Programme for Government 2023 to 2024

Focuses on equality, opportunity and community.

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Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture

Angus Robertson MSP

The people who live in Scotland know what is best for our country, and politicians elected in Scotland are best equipped to take decisions about Scotland’s future. This is why we will continue to build the case for an independent Scotland within the EU.

Devolution gives us some protection from Westminster decisions, but the powers of the Scottish Parliament are being eroded. We will always make the case for the protection and enhancement of the powers and responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament – we will always stand up for Scotland.

Our vision of Scotland remains outward-looking: a nation committed to good global citizenship, with a strong, respected voice in the world. We are proud to have opened our arms and our homes to thousands of Ukrainians fleeing conflict. We continue to ensure our international work supports the Scottish Government’s domestic policy objectives and projects the values we espouse on the global stage, working closely with partners in Africa in particular.

My team and I have continued to stand up for Scotland, recommending that the Scottish Parliament withhold consent and supporting important amendments to the UK Government’s Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act.

The Scottish Government has a clear democratic mandate to make the case for independence and give the people of Scotland – including the generation of young Scots who were not involved in the debate ten years ago – the information they need to make an informed choice about Scotland’s future. The Building a New Scotland series forms a prospectus for an independent nation, and we have already published papers on critical issues such as the economy, the constitution, and citizenship.

Our paper, Devolution since the Brexit Referendum, sets out in stark terms the impact on devolution, and on the powers and responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament, of key UK Government decisions since the EU referendum.

Scotland’s culture is unique, and our brand is known the world over. From our museums and galleries, our historic buildings and cultural heritage, to our local and national festivals and major events, people travel from all over the world to experience what we have to offer. The transformational power of our culture is immense, from making Scotland a more desirable, diverse, and dynamic place to live, to growing our economy and creating highly skilled jobs and successful businesses, and supporting our communities to thrive working with creatives, Local Government and the third sector. Continuing to harness this potential is essential if we are to deliver for the people of Scotland and achieve the Government’s key priorities.

Scotland continues to deliver on the world stage, and this summer we welcomed the world to the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships, the first time 13 Cycling World Championships had been brought together in one mega event. Almost 8,000 athletes participated from over 130 nations. Events held across the country were broadcast to over 120 countries. With the eyes of the world on us, we once again demonstrated Scotland’s ability to host major international events. The Championships was a strong example of a range of areas within the Scottish Government working together successfully. Teams in areas as diverse as major events, health, sport, transport, resilience and tourism worked together to help make the event a success and to maximise benefits.

We will continue our major event delivery when Glasgow hosts the World Athletics Indoor Championships in March 2024. We have also continued to invest in Scottish culture and supported our cultural institutions: providing £9.5 million funding for Scotland’s flagship Youth Music Initiative this year.

In the international arena, our support for our international development partners has remained steadfast, including providing £1 million to establish a state-of-the-art research laboratory in Zambia to support life-saving research and increase access to vaccines, and creating a ground breaking three-country collaboration in scientific research between universities in Scotland, Malawi and Zambia. We have also supported our humanitarian partners to respond to global crises, delivering funding of £400,000 to Save the Children and the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund to provide food, shelter, and healthcare for people in Malawi affected by Tropical Storm Freddy. The financial support we have provided to The HALO Trust, a Scottish-based charity, continues to support their work in Ukraine, improving the security and resilience of communities affected by mines and other explosive remnants.

The First Minister is clear that Scotland will always be European at its core. We continue to explore ways in which we can work closely with our fellow Europeans and make Scotland a welcoming place for our friends and neighbours. Our Stay in Scotland campaign continues to support more EU citizens to remain here, helping EU citizens to gain settled status – because Scotland is their home.

Scotland remains an open, connected and outward-looking country with a long and proud history of intellectual, cultural, and economic exchange. Scotland’s diaspora and our Scottish connections are an extension of Scotland – our living bridge with people, organisations, and communities around the world. We have secured cross-party support from the Scottish Parliament for the enhanced approach to engagement with Scotland’s diaspora set out in our new Scottish Connections Framework.

Delivering in the year ahead

In the coming year, I will take forward the following critical activity.

Independence and devolution

  • Defend the powers and responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament and continue to build the case for an independent Scotland within the EU, including through the Building a New Scotland prospectus series.

Culture and major events

  • Publish, and begin implementing our Culture Strategy Action Plan Refresh, to support the recovery and renewal of the culture sector with a focus on empowering individuals and communities to further develop their own cultural activity, supporting them to do so by identifying and removing barriers to access, championing the economic impact of culture, in particular within the context of community wealth building and creative placemaking, and developing a long term strategic approach to skills and careers in the sector.
  • Renew our focus on engaging across government to harness the transformational power of culture as it contributes to the achievement of key policy priorities – prioritising working across both health and education portfolios to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes through culture while continuing to work across government to agree future areas for priority engagement.
  • Publish our International Culture Strategy to support the culture sector’s international ambitions, building on existing strengths, and ensure that international engagement plays a key role in sectoral recovery and future development.
  • Enhance Scotland’s reputation as the perfect stage for events by concluding the National Events Strategy review and supporting a pipeline of strong hosting opportunities such as the World Athletics Indoor Championships and the joint UK and Ireland bid to host the 2028 UEFA European Football Championships.


  • Be a global champion in tackling non-communicable diseases – the world’s leading cause of death – by developing new programmes with Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda to build stronger health systems for those in the Global South, developed by those in the Global South.
  • Together with our partner countries, become global leaders and champions for change by developing new programmes with Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Pakistan to support inclusive education, with a focus on improving access to education for the most marginalised – particularly girls and learners with additional support needs.
  • Develop new programmes to support equalities, including codeveloping through a participatory approach a new Women and Girls Fund to provide funding to support women and girls in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda, with the advancement of gender equality as a principal objective.
  • Launch a diaspora recognition award, marking the achievements of our diaspora, designed in consultation with diaspora members, and pilot a Scottish Connections Fund to support the aims of our new Scottish Connections Framework.
  • Support sustainable economic growth, highlighting Scotland’s offshore wind and green hydrogen potential and investment opportunities – showcasing these at the Arctic Assembly in Reykjavik in October and at COP28 in Dubai in November 2023.

EU alignment and engagement

  • Press for the UK’s urgent return to the Horizon Europe research programme by making the strongest possible case to the UK Government, enumerating the full range of benefits that would accrue to Scotland and the UK as a whole, and by ensuring that academic and research voices in Scotland, working with their UK and international counterparts, articulate clearly the opportunities and benefits that a return to Horizon Europe would bring.
  • Press the UK Government to improve the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, working with stakeholders to build a coalition in support of Scottish interests and to prepare the ground for the 2025 review of the Agreement.
  • Impact the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement by presenting to the UK Government the compelling arguments for easements of trading conditions for Scottish exporters of food and drink products, a more effective approach for electricity trading, an expansion of sectors included in the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, a better solution for touring creative professionals, and for the UK to rejoin the Erasmus+ initiative.
  • Align, where possible and meaningful, with the vital safeguards and high standards Scotland benefitted from as part of the European Union, by delivering our EU alignment policy, by challenging where we can, given our limited powers, attempts by the UK Government to use the Retained EU Law Act to legislate for lower standards, and by providing the Scottish Parliament with a full picture of progress.



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