Programme for Government 2016 to 2017

The Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2016 to 2017 sets out the actions we will take in the forthcoming year and beyond.

This document is part of a collection

A Plan For Scotland Summary - Delivering On Our Promises

We are clear about the kind of Scotland we aspire to and this Programme for Government sets out in some detail the stepping stones that lead towards it.

The Scotland we want to see has a resilient and growing economy, an education system that enables true equality of opportunity for all, public services that are efficient, fair, flexible and valued, and a vibrant, open and inclusive cultural life.

It is a Scotland that upholds the rights of its people - parent or child, old or young - so they can play a full part in society, with empowered local communities able to shape their individual and collective futures.

It is a Scotland where child poverty is eradicated, where the living wage is a universal benchmark, where the NHS is a safety net for a healthy population, and where refugees are welcomed and treated with respect.

This future Scotland is a complex place - but one with a pedigree of fairness, inclusivity and democratic accountability.

It will come about only through hard work, determination, attention to detail, and a belief in what we can achieve together. It rests on the foundation of a resilient economy and the four strategic pillars of investment in people and infrastructure, innovation, inclusive growth and international engagement.

We have already begun to create this foundation through implementation of our Economic Strategy. We have also responded to the result of the EU referendum and the uncertainty it has created, with an initial £100 million of accelerated capital spending to stimulate much-needed economic activity.

How that money will be invested is set out in this Programme, together with our plans to do much more.

However, we also have to plan for the very real possibility of the UK Government proposing further reductions in public spending later this year.

Fortunately, the Scottish Parliament is acquiring a range of new powers which will allow us to deliver more Scotland-specific solutions. Some powers have already been transferred, others will come on-stream in the years ahead. These include new powers over income tax. We will also use our new - albeit limited - powers over social security to create a new Scottish system designed from the outset on the guiding principle that people must be treated at all times with dignity and respect.

Making our education system world class with equal opportunities for all

It is the defining mission of this Government to close the poverty-related attainment gap. We intend to make significant progress within the lifetime of this Parliament and substantially eliminate the gap over the course of the next decade. That is a yardstick by which the people of Scotland can measure our success.

Our goal is simple - young people from disadvantaged backgrounds should have the same life-chances as those who are lucky enough to start out in a better-off family.

In 2017-18 we will begin the expansion of early learning and childcare and nursery capacity across Scotland, almost doubling the number of hours available for three and four year olds, and those two year olds who will benefit most, by 2020.

This Government was elected to deliver the changes required to transform our education system - to close the attainment gap, to ensure we have a curriculum that delivers and to empower our teachers, schools and communities. The review of school governance and our actions to de-clutter the curriculum will liberate teachers from unnecessary workload and put teachers, schools and parents more in control of improvement.

Realising our vision of excellence and equity means trusting teachers to make the best decisions for our children and young people and freeing them to do what they do best - teach. Decision making in education should start with teachers and parents, supported by their local communities. The review of school governance will therefore start from the presumption that decisions about children's learning and school life should be taken at school level.

We know that teachers also need support and, crucially, the capacity to work collectively to share and learn from best practice. As well as empowering teachers, headteachers, parents and pupils to take a stronger role in leading their schools, the governance review will ensure that the right support is available at every level of our education system to drive improvement.

Learning goes beyond school into universities, colleges, and the workplace itself. Our plans for financial support, widening access, and equality of opportunity for all learners are an integral part of an inter-connected education system.

Growing a productive, sustainable economy with more jobs and fair work

We are doing what we can to grow a sustainable economy that is both resilient and inclusive by encouraging innovation and skills development, promoting international trade, and championing consumer rights.

We will work with business organisations, the UK Government and the Scottish Parliament to establish a new £500 million Scottish Growth Scheme.

We are continuing to implement our Economic Strategy and support fair work through the Scottish Business Pledge.

We have also published a new Labour Market Strategy.

We are also investing heavily in infrastructure - housing, transport, health and education.

We are also investing in the digital infrastructure necessary to deliver next generation broadband to 100% of premises - business and residential - across Scotland.

We are rethinking the way we heat and power our homes and businesses. A new Energy Strategy will reaffirm the Government's commitment to reducing energy demand and supplying clean energy from renewable sources.

Emissions reduction is a priority evidenced by the more than half a billion pounds that we will invest on energy efficiency over the next four years.

Building growth across all areas of rural Scotland is a priority for this Government.

Transforming public services - nurturing the NHS, working for a healthier Scotland, and making Scotland safer

The NHS in Scotland must be equipped for the future while remaining true to its enduring ideal of public ownership, free at the point of need.

This does not mean the NHS can stand still. Our plans are for both investment and reform. The NHS revenue budget will be increased by £500 million more than the rate of inflation over the term of this Parliament - this investment will support the reforms needed to equip the NHS to meet the challenges it faces.

We will reform primary care - and increase the number of GPs and nurses working in our communities - to ensure that it remains at the heart of our health service. We will continue to ensure that more of the NHS budget is invested in social care. Cancer diagnosis and treatment will benefit from an additional £100 million over the next five years and a new 10 year mental health strategy will be supported by an additional £150 million.

£200 million will be invested over this Parliament to expand elective capacity for routine operations at the Golden Jubilee Hospital at Clydebank and in five new treatment centres in Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee and Livingston.

Ensuring an NHS fit for the future means that resources must be targeted on the things that matter most and different ways of doing things must be embraced. Integrated health and social care partnerships are already transcending traditional boundaries to deliver primary and social care into local communities and we will continue to support them to do so.

To keep Scotland safe - at a time when recorded crime is at its lowest level in decades - we will ensure that Police Scotland and our emergency services have the necessary resources to prevent crime and protect the population, particularly against the threat of terrorism.

We will also create a new criminal offence of domestic abuse to deal with forms of psychological abuse that can be difficult to deal with under existing laws.

Putting people in charge and creating opportunities

We will continue to take steps to empower local communities and strengthen local democracy. We will take forward an Islands Bill in the next year to reflect the unique needs of these communities.

We will work in partnership with local authorities and housing associations as we invest more than £572 million this financial year in affordable housing. We will continue to invest in community-driven regeneration and further planning reform will bolster the reputation of Scotland as a good place to do business.

We will continue Scotland's journey of land reform as we implement the new Act. We will continue to prioritise transparency, accountability and community ownership.

We will oversee the transfer of Crown Estate management, assets and revenues to Scottish control, maximising economic opportunities in our coastal and rural communities.

Scotland's place in the world

Scotland is an outward looking country. It is important that we play our full part in Europe and the wider world.

However, the backdrop to this Programme for Government is the prospect of Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.

The Scottish Government is determined to protect our place in Europe and will explore all options to do so.

In the first instance, we will seek to positively influence the development of the UK Government's negotiating position ahead of Article 50 being triggered, to ensure that options for Scotland to maintain our relationship with Europe are developed and considered.

However, if it appears that the best - or only - way to protect our interests is to consider afresh the question of independence, it is essential that such an option is available to the Scottish Parliament. That is why we will consult on - and have ready for introduction if necessary - a Referendum Bill.

Scotland's place in the European Union

The result of the European Union referendum makes it clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the EU. The Scottish Government shares that belief and will pursue all options to secure our place in Europe.

In delivering this Programme for Government we have to address the impact of the UK vote to leave the EU and seek opportunities to continue Scotland's relationship with Europe in order to protect trade, investment, rural industries, research and our position in the world.

We have set out five key interests that are compromised as a result of the EU referendum and that will therefore drive our consideration of the options to protect our place in Europe. These are:

1. democracy - making sure the voice of our nation is heard

2. economic prosperity - the importance of staying inside the single market, to protect the jobs, investment and trade that depend on it

3. social protection - safeguarding the social, employment and environmental protections that come from EU membership

4. solidarity - the importance of independent countries working together to tackle global issues such as climate change, energy security and the fight against terrorism e fight against terrorism

5. influence in the world we live in - making sure we don't just have to abide by the rules of the single market but also have a role in shaping them

We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge. This is, and will remain, a priority as we work with stakeholders and partners, across Scotland and internationally, who want to secure the best possible outcome.

We are engaging constructively with the UK Government to protect Scotland's interests as they develop their proposals for leaving the EU. We will fulfil our mandate from Parliament to work with the devolved administrations and to engage with other countries to protect Scotland's place in Europe.

Protecting Scotland's interests is the starting point for the Scottish Government. We will explore all options to do so. However, if we find our interests cannot be protected in a UK context then independence must be one of those options and Scotland must have the right to consider it. That is why we are taking preparatory steps to ensure this path is open to the Scottish Parliament.

New Powers

Following extensive negotiations during 2015 and 2016, we recommended in March 2016 that the Scottish Parliament should consent to the Scotland Act 2016 under which new powers will be transferred.

The Scottish Government is working with the UK Government to make certain that the transfer of powers happens as smoothly and quickly as possible. As these new powers are phased in we will use them to build a fairer and more prosperous country.

We will use new powers over social security to create a system based on dignity and respect. Over time, this will include the reform of assessments for disability benefits, the extension of winter fuel payments to families with severely disabled children, a new enhanced Best Start Grant to replace current Sure Start Maternity Grants, and an increased Carer's Allowance. We will also abolish the bedroom tax as soon as we can.

We will aim to use new powers as quickly as is practical. This year we will:

  • introduce a Social Security Bill by the end of this Parliamentary year. This Bill is intended to set out an over-arching legislative framework for social security in Scotland and will take forward the Government's priorities for the social security powers that are to be devolved, ahead of the establishment of a new Social Security Agency
  • use transitional arrangements to bring forward Scotland's first devolved employment support programme, to which the Scottish Government will commit an additional £20 million a year over and above Department for Work and Pensions ( DWP) funding. This will enable us to move to delivery of a fully devolved employment service from spring 2018
  • use additional income tax rate setting powers for the first time, in a manner consistent with our objectives of growing Scotland's economy, promoting fairness and providing additional investment in high quality public services
  • bring forward a Bill to legislate for a devolved tax to replace Air Passenger Duty ( APD) in Scotland so that we can design a tax that better fits the needs of Scotland's economy and best supports our strategic objective to boost Scotland's international connectivity. We are committed to halving APD with a view to abolishing it when resources allow
  • introduce a Gender Balance on Public Boards Bill to redress the gender imbalance of public authority non-executive board members
  • introduce a Railway Policing Bill which will confer railway policing powers on Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority in preparation for the integration of the British Transport Police ( BTP) in Scotland into Police Scotland
  • run and manage the Crown Estate in Scotland offering greater benefits for communities


Email: Gavin Henderson,

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