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

4 Putting People in Charge and Creating Opportunities

Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform

Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform

Strong, resilient and supportive communities are important to the idea of 'One Scotland' where we all live together in peace and people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to flourish. Cohesive communities are anchored in equality of opportunity, respect for human rights, social justice, and an inclusive national identity.

Scotland is a diverse country and cultural attitudes have created a climate where diversity is increasingly recognised, accepted, and celebrated. Individuals and communities are becoming more comfortable in demonstrating their multifaceted identities.

Not everything is perfect. A significant minority of the Scottish population continue to feel it is acceptable to hold prejudicial views. Minority communities continue to experience hate crime, abuse and discrimination in their daily lives. Persistent inequalities continue to be rooted within society. There is much more to do to ensure that we truly are 'One Scotland'.

We are pushing the boundaries of community empowerment and community-led innovation. We are determined to see a Scotland where community-led action is celebrated and community ownership is both desirable and viable. The Community Empowerment Act is a first step on this journey, making it easier for local people to develop their own economies and environments by taking control of their lives.

Over the next five years we will go further. Parents, teachers and communities will lead school governance. People will influence local authority budget decisions. Communities will be at the forefront of managing their land and marine resources through opportunities arising from devolution of the Crown Estate and implementation of the Land Reform Act. Where once the people had little say in how their local environment was used, they will now have the power to decide their future. All this will be reinforced by new laws designed to devolve real power and decision-making.

Through instilling confidence and capacity, ensuring communities have a voice, we have supported organisations working towards race and religious equality, published a new framework to advance race equality and tackle racism and continued to implement the 'New Scots' strategy for integrating refugees into Scotland's communities.

We take robust action to challenge intolerance, prejudice and discrimination

We recognise, too, the danger of people seeking to spread hate and threaten our way of life so we take robust action to challenge intolerance, prejudice and discrimination. An Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion has been considering how we continue to tackle these issues.

Everyone has a right to feel and be safe wherever they are, and where individuals or groups try to use violence and abuse to advance their aims, we will firmly counter them.

EU nationals who have chosen to live and work here in Scotland are welcomed and valued but now face an uncertain future in the wake of the EU referendum. We will do all that we can to protect them as part of a progressive and inclusive approach that recognises a social and economic duty to advance equality, recognise human rights, and tackle poverty.

These duties will be reflected in the founding principles of a new social security system designed around the dignity of the individual.

Scotland chose to be an open, inclusive and outward looking society where other EU citizens are welcome to live, work and contribute

Programme detail

Social security

Equality, dignity, and fairness will be at the heart of everything we do in relation to social security. A Social Security Bill will be introduced in the first year of this Parliament. This 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. We are currently holding an extensive consultation to inform the contents of the Bill and will publish our response in early 2017.

A Social Security Bill will be introduced in the first year of this Parliament

As part of our focus on reducing inequalities in early years, and subject to consultation, we will create a new Best Start Grant to bring together the system for Healthy Start food vouchers and the UK Sure Start Maternity Grant when powers transfer to Scottish Ministers. This will simplify and improve the service for parents by streamlining the application process, providing more joined up support, and making it clearer what they are entitled to from pregnancy through to children starting school to ensure we minimise the impact of UK welfare reform on children's health and wellbeing. The Best Start Grant will make additional payments when children start nursery and school, providing greater support for families through early years, and Healthy Start food vouchers will help families access affordable nutritious food. We will promote this scheme for parents and carers to improve the current take up of the grants, meaning that more families receive the support they are entitled to and children are given the best start in life.

We will continue to fully mitigate the negative impact of the bedroom tax, before abolishing it at the earliest opportunity, and remain committed to helping those most in need by investing another £38 million in the Scottish Welfare Fund during 2016-17

We will establish a Disability Benefits Commission that will provide recommendations and guidance on reforms such as how often assessments should be, what conditions should be given an automatic or lifetime award, and eligibility criteria.

We will introduce a Child Poverty Bill in the first year


The First Minister recently announced that the Government has an over-arching aim of eradicating child poverty and will introduce a Child Poverty Bill in the first year. A consultation on the Bill, establishing a framework for measuring, reporting and tackling child poverty, was published in August.

An independent Poverty Adviser has been appointed and asked to consider how we improve the life chances of young people, monitor and support implementation of a first set of recommendations and advise on the form and scope of a Poverty and Inequality Commission.The Fair Food Fund, supported by £1 million per annum, will support projects which provide a dignified response to food poverty and help to transition away from emergency food aid as the primary response. This will be supported by a Food Sustainability Plan which will build on the recommendations of the independent short-life working group on food poverty in its report 'Dignity: Ending Hunger Together in Scotland'.

We will shortly publish a Fairer Scotland Action Plan bringing together the actions we will take across Government to tackle poverty and inequalities. The plan will set out how we can maximise incomes and address the poverty premium so many people on low incomes face. This will include establishing a programme of financial health checks for those on low incomes, increasing benefit take-up for those eligible, and working with energy providers.

We believe strongly in supporting communities to tackle poverty on their own terms. Through our Empowering Communities Fund, we are supporting over 300 community organisations to deliver locally identified priorities to tackle poverty and inequality. The fund impacts on thousands of lives across the country, supporting community-led approaches that directly tackle inequality as well as promoting inclusive growth.

We are also proud to support, in partnership with the Church of Scotland, the charity WEvolution, who have been chosen as one of this year's 50 New Radicals in the UK by NESTA, the innovation charity, and the Observer. WEvolution supports people to come together to support each other out of poverty by starting their own enterprises. We see it as our job to help nurture this kind of innovative social movement.


Over the duration of this Parliament we will continue to invest in regeneration activity to stimulate inclusive economic growth and tackle inequality in disadvantaged communities. This will include delivery of the £25 million Regeneration Capital Grant Fund ( RCGF) in partnership with local government. RCGF projects funded to date are anticipated to support or create more than 3,000 jobs, refurbish and bring back in to use 75 buildings, including a number of historic and landmark buildings, create more than 55,000 square metres of business space and support numerous community facilities.

Through our Empowering Communities Fund we are supporting over 300 community organisations

Housing, planning and social isolation

Working in partnership with local authorities and housing associations, we will invest more than £572 million this financial year in the affordable housing supply programme. Local authorities have been allocated a share of £406 million grant subsidy to deliver more affordable homes for 2016-17, over £100 million more than the previous year. This is the start of our five-year commitment to deliver 50,000 homes with 35,000 of them for social rent. We will also continue to help people buy an affordable home through our shared equity programmes.

The planning system has a critical role to play in supporting continued growth and investment and creating great places. Following the recommendations of the recent independent planning review, we have outlined immediate actions and will bring forward a Planning Bill early in the Parliamentary session which will maintain our commitment to a strong, high-performing system that enables housing and infrastructure delivery and supports quality of life of all our communities by promoting quality of place and the public interest.

The Fair Food Fund is supported by £1 million per annum

Ahead of our proposals for legislative change we will implement the recommendation for Simplified Planning Zones to help attract investment and promote housing delivery. Later this year we will work with local authorities to identify suitable locations. We will also build on the successful, streamlined approach to planning in Enterprise Zones and we will work with local authorities to speed up decisions on major projects to deliver investment and economic growth more quickly.

We will also support interim measures to modernise compulsory purchase orders in advance of legislation to ensure vacant and derelict land can be brought back into use in our communities.

We will work with local government to develop an approach to temporary accommodation in the face of the UK Government's changes to the benefit structure which will lead to a shortfall in the funding arrangements.

We will invest more than £572 million this financial year in the affordable housing supply programme

This is the start of our five-year commitment to deliver 50,000 homes 35,000 of them for social rent

We will make available more than £0.5 billion over the next four years for energy efficiency and combating fuel poverty through the new Scotland's Energy Efficiency Programme ( SEEP). It will make homes and buildings warmer, improving health and helping tackle fuel poverty, reduce emissions, minimise energy bills and create and support a supply chain across all of Scotland supporting around 4,000 jobs a year once the programme is fully operational.

In spring 2017 we will refresh Age, Home and Community, our national strategy for housing for Scotland's older people. We will do this by building on the successful actions already taken to support the strategy and setting out new actions to address issues of social isolation that older people can face.

We will also develop a National Social Isolation Strategy to ensure a holistic approach across government to problems of loneliness and isolation.

We will bring forward a Planning Bill early in the Parliamentary session which will maintain our commitment to a strong, high-performing system that enables housing and infrastructure delivery

The Scottish Government is committed to Registered Social Landlords ( RSLs) being classified as private bodies in the national accounts. The Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill will ensure that remains the case in the event of the Office of National Statistics ( ONS), in its current review of the classification of RSLs, deciding that RSLs should be classified to the public sector as public corporations.

We will work with the funeral sector and stakeholders to address the costs of funerals and other recommendations made in the report of the Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty. To inform this, we will be hosting stakeholder round-tables and a national conference and we will publish a funeral costs plan. In the longer term we will consider plans for a funeral bond.

Equality and human rights

We will establish an Advisory Council on Women and Girls to advise on action to tackle workplace and occupational segregation and other issues relating to gender equality, bringing a new strong and challenging voice that will raise awareness of what needs to be done, and advances that have been made, to achieve positive progress on women's representation in public life.

We will introduce a Gender Balance on Public Boards Bill in the coming year and promote the voluntary '5050 by 2020' partnership in public and private sectors.

We are determined to reduce barriers and provide support for minority ethnic people who are new to the labour market, and we will work with partner organisations to explore what more we can do on the recognition of overseas qualifications. We will appoint a Race Equality Framework Adviser to help implement the actions in the Race Equality Framework.

Our plans are also to:

  • set out a path for a five-year rights agenda building on Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights with a strong emphasis on embedding human rights across public services, in legislation and policy
  • consult on reforming the Gender Recognition Act by summer 2017 to ensure our gender recognition law is in line with international best practice
  • take forward a wide-ranging set of actions over this Parliamentary term to reduce the inequality experienced by disabled people. These will be detailed in a cross-government Disability Action Plan including measures relating to families with disabled children and young people with disabilities to be published by the end of the year
  • provide practical and financial support for disabled people who wish to stand for selection or election in the 2017 local government elections through the £200,000 Access to Elected Office Fund. The Fund will run until summer 2017 and builds on the experience of the Access to Politics for Disabled People Project which provided support for the 2016 elections
  • provide a clear statement to sportscotland through our strategic guidance letter to see the commitment to end LGBTI discrimination in sport translated into future conditions from sportscotland in their investment relationships with all sports governing bodies
  • explore how to better reflect international human rights obligations in domestic law, including by inviting a cross section of people from all over Scotland to examine how human rights protections might be enshrined in law
  • continue our Scottish approach of safeguarding Scotland's people and communities and by working collaboratively with communities, police and agencies, by building community cohesion and tackling hate crime

We will introduce a Gender Balance on Public Boards Bill in 2017 and promote the voluntary '5050 by 2020' partnership in public and private sectors

Scotland's land and seas

We will bring more land into community ownership with the goal of reaching one million acres by 2020. We will support community land purchases through the £10 million Scottish Land Fund, increasing the level of support that communities receive to develop proposals for land ownership and purchases.

We have begun implementation of the Land Reform Act. Recruitment for Scottish Land Commissioners is underway, and we aim to have the Commission operational by April 2017. Provisions on non-domestic rates, common good land and deer management have already come into force, and we will consult on a Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement this autumn, before laying the statement in Parliament in 2017. To improve transparency in the ownership of Scotland's land, we will consult on proposals for a register of controlling interests in those who own land, and will lay regulations in Parliament in 2017 to establish the register and set out how it will operate in practice.

We will work with the UK Government to ensure the best possible deal for Scotland during the devolution process of the Crown Estate. Running and managing the Crown Estate in Scotland will offer greater benefits for communities and we will be consulting this year on the future of the Crown Estate, including community control of revenues. We will ensure a smooth transition for tenants of the Crown Estates' four rural estates at Glenlivet, Applegirth, Whitehill and Fochabers.

Through the Community Empowerment Act, we will seek to make it easier for people to grow their own food and we will increase access to land as part of our commitment to develop allotments and community gardens.

Local democracy

The Scotland Act 2016 gives the Scottish Parliament additional powers over the conduct of Scottish Parliamentary elections and electoral registration. Scottish Ministers already have responsibility for local government elections. Control over both sets of elections opens up new possibilities for democratic renewal and putting the voter first. In 2016-17 we will take forward a consultation exercise to find out what electoral reforms Scottish citizens would like to see taken forward in future legislation.

We believe that high quality public services play a crucial role in shaping both our economy and society and that engagement with local government provides the basis for collaborative working in the context of public service reform and other Government priorities. Local government is a key partner for the Scottish Government in delivering improved outcomes. We have committed to work with local authorities to review their roles and responsibilities. We will discuss with key stakeholders the scope and timing of the review before the end of the year.

We will support community land purchases through the £10 million Scottish Land Fund

Every community in Scotland has different needs and challenges and we want to see more decision-making handed to local people

The Government is clear in its support for more decentralisation of power from city and council chambers. Every community in Scotland has different needs and challenges and we want to see more decision-making handed to local people, especially in choosing local spending priorities.

During the last Parliament we passed legislation giving communities across Scotland a stronger voice in the decisions that matter to them. In the next year the Community Empowerment Act will provide new rights for communities, place new duties on public sector bodies and reform community planning. This will allow communities to develop their own economies, wellbeing and environments.

To help the islands build a more prosperous and fairer future for their communities, we will introduce an Islands Bill and the new Islands Strategic Group will meet for the first time in the autumn to begin its work on the creation of a National Islands Plan.

In this Parliament we will also introduce a Bill that will decentralise local authority functions, budgets and democratise oversight to local communities.

By the end of this year we will have listened to the views of a wide range of people, including local government and communities themselves, and this dialogue will shape the detail of how we will bring control over budgets and services closer to local communities.

We will continue to work with local government and communities on delivery of the target of councils having at least 1% of their budget subject to Community Choices budgeting, backed by the £2 million Community Choices Fund which opened for applications in June 2016 to support public authorities and community groups build on examples of best practice.

This means that tens of thousands of people will have a direct say in how tens of millions of pounds are spent by their councils and will be involved in innovative community action. We are determined to give people a real voice in the decisions that matter to them and be a world leader in promoting community choices in budget decisions.

We will introduce an Islands Bill in the first year of the Parliamentary session

We will continue to work with local government and communities on delivery of the £2 million Community Choices Fund

Social Enterprise

We will maintain Scotland's world leadership in social enterprise through:

  • publication before the end of 2016 of a national, ten year, Social Enterprise Strategy, developed in partnership with the sector. This will seek to retain Scotland's world leadership in social enterprise, capitalise and build on the strong base evident in the Social Enterprise Census of 2015
  • publication of an International Social Enterprise Strategy which will support an increase in the international reach, impact and trading activity of Scottish social enterprises
  • publication of the first three-year Social Enterprise Action Plan before the end of 2016-17, followed by two others over a 10-year period, to consider the range of mechanisms for delivery, including review of the current business support contract, support for social enterprise intermediary bodies, support for individual social entrepreneurs, and appropriate funding for individual social enterprises via grant funds or social investment

National Performance

In Scotland we care about the wellbeing, in the most rounded sense, of those who live and work here. We are working to improve wellbeing and, crucially, we can measure progress towards that goal through our world-leading National Performance Framework ( NPF).

Scotland's approach to wellbeing begins from a broad positive vision of the future, a shared vision where different organisations work together towards agreed outcomes and shared goals defined in terms of life-improving benefits available to everyone.

Our approach is not only about measuring economic performance as it relates to the success of our society, it is also about a wide and complex range of social, health, and environmental factors. The mixed equation covers things like fair work, income distribution, mental wellbeing and quality of local environments. The data is used to make sustainable improvements in public services that, in their turn, contribute to improved quality of life for the population as a whole.

You can check for yourself how we are doing at

The next step will be implement the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, which provides that Scottish Ministers must develop, consult on, and publish a set of national outcomes, report

on progress towards achieving them, and review them at least every five years.

Scotland was one of the first nations to state strong political support for the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals which will be implemented here through the NPF and Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights which embeds human rights at the heart of our assessment of our progress as a society.

The link between the NPF and this Programme for Government is integral to the progress achieved so far. It is delivering real change in people's lives and driving us towards fulfilment of our vision for Scotland as a fairer society and a more prosperous country with opportunities for all to flourish.

Scotland was one of the first nations to state strong political support for the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals

Human rights

In a democratic society we expect to be able to express our opinions freely and to see our privacy respected. We also have a right to enjoy our other human rights and be protected against discrimination and injustice.

Core human rights safeguards have been an integral part of the law of Scotland for almost two decades. They are important because public bodies have a duty to ensure that everyone in Scotland is treated with dignity and respect.

But we want to go further. No-one in our society should have to live in fear of violence or abuse. We recognise that no-one should be left to live in poverty, or see their children go hungry, or fail to achieve their true educational potential.

Our vision is for a Scotland in which every member of our society has the chance to lead a meaningful, fulfilled life - benefiting in full from important public services such as education and healthcare and contributing in turn to make Scotland a better place for future generations.

The Scottish Government will seek to safeguard existing human rights guarantees in a Scotland where international human rights obligations are protected, respected and given full effect for everyone in society.

We will deliver on that commitment over the course of the current Parliamentary session by:

  • resolutely protecting existing human rights legislation - opposing any attempt by the UK Government to repeal or replace the Human Rights Act
  • engaging directly with people and communities across the whole of Scotland to set in motion a process through which we can explore how to give further and better effect to the economic, social and cultural rights set out in United Nations and other international treaties
  • integrating human rights and the UN Sustainable Development Goals within our NPF, to help locate human rights at the centre of policy-making and delivery for the Government and the public sector

We oppose any attempt to repeal or replace the Human Rights Act

We are opposed to the weakening of the Equality Act 2010


The central ambition at the heart of our programme is to make real and lasting progress towards equality and greater opportunity for all.

We prosper as a nation and succeed as a society when we encourage every person's potential; treat every person with respect and dignity; embrace and value diversity; and enable everyone to live and work free from prejudice, discrimination, inequality and disadvantage. Equality is everyone's business.

That is why:

  • the Scottish Government has been determined to maintain a strong legal framework to provide protection from discrimination and secure our right to equality. We are opposed to the weakening of the Equality Act 2010
  • we have strengthened the duties on Scotland's public bodies and we expect them to be active in promoting equality and to embed equality in all that they do
  • we are bringing forward measures that support and empower communities
  • we are investing £20.3 million specifically to support action to advance equality, increase participation and improve the lives of people in Scotland

We need to do more. We are determined to increase the pace of change and for people to begin to see a real positive difference in their lives. We want to see communities actively engaged in finding solutions and we will continue to work together with equality communities and partners around shared objectives.

We must stand firm against xenophobia, intolerance and hatred, maintain our commitment to equality and build on the strong foundations that have been laid across Scotland.

Over the next year there will be a strong focus on equality in our work on employability, in pursuing inclusive growth, in improving access to public office, and in educational attainment, in revision of our national performance framework.

There will be specific actions to improve provision on gender recognition, to legislate for gender balance on public boards, to strengthen legislation.


Email: Gavin Henderson,

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