission to advise and challenge Government on actions to reduce poverty. In the next year, we will take further steps to help tackle poverty in the short term and inform consideration of more fundamental changes for the longer term.

This will include:

  • establishing a new £50 million fund to tackle child poverty
  • providing access to free sanitary products to students in schools, colleges and universities and considering further action to ensure those on low incomes are assisted in light of the findings of the current Aberdeen pilot
  • funding research into the feasibility of a citizen's basic income scheme
  • providing a financial health check to families on low incomes
  • bringing forward a new package of support for young carers, including through implementation of the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016

Housing and homelessness

One of the most important factors in any person's quality of life is their housing. Good quality, warm and affordable housing is vital to ensuring a Scotland that is fair for this and future generations. Scotland is already building social housing at a faster rate than any other part of the UK. Over the life of this Parliament, we will invest more than £3 billion in delivering 50,000 affordable homes. This is a massive investment in our housing stock which is ambitious, challenging and absolutely necessary.

The actions we will take over the next year will include:

  • making further progress towards our target of 50,000 affordable homes by the end of the Parliament
  • introducing a Warm Homes Bill to set a statutory fuel poverty target
  • introducing new energy efficiency standards for the private rented sector

During the next year, we will also renew our mission to tackle some deep-seated and intractable challenges - homelessness, rough sleeping and drug use. These problems are not unique to Scotland but they blight lives and damage communities. With cuts from Westminster exacerbating the problems, we will intensify our own efforts to tackle them.

There are councils, charities and religious and advocacy groups all over Scotland providing vital emergency shelter and food to people sleeping rough in Scotland. Their work is deeply admirable and a credit to them and the communities they serve. In a country as wealthy as Scotland, however, no one should have to choose to sleep on the streets: we must do more to eradicate rough sleeping.

Recent statistics on drug deaths in Scotland are also unacceptable; the desperation that can lead to, and stem from, drug and alcohol abuse ruins and ends lives. So we will significantly increase our investment in the often linked issues of homelessness, substance abuse and mental ill-heath.

So this year we will:

  • set a clear national objective to eradicate rough sleeping, recognising that it requires more than just the provision of housing and that every individual will have their own unique needs and challenges
  • establish a homelessness and rough sleeping action group to lead change in this area and identify the actions, services and legislative changes required to end rough sleeping and transform the use of temporary accommodation
  • create a 'Ending Homelessness Together' Fund of £50 million over a five year period to support anti-homelessness initiatives and pilot solutions to drive faster change
  • invest an additional £20 million in alcohol and drug services

Supporting everyone into work

Although unemployment is at historically low levels, there are still many who struggle to secure and sustain jobs. Disabled people, those with long-term health problems - particularly mental ill health - and those with low levels of qualifications are particularly disadvantaged in the labour market and often experience worsening ill health and poverty as a result. We must do more to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from work; not only in terms of income and maximising our workforce, but also from the self-worth and expression that can come from employment.

New powers under the Scotland Act 2016 enable us to provide employment support to disabled people and those at risk of long-term unemployment. We will commence our devolved employment service Fair Start Scotland in April 2018. We are seeking to provide employment support to a minimum of 38,000 people who are out of work in the next three years. This will be a voluntary service to ensure participation - it is not part of the UK's benefit conditionality regime.

Empowering our communities

The most successful reforms to our public services stem from decisions made by the people who provide and use those services. Scotland has achieved much over the last few years in terms of galvanising community engagement and putting more decisions and resources in the hands of communities. For politicians in central and local government it is often difficult to let go of power and resources but we need to trust and empower our communities to control their own affairs.

We want everyone in Scotland to be able to lead a fulfilling and satisfying life in their local community, regardless of background or circumstances. That means we have to take action where difficulties or disadvantages have been encountered - whether through direct support such as social security or by finding ways to change behaviours and attitudes and confront intolerance, prejudice and discrimination.

It is from that base that we build strong communities.

The actions we will take over the next year in addition to our reform of school governance will include:

  • a comprehensive review of how local decisions are made and how local democracy is working
  • continuing to support Community Choices to encourage the spread of participatory budgeting across Scotland
  • introducing a Bill to establish a framework for the management of the Crown Estate in Scotland
  • continuing to implement the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, including publishing a final version of a Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement and guidance on engaging communities in decisions relating to land
  • supporting the publication by the Land Commission of its first strategic plan in September, setting out its priorities over the next three years and a major programme of research to examine options for further reform

Dignity, equality and human rights for all

Scotland is an open and tolerant society, committed to respecting, protecting and implementing human rights and demonstrating equality, dignity and respect in everything we do. Our public services are built on a rights based approach to ensure that we strive to represent everyone in our society.

We will oppose any attempt by the UK Government to undermine the Human Rights Act 1998 or withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition, we will ensure existing and relevant future human rights protections provided under EU Law are maintained following UK withdrawal and implement the socio-economic duty in the Equality Act 2010 by the end of this year. We will also consider how we can go further to embed human, social, cultural and economic rights including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Dignity and equality has many facets, therefore we will:

  • establish an expert advisory group to lead a participatory process to make recommendations on how Scotland can continue to lead by example in human rights, including economic, social, cultural and environmental rights
  • implement a new Race Equality Action Plan
  • progress our Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill through Parliament, making Scotland the only part of the UK with requirements for gender parity on public boards
  • right the wrongs of the past by introducing the Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Bill to pardon same-sex activity that should never have been criminalised
  • consult on reforming gender recognition legislation

A confident, outward looking nation

Scotland is an outward looking nation, with much to offer as a good global citizen. In recent years, interest in Scotland, our culture, our industries, our politics and our environment has grown. As other countries reconsider their role in the world and question the value of international engagement, we remain committed to being an open, welcoming and diverse nation.

We have begun to develop a distinct voice and positive reputation for addressing key international challenges such as climate justice, gender and sustainable development. This is underpinned by our early commitment to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to incorporate them into the work of government at every level.

We will maintain strong links with our European neighbours and friends whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations and build new connections through the Arctic Circle Assembly and our approach to internationalisation.

A truly successful country also requires a vibrant, exciting and ever changing culture. Fortunately, in Scotland we are blessed with just that and Scottish culture has benefited enormously from immigration from across the UK and the world.

Culture for all

In the coming year, we are developing a Culture Strategy for Scotland based around the principles of access, equity and excellence - and as part of the Year of Young People 2018 - we will establish with partners a Cultural Youth Experience Fund to enhance existing opportunities for young people and continue to invest in cultural infrastructure in all parts of the country.

The biggest arts festival in the world has just celebrated its 70th anniversary - but it is far from being the only flourishing feature of Scotland's distinctive arts, culture and sporting agenda. In the coming year we will mark:

  • the Year of Young People 2018
  • the 2018 European Championships in Glasgow
  • completion of the V&A Museum of Design in Dundee

International relations and International Development

Scotland has good reason to be a confident, outward looking nation with much to offer as a good global citizen.

To support our place in the world and reinforce our international outlook, we will:

  • publish a refreshed International Framework and Policy Statement identifying key areas where Scotland has a distinct contribution to make to international affairs
  • continue to expand our presence in key markets to boost trade and exports, including the establishment of a new hub in Paris
  • continue to support unaccompanied child refugees and others through the Syrian Resettlement Programme and our New Scots strategy
  • send a high level delegation to the Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland and host the Arctic Circle Forum in Scotland
  • maintain our increased international development fund of £10 million each year

Our efforts in tackling climate change, supporting refugees and building institutional capacity in other countries is internationally recognised and the more we do, the more Scotland's role in the world is enhanced.


This Programme for Government is comprehensive and ambitious. It aims to create the social and economic conditions for Scotland to prosper and flourish while being at ease with itself as a confident, outward looking nation in the modern world.


Email: Gavin Henderson,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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