Introduction from The First Minister
These are not normal times, and this is not a normal Programme for Government. COVID-19 - the single greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes - has had a profound impact on our health, economy and society, indeed our whole way of life. The reality of those impacts, and the scale of the challenge we face in combatting them, permeates through everything we are setting out in this Programme for Government.
Our clear priority for this period through to the end of this Parliament in May is dealing with the economic, health, and social crisis that the coronavirus has brought. Beyond that immediate priority, we must consider how we build back fairer and stronger. We have an opportunity not simply to go back to how things were, but to address with a renewed impetus many of the deep-seated challenges our country faces. We must take that opportunity.
It is worth reflecting, though, on how we came together as a country during lockdown. Every single person made sacrifices. We isolated ourselves from our friends and families, closed businesses that we had worked hard to build and went out of our way to help those who needed it most. We marvelled at the selflessness of our NHS and care staff who supported those with the virus and we were thankful for those who worked to provide us with food and the other vital services that we needed. It was heart‑warming but we shouldn't be surprised ‑ so many of our fellow citizens go the extra mile every day.
We also need to reflect on the community response to the lockdown. We witnessed the incredible efforts of the third sector, community organisations and volunteers who assisted our public services and provided lifeline support. People across Scotland lent a hand to try and minimise the isolation of lockdown - whether through volunteering to support those shielding or checking in on a neighbour who needed a bit of extra help. Councils and community organisations stepped up to provide housing and food to those in need. Parents became teachers while working from home or on furlough and children adapted to not being at school. And of course grannies, granddads, mums, dads, siblings, friends - the people we needed the most - became faces on a screen or voices from a phone.
We must also thank our police officers who completely changed how they work and pivoted, almost overnight, to supporting us in suppressing the virus. Police Scotland have also recognised the unprecedented nature of the powers they have been given, and acted to ensure that their response was proportionate and had policing by consent at its heart.
The response to the pandemic from people across Scotland has highlighted the countless examples of compassion and courage on the part of our fellow citizens. People acted to help others without thought of any formal acknowledgment for their deeds. As we go forward we want the individuals and organisations who sacrificed so much to have the appreciation and special recognition they deserve.
That is why, as we move toward recovery from COVID-19, we will consult widely on how best to allow our nation to show our collective appreciation for these remarkable efforts.
Of course, we have also lost so many to this virus, each one a personal tragedy, and at a time when families have not be able to grieve as they would normally do. The loss for many will be overwhelming and the community spirit we've shown in suppressing the virus will be just as important in helping people to recover from it.
For many of us this will be a time in our lives we will never forget and one that we do not want to repeat. That's why it's so important for us to continue to keep the virus under control. This Programme for Government sets out how we intend to do that. Suppressing the virus is the key objective for this government in the coming months, but at the same time we must also look to the future - to think about how we can help our people, businesses and communities rebound from this pandemic.
The Scottish Government has already made commitments to tackle child poverty, deliver a net zero society, improve our public services, end homelessness, and make clean, green long term investments that will transform our society and build a wellbeing economy. COVID-19 means the starting point is different but the urgency is greater. This Programme for Government is based on our strong belief that in recovering from this virus it must not be business as usual. We must use this moment to make significant advances to deliver the fairer, greener, more prosperous Scotland we all want to see.
Central to that recovery is a new national mission to help create new jobs, good jobs and green jobs. We will work with employers and individuals to build the skills and infrastructure that we all need to succeed, in the industries of the future. To help our young people into good jobs at a time when they are most vulnerable we will deliver our Youth Guarantee - ensuring every young person has access to a job, education, training or development programme. To support older workers at risk of redundancy we will provide re‑training opportunities through our new National Transition Training Programme. The knowledge created in our colleges and universities will of course be vital to how we give people the skills, and our economy the innovation, to recover. And we will ensure that the jobs created and supported are good jobs. We will work with employers to support their employees with flexible working that protects the individual and increases productivity for businesses.
We will work across the public sector to ensure it plays its part in creating new opportunities and improving the quality of people's working lives. We will provide greater opportunities for those groups who need the most support to get into work, to ensure that no one is left behind, and we will use the tools of government to drive better quality jobs, focusing our funding on employment with high standards and good wages.
Of course, our economic recovery must be a green recovery. Even before the pandemic, we knew we had significant work to do in order to improve the state of nature and meet our statutory commitment to be a net zero society by 2045. The impacts of the crisis have reinforced the need for that, but also the opportunities it presents. This Programme sets out the next phase of our Green New Deal announced in 2019. We will take forward ambitious commitments to transform how we heat our homes; giving us the opportunity to meet our climate and environment ambitions, whilst building a better economy and creating jobs.
Putting a green recovery at the forefront of our approach offers many businesses the chance to innovate and diversify, and it gives individuals the opportunity to retrain and upskill in new and high-growth areas. As part of our commitment we will dedicate £100m over the next five years to a Green Jobs Fund, investing alongside businesses and organisations to support new and increased opportunities for green job creation across Scotland.
We will also support our businesses to decarbonise, thereby developing new employment opportunities and driving down emissions. We will immediately put a clear new focus on our updated Climate Change Plan, ensuring it reflects our new starting point and the central importance of a green recovery to Scotland's progress, and the Infrastructure Investment plan will reflect our commitment to tackling climate change. We will ensure our rural economy and Scotland's rich natural resources and biodiversity are central to our economic, environmental, and social wellbeing.
Underpinning all of our efforts will be a clear focus on driving digital innovation. While the pandemic has seen many businesses forced to close their doors, those that are most digitally able have been best placed to continue to deliver their products, while others have found new digital ways to deliver traditional services. We must keep pace with digital innovation - in doing so, we can help boost economic growth, drive innovation and protect businesses against any future crisis. That is why we quickly commissioned Mark Logan, former COO of Skyscanner, to undertake a review of the Scottish tech sector, giving us a blueprint to raise it to world-class status. We are now working to take forward his ambitious recommendations, including the establishment of a national network of hubs for tech start‑ups, offering world‑class training programmes, intensive mentoring, and access to funding opportunities.
We will also tackle digital exclusion which is central to our commitment to promote equality and help our young people grasp their potential. Digital capability and connectivity is vital to all of our people. Just as businesses with a strong digital presence were best positioned to adapt during lockdown, people who were best connected were able to manage the isolation of lockdown most effectively. This Programme for Government includes a drive to end digital exclusion in Scotland through our Connecting Scotland programme. Providing technology and connectivity to those that need it can open up access to education, health care and employment opportunities as well as counter social isolation. It is a potentially transformational policy for those who will benefit and an example of where economic and social action can and should come together to raise our quality of life.
We can also deliver transformational change through our approach to housing. The crisis has reiterated the fundamental importance of safe and good quality housing for all - that means continuing our programme of housebuilding, and ensuring both new and existing homes are energy efficient and high quality, creating jobs as part of our investment in construction and retro‑fitting.
This crisis also gives us an opportunity to radically rethink the places we live in, our homes and our communities. We want to ensure our communities can become vibrant hubs for the people who live there - to work, shop, learn, keep active, and socialise. And we will ensure equality and human rights is embedded throughout our response, not least in response to the global awakening we have seen to continued racial injustices through the Black Lives Matter movement.
For some people the experience of lockdown showed that their lives could be improved through active travel, exercise, access to local or online services, working from or closer to home, and access to shared green spaces. While it is natural for people to slip back into old habits as lockdown has eased, throughout this Programme for Government we will take steps that support the idea of 20 minute neighbourhoods - where people can meet their needs within a 20 minute walk from their house - enabling people to live better, healthier lives and supporting our net zero ambitions.
And for the most vulnerable - those who cannot take a roof over their head for granted and who may be experiencing homelessness - we will radically scale up our efforts to guarantee access to a safe, warm place to call home. We showed during the pandemic that we can make rapid and radical progress in tackling homelessness, so we must continue with the same determination to ensure no one returns to our streets and no one has to sleep rough.
We will also ensure the best start in life for our children and young people, and enable them to grasp their potential. This Programme for Government underlines our commitment to deliver 1,140 hours free early learning and childcare and to begin to go further, looking at wraparound care options that will give families more choice, greater opportunities to work, and greater financial freedom.
In schools, our investment to tackle the attainment gap has never been more important, and we are investing £135 million in extra resources to support educational catch up and recruit more teachers. We are also increasing the digital learning opportunities for our young people. This will build resilience in the face of COVID-19 and create new opportunities for young people to learn.
We will build on our strong offer of support to young people who are missing out on the important immersive element of their education. That includes work with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on the expansion of the digital schooling available through e‑Sgoil and within this a Gaelic offer that will increase the number of subjects open to young people. This will in turn open up opportunities in the world of work, including apprenticeships.
Building on our efforts to support our young people, this Programme delivers one of the most significant pieces of legislation since devolution. The UNCRC Incorporation (Scotland) Bill will bring the rights conferred in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child directly into Scottish law. This Bill will put power in the hands of our children and young people and reaffirms our commitment to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up. We will also keep The Promise we made to Scotland's care experienced young people.
Of course delivering on all of these ambitions requires maintaining a grip on the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and remobilising our NHS.
To a large extent this is in each of our hands. We must continue to work together to suppress the virus so that we can protect lives and avoid a further damaging lockdown. We don't want businesses to have to close again or to have to ask people to isolate from loved ones.
For that reason the most significant economic and social policy of this coming parliamentary year will be our commitment to testing, contact tracing, surveillance and response.
Central to that will be continuing to suppress the virus, building upon the early successes of our work on surveillance and response and NHS Test and Protect, as we continue to remobilise the health service. This will be supported by the launch of our proximity tracing app, Protect Scotland, later this month.
As we adjust to living with COVID-19 for the immediate future, we must promote lifelong health and wellbeing. Our health and care services, and the staff within them, have responded heroically throughout the pandemic, and we will forever owe them a significant debt of gratitude. As Agenda for Change pay negotiations get underway and as we consider the future of care services, we have an opportunity to consider how we value and reward those who work in our health and care sector and to consider how we best provide care services in the future.
In recent years we have ensured we put our health services on the strongest possible footing to face the pandemic - with record workforce and funding levels - but we must go further in embedding a world-class public health system. In any world-class system, the rights of patients must also be embedded and safeguarded at all times. So we will establish the role of a Patient Safety Commissioner.
The pandemic has shown the positive changes we can make to how and where we deliver healthcare, and we must lock that in. By accelerating the transition to a new model of community NHS care and supporting the digitisation of services, such as NHS Near Me we will ensure people get the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
The pandemic has also reiterated the need for a radical rethink of our model of social care, with support growing for a National Care Service. We will establish an independent review of the care system to examine how adult social care can be most effectively reformed to deliver a national approach to care and support services. This will include consideration of a National Care Service.
We will renew our work on improving population health, in recognition of the impact the virus has had. This will have a clear focus on mental health and wellbeing and also the specific impacts the virus has had on existing health inequalities. While of course there are causes of poor health that we can tackle and treat, at their core they are determined by social inequalities. It is why the wellbeing economy that we want to build is so vital; a healthier workforce means a healthier economy, and vice versa.
Clearly people's income is a vital part of that and we know the pandemic has caused greater financial insecurity for many, so our continued investment in the social safety net will be vital in helping mitigate some of the worst impacts of the crisis. We've already expanded the Scottish Welfare Fund, made an additional payment to unpaid carers, and provided additional support for emergency food supplies. And in November applications will open for the new Scottish Child Payment - a vital tool in our fight against child poverty. Payments will be made from the end of February 2021, delivering on a key commitment of this government.
Taken together this Programme shows the determination of the Government not just to help Scotland through this crisis but to recover strongly, with a renewed focus on what matters to people across the country. It's worth underlining, though, that we are in uncharted waters. Our recovery from this virus will not be achieved by this, or any, government alone. It will rely on us all pulling in the same direction, looking out for each other, and trying new approaches. This virus has rewritten what we would have considered normal in our lives but we cannot, and should not, let it define our futures; that is for us to do, collectively. If, however, we take on this challenge with the same commitment to collaboration, innovation and kindness that we brought to bear on tackling the virus we can, and will, succeed.
We are of course facing these challenges, and this opportunity for renewal at the same time as having to deal with the untold social and economic damage that leaving the EU will cause. We believe the pandemic and the response to it has demonstrated the need for more co‑operation between independent nations, not less, and we will continue to advocate for Scotland's place in Europe, and the world. We will take action where we can to mitigate the very worst effects of EU exit, and to protect the powers of our Scottish Parliament. Fundamentally, the Scottish Government view is that the best future for Scotland is to be an independent country and a member of the European Union.
We have been through difficult times as a country.
Since the start of this crisis, we have asked so much of our public services, individuals and businesses. Each and every one of us has played a part in helping to suppress the spread of and risk from COVID-19. I know these have not been easy times - and for those whose livelihoods are at risk it is still not easy.
But we can and will recover. Our country has world-class institutions, a strong economy and first-rate public services. Most of all we have brilliant people: skilled people, imaginative people, kind people, welcoming people, who will be the lifeblood of how we recover.
We can all contribute to our collective recovery. We can do so by helping stop the spread of the virus, supporting our local community and looking out for each other.
This Programme sets out how we'll help you, help each other.
Among the actions I am setting out in this Programme for Government, we will:
- Launch our proximity tracing app, Protect Scotland, later this month to enhance and support our Test and Protect programme
- Introduce a National Transition Training Fund to provide support to 10,000 people facing redundancy and unemployment
- Introduce the Scottish Youth Guarantee to ensure every young person has the opportunity of work, education, or training
- Set out the first tranche of our £2 billion Low Carbon Fund, including: helping to secure investment of £1.6 billion over the next Parliament in heat and energy efficiency in our homes and buildings, delivering a £100 million Green Jobs Fund, and providing £60 million for industrial decarbonisation
- Put in place an Inward Investment Plan to create 100,000 high value jobs over the next decade and boost GDP
- Establish an Independent Review of adult social care
- Expand digital access to health care to ensure more people can get the treatment they need
- Improve access to community based health services through the launch of Pharmacy First, accelerating the rollout of our Community Treatment and Assessment Centres, and of our COVID-19 hubs
- Open applications for our new Scottish Child Payment in November 2020, with the first payments made in February 2021
- Complete the delivery of 50,000 affordable homes as quickly as it is safe to do so, and set out a 20 year vision for energy efficient, zero carbon housing, with access to outdoor space, transport links, digital connectivity and community services
- Deliver a revolution in children's rights by incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law by the end of this parliament
- Lock in the positive changes in active travel by committing £500 million for transformational infrastructure
- Bring 50,000 people into the digital world through Connecting Scotland and create a World-Class Digital Eco-system in Scotland
- Provide £135 million additional investment to ensure our young people catch-up on any lost education due to COVID-19. This will include funding to recruit 1400 additional teachers and 200 support staff