Programme for Government 2023 to 2024

Focuses on equality, opportunity and community.

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Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition

Màiri McAllan MSP

The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are global challenges of unprecedented proportions. Tackling them is the collective fight of our lifetime, with implications for all the generations to come. With this past July already on record as the hottest month ever, it is clear these crises are no longer a distant threat. They are happening and affecting our lives right now in Scotland and around the world, contributing to wildfires, droughts and flooding. Climate change presents an existential threat to all our futures.

The necessity of climate leadership could not be more stark. This is a time for action, and we will continue to rise to this challenge – remaining open and honest with the people of Scotland about the steps we must all take, and the support we will offer, on this crucial journey.

We do not underestimate the scale of action required, and what change means for our daily lives, not least as we support people through the current cost of living crisis. At the same time, we do not have the luxury of postponing action or continuing to do things the way they have always been done. Change is necessary, and we are determined to manage it fairly, openly and thoughtfully. If managed well this change will bring us huge benefits: a greener, more biodiverse environment, cleaner air, new sources of economic vitality, greater energy security and healthier lives enriched from a better relationship with our environment.

We have already made progress on this vision. Between 1990 and 2021 our emissions halved while the economy grew by 55%, illustrating that the right kind of economic activity and growth can support a reduction in emissions. Building on this, we are determined to lead a truly just and fair transition as our society and economy adapt to climate change; one defined by new, highly skilled jobs, rising investment, unlocked innovation and empowered communities.

A key early step in this has been publishing our draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan. We have followed this with discussion papers on three other key sectors as well as extensive engagement to ensure our forthcoming draft Just Transition Plans are co-designed and robust. Through our Just Transition Fund, we are enabling pioneering work in a range of sectors including electric vehicle battery recycling, offshore green hydrogen production and large-scale carbon sequestration and habitat restoration.

Meanwhile, we are taking bold and ambitious actions on net zero in the transport sector – not only by supporting children and young people to travel on buses for free, but helping operators, manufacturers, and energy and finance companies to change the market for zero emission bus travel through our Scottish Zero Emission Bus Challenge Fund. Our £20 million Active Travel Transformation Fund has brought forward the delivery of ambitious local authority-led infrastructure projects for the people of Scotland.

Fares have been frozen for a further six months on the Clyde and Hebrides and Northern Isles ferry networks, supporting our island communities who depend on these vital services. We have also ensured continuity of the Caledonian Sleeper Service by bringing it into Scottish Government ownership.

We are determined that our homes and buildings will be cleaner, greener and easier to heat, and so improving how we heat our homes is a top priority. We paved the way for heating decarbonisation by laying a new build heat standard and introduced new regulations to accelerate heat networks. Our new heat in buildings regulations will tackle one of Scotland’s major sources of emissions and reduce the exposure of households and businesses to volatile gas prices.

Tackling the climate crisis also means protecting our natural environment by halting the loss of habitat and biodiversity. Loss of species and degradation of ecosystems and habitats pose real risks to Scotland’s nature on which our future wellbeing depends.

That is why we have also scaled up our investment in nature restoration and are securing the future of Scotland’s rainforest. We launched initiatives to establish a new national park and nature networks in partnership with local authorities. As Scotland continues to experience the damaging impact of climate change, we are working together with local authorities on plans to protect our people and assets from flooding caused by coastal erosion and, in February this year, published our Coastal Change Adaptation Planning Guidance.

As climate change is global in its reach, we will deepen our international leadership. Too often, it is the countries that have contributed least to carbon emissions that are suffering the worst impacts of climate change. We are continuing to champion international climate justice – pushing for bold action across the world and advocating for the human rights of those most impacted by climate-related disasters. We are backing our strong words with actions, such as our recent announcement on £24 million in support of climate justice projects.

Delivering in the year ahead

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

Climate change

  • Set out how we will continue to drive down emissions in a draft Climate Change Plan, with bold action across transport, heat, our natural environment, and other areas, demonstrating how our ambition will be realised while maximising opportunities for the economy, job creation, and health.
  • Grow our national network of regional Community Climate Action Hubs, supporting local communities to develop place-based approaches to reduce emissions and become more climate resilient.
  • Continue to play a leadership role in the global fight against climate change through our world first Climate Justice Fund and begin to deliver our Climate Just Communities programme to support communities across Rwanda, Malawi and Zambia.
  • Host, with the First Minister, a meeting with key stakeholders to discuss ways forward to meet our climate ambitions ahead of COP28.


  • Prepare for the consequences of global climate change by publishing a new Climate Change Adaptation Programme and consulting on Scotland’s first Strategy for Flood Resilience.
  • Build on our £170 million investment in Scotland’s water and sewerage services and review of water industry policy, and continue to assess how water, sewerage and drainage services can adapt to the impacts of climate change to avoid water scarcity through future legislation.

Just transition

  • Publish the final Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan and deliver Just Transition Plans for Built Environment and Construction, Land Use and Agriculture, and Transport, as well as a site Just Transition Plan for Grangemouth.
  • Continue to deliver £50 million of investment in the North East and Moray through the Just Transition Fund to accelerate the region’s Just Transition to net zero – with £25 million allocated to the Scottish National Investment Bank for 2023-24, to be invested on a commercial basis and in line with the Bank’s Investment Strategy.


  • Publish Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy and first five-year delivery plan and build on the international engagement undertaken in developing the Edinburgh Declaration adopted at COP15.
  • Prepare for the introduction of the Natural Environment Bill to Parliament by consulting on the establishment of statutory nature recovery targets, our commitment to protect 30% of Scotland’s land and sea for nature by 2030, and modernising National Parks legislation, alongside continuing work to designate a new National Park within this Parliamentary term.
  • Continue to protect and restore our natural environment on land and at sea through our commitment to invest £500 million in our natural environment to drive landscape scale change, including through our £65 million Nature Restoration Fund and through new financial support for Nature Networks.

Marine environment

  • Enhance the protection of our marine environment, including through progressing implementation of a suite of management measures in Marine Protected Areas, and supporting community-led marine protection.
  • Develop a Blue Carbon Action Plan to improve the management, protection and enhancement of Scotland’s critical blue carbon environments.


  • Consult on proposals for a Heat in Buildings Bill, supporting our commitments on reducing emissions from housing and buildings, and supporting people to make the necessary changes.
  • Launch a refreshed Warmer Homes Scotland scheme providing targeted support for energy efficiency and zero emission heating systems, further boosting our commitment to providing one of the most generous packages of support in the UK.

Circular economy

  • Drive a transition to a circular economy through supporting the Circular Economy Bill.
  • Work with businesses to develop plans for the delivery of the Deposit Return Scheme from 2025, subject to UK Government legislation, recognising that the UK Government has prevented Scotland’s scheme from progressing as agreed by the Scottish Parliament.
  • Set out priority actions for our waste and recycling targets by publishing a final Circular Economy and Waste Route Map and deliver the new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy’s Year One action plan.


  • Implement the Active Travel Transformation Project to help realise our commitment to £320 million in active travel investment in future budgets and continue the roll out of 20 miles per hour speed limits in built up areas, supporting physical and mental wellbeing as well as safety and emissions reduction.
  • Publish the Fair Fares Review on both the cost and availability of bus, rail and ferry services, and introduce a pilot for the removal of ScotRail peak-time fares, beginning in October, to make rail travel more affordable and accessible during the pilot period while helping to identify longer-term steps to reduce car use.
  • Lay secondary legislation before the end of this year, to enable bus franchising and partnership options to be developed, providing even more powers to Councils.
  • Progress smart, digital and integrated ticketing and payment with operators and authorities and sponsor the new National Smart Ticketing Advisory Board.
  • Publish a 20% car kilometre reduction route map, promoting sustainable behaviours when planning a journey, and reducing both our reliance on cars and our transport emissions.
  • Progress the dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness and take forward the procurement of the Tomatin to Moy project, make improvements to the A96, including dualling Inverness to Nairn and the Nairn Bypass and publish the review of the A96 Dualling Programme, continue to develop a long term solution as well as medium term improvements to the landslip risks at the A83 Rest and Be Thankful, and continue to press the UK Government to fulfil their commitments to contribute to funding improvements to the A75.
  • Publish a refreshed Rail Services Decarbonisation Action Plan, as well as electrifying the Glasgow to Barrhead Line, opening East Linton station and re-opening the line to Levenmouth, including new stations at Cameron Bridge and Leven.
  • Invest in ferry services to support our island communities and all those who rely on our ferry services, including continuing the construction of six major vessels, make port improvements at Lochmaddy and Uig, progress port enabling works on the Islay routes, plus consult on and complete the Long Term Plan for Vessels and Ports to support our Islands Connectivity Plan.
  • Support the operation of Low Emission Zones across our four largest cities by June 2024 to improve air quality and protect health, and continue supporting the growth of zero-emission vehicles on our roads and increasing charger numbers to 6,000 by 2026.



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