Programme for Government 2023 to 2024

Focuses on equality, opportunity and community.

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Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance

Shona Robison MSP

Delivering sound public finances, producing a balanced budget and leading cross-government delivery, including to reform Scotland’s public services, are my top priorities. We continue to face one of the most challenging financial situations since devolution, putting significant pressures on our public finances.

In a short time, my team and I have taken important steps to ensure our public finances remain on a sustainable trajectory, targeting our funding and prioritising our spending to support our key missions, while also continuing to deliver the most progressive tax system in the UK.

The publication of the Medium Term Financial Strategy has been central to this work. It is underpinned by three pillars: focusing spending decisions on achieving our three critical missions, supporting sustainable, inclusive economic growth and the generation of tax revenues, and maintaining and developing our strategic approach to tax. It outlines our approach to addressing the challenges to the sustainability of our finances so that we can continue to deliver high quality public services in the face of high inflation, and it also details the failure of the UK Government funding to keep pace with it.

The first meeting of the external Tax Advisory Group has taken place, which will support the development and delivery of our longer-term tax strategy. As part of this, the group will review evidence and consider the appropriateness of tax reforms in the Scottish context. We have also reached an agreement with the UK Government on the Fiscal Framework Review, the first substantive amendment to the Fiscal Framework since it was originally agreed in February 2016, which will give us more tools to manage tax volatility. While this additional flexibility is welcome, UK funding decisions are still the largest determinant of the Scottish Government’s Budget, and we still do not have the full range of fiscal levers at our disposal to manage the scale of the challenges that we face.

The Verity House Agreement, our new agreement with Local Government, is a major milestone. This has reset and redefined the relationship between the Scottish Government and Local Government, setting out our shared priorities, how we will work together, and the principles which underpin our relationship. Together, we are building and supporting thriving communities with a focus on prevention, joined-up services, and addressing social harms.

We know that we need to change the way we deliver public services to continue helping people lead positive lives. We need to prioritise early support and prevention, ensuring services are able to provide targeted and tailored support that reflects the diverse needs of people and communities. This will improve people’s quality of life across the country and help to reduce the demand for services in the future.

Setting out an ambitious ten-year programme of reform will require us to continue to work closely with the wider public sector, the third sector and business partners. This partnership approach will involve considering how power and resources should be shared between national government, Local Government, and our communities. Public service reform is central to how, together, we will respond to a challenging financial environment, make sure services are efficient and effective, and make the most impact on our commitments to reduce poverty and inequality, to support sustainable growth, and to deliver a just transition to net zero.

Work is also underway to progress the Rural Delivery Plan, setting out how all parts of the Scottish Government are delivering for Scotland’s rural, coastal, and island communities – with a particular focus on transport, housing, social justice, repopulation, digital connectivity, and economic development.

We take building safety very seriously and are fully aware of significant issues with some Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC). We are working with the public sector and will ensure that measures are put into place where required so that people are safe and feel safe in buildings.

In May we introduced the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill which, if passed, will give councils the power to apply a levy on stays in overnight accommodation based on a percentage of the accommodation cost. We have established a new Planning Infrastructure and Place Advisory Group, bringing together experts to identify solutions to unlock opportunities for development and inform future prioritisation of infrastructure investment. We have also consulted on planning guidance to ensure we create a planning system which supports thriving communities to live well locally, providing multiple benefits for people and the environment.

As part of our New Deal for Business, we have continued to reset our relationship with the business community and to offer support where we can. Businesses within Scotland’s two Green Freeports will be given tax relief when buying or leasing non-residential buildings or land to be used in a qualifying manner. The proposed Land and Buildings Transaction Tax relief will be available in designated tax sites within Inverness and Cromarty Firth and the Forth Green Freeports, an example of our businesses benefitting from the Green Freeport opportunities. Similarly, work is underway on our Regional Economic Partnerships with Glasgow City Region and the North East – working in partnership with the Scottish and

UK Governments – to deliver the two Scottish Investment Zones.

Tackling intersectional gender inequality requires effort across government and, while I will continue to work alongside the First Minister to support the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG), our response to their recommendations can be seen across multiple portfolios, from addressing violence against women and girls, to the expansion of childcare and the incorporation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in the Human Rights Bill.

Delivering in the year ahead

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

Sustainable Scottish public finances

  • Deliver the commitment made in the Medium Term Financial Strategy to review opportunities for more effective targeting of existing provision and services to support those who need it most, and reflect these in the Draft Budget.
  • Further to the consultation on changes to the Council Tax treatment of second homes which closed in July, we will take initial steps to increase the levers available to councils by delivering secondary legislation – enabling councils to apply up to a 100% premium on Council Tax rates for second homes, and continue to discuss other options with Local Government based on the analysis of responses.
  • Continue to deliver a fair and affordable Non-Domestic Rates package in the Budget, taking account of the engagement with businesses, through the New Deal for Business, and with Local Government.
  • Publish an updated tax strategy alongside the Medium Term Financial Strategy in 2024. This will include consideration of the overall burden of taxes on individuals, households and businesses, and how we continue to deliver a progressive tax system in Scotland.
  • Seek the devolution of powers to introduce a levy equivalent to the UK Government’s Building Safety Levy for England, to allow us to work towards ensuring the residential development sector makes a fair contribution to the costs of the Scottish Government’s Cladding Remediation Programme, which, together with the Cladding Remediation Bill, will help to safeguard homeowners and residents by remediating unsafe cladding that presents a risk to life.
  • Introduce an Aggregates Tax Bill to Parliament, which will set out the key arrangements for a devolved tax on the commercial exploitation of aggregates in Scotland.

Public Service Reform

  • Deliver a more efficient approach to public sector property management through the new Single Scottish Estate programme, saving public funds, reducing the public sector property footprint, and enabling progress towards our net zero targets.
  • Commence the Four Day Working Week public sector pilot by the end of this calendar year, to assess the wellbeing, environmental, and productivity benefits the Four Day Working Week could bring.
  • Focus on service delivery and leadership skills, continuing to work closely with public bodies on our public service reform programme – helping to ensure their work remains affordable in 2024-25 and sustainable in future years, while improving outcomes, reducing inequalities, and preventing harm.
  • Maximise the impact of public procurement through progressive procurement policy and practice as a key pillar of our Community Wealth Building approach – working closely with public, private, and third sector partners – driving consistency of application, leveraging collaborative buying power, and promoting opportunities to advance sustainability, including climate action, Fair Work, and community benefits through public supply chains.
  • Deliver a framework for digital service transformation with a focus on end-to-end services, including work to catalogue assets available across the public sector, and continue the roll out and development of digital identity, payment and cloud services, and other common components – working closely with Local Government partners to deliver, as well as to share best practice.
  • Work with island authorities with an ambition to develop alternative governance arrangements, including Single Authority type models, and agree place-specific reforms which offer the greatest potential to improve outcomes for local people.
  • Complete the Democracy Matters national conversation and use the findings to agree new arrangements for inclusive decision making in our towns, villages, and neighbourhoods.
  • Review the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 to ensure it is fit for purpose, explore how communities can be further empowered, and improve community planning (covered by Part 2 of the Act) to support the shared ambitions within the Verity House Agreement.
  • Support local partners to embed and expand person-centred service change by working to share and scale the approach of pathfinder projects in Glasgow and Dundee in other areas of Scotland, helping to support families out of poverty by testing innovative models through targeted local approaches, anchored by place-based principles.

Working with Local Government

  • Progress our shared programme of work with COSLA under the Verity House Agreement, in particular a revised Fiscal Framework between the Scottish Government and Local Government.
  • Support Mark Ruskell MSP with the reconsideration of the European Charter of Local Self Government Incorporation (Scotland) Bill, as committed to in the Verity House Agreement.
  • Continue the Joint Working Group on sources of Local Government funding, to identify further options for reforms to Council Tax, and to explore other potential revenue raising levers which deliver greater flexibility over financial arrangements, improve accountability for the delivery of national priorities, including net zero objectives, whilst ensuring maximum value for money, and continue progressing the Visitor Levy Bill to further deliver these aims, subject to parliamentary process.
  • Continue planning reform, including digital transformation of the system and the introduction of regulations and guidance on new Masterplan Consent Areas, and further permitted development rights, to simplify and streamline processes for investors.
  • Continue to deliver place-based investment and community-led regeneration, investing £70 million in our communities to help reduce inequalities and support inclusive economic development in disadvantaged and fragile communities across Scotland – transforming vacant and derelict land to attract investment, and supporting the delivery of low carbon, affordable housing and new green infrastructure to help enable the transition to net zero.
  • Work with public sector anchor organisations, Local Government, the third sector, and businesses to develop legislative proposals and other actions to support Community Wealth Building, with sustainable business growth and high quality jobs in communities across Scotland.
  • Lead work across government to deliver the commitment to Whole Family Wellbeing investment to support Children’s Services Planning Partnerships and local authorities in the provision of preventative, holistic family support.
  • Progress work to reform and modernise Compulsory Purchase Orders, starting with the appointment of an expert advisory group in 2023-24, and implement new infrastructure levy regulations by spring 2026.
  • Continue to consider the justification for, and practical operation of, Compulsory Sales Orders.
  • Consider the recommendations on councillor remuneration, expected to be provided in late 2023 by the Scottish Local Authority Remuneration Committee, with a view to considering how these can improve diversity across elected members.


  • Continue to deliver support to our most fragile communities through our £9 million Investing in Communities Fund, which prioritises key areas tackling poverty and inequality, including child poverty, community-led regeneration, and supporting a just transition to net zero.

Women and girls

  • Work alongside the First Minister to support the vital work of the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls, including continuing to take forward their recommendations as the Scottish Government continues to drive forward action to tackle intersectional gender inequality.

Covid Inquiries

  • Sponsor the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry, including providing operational support as its Chair considers necessary and appropriate, and oversee the Scottish Government’s response to both the Scottish Inquiry and the UK Inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to learn lessons for future pandemic preparedness.



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