Programme for Government 2020 to 2021

Sets out actions for protecting and renewing Scotland.

This document is part of a collection

The Legislative Programme

Over the course of this parliamentary session the Scottish Government has so far secured the passage of 49 Bills. This includes two emergency Coronavirus Bills passed in record time, following very rapid approval of legislative consent for the devolved aspects of the UK Coronavirus Bill. Our wide‑ranging, radical programme of reform has supported our long term vision and direction for building a fair, prosperous, sustainable and innovative country. We have legislated to increase the empowerment of our island communities, to establish an agency dedicated to driving growth in the South of Scotland and to provide for a Scottish National Investment Bank which will support our overarching economic strategy. From the creation of new statutory targets to tackle Child Poverty, to our world‑leading approach to responding to Climate Change, and to the establishment of a new social security system that is based on dignity and respect, our legislative agenda has sought to deliver for all of Scotland.

The twin challenges of continuing to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and the UK Government's reckless pursuit of EU Exit will frame much of our legislative agenda for the remainder of this parliamentary session. We will continue to ensure that Scotland has the tools that are necessary to deal with the continuing pandemic, including any steps needed to ensure the safe running of the next Scottish Parliament election. In addition, however unwelcome the task may be, we will put in place the legislation which is required to ensure our law can work effectively at the end of the Transition Period and for other reasons connected with EU Exit. To give a sense of the scale of that task we have already made over 50 Scottish Statutory Instruments and, with the approval of the Scottish Parliament, agreed to the making of around 170 UK Statutory Instruments affecting devolved matters, for this purpose.

Against that challenging backdrop the Scottish Government will progress 11 bills before the end of this parliamentary session. This includes continuing the passage of bills introduced last year such as the forensic medical services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Bill and the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) Bill.

We will also introduce to the Parliament a further 4 new Bills in our final legislative programme of this parliamentary session. In fact this year will see one of our most ambitious Bills go before Parliament. The UNCRC (Incorporation) Bill will see one of the most significant changes to our legal system since devolution. It will incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law so that the rights of children, young people and their families will be built into all aspects of public life in Scotland. We will also seek to advance the existing legislative protections for those most at risk of domestic abuse, including the ability to ban suspected perpetrators from their homes.

Whilst we will seek to deliver our domestic legislative programme in full, we will ensure that legislation which is needed to respond to the COVID-19 crisis is prioritised.

Bills to be progressed this parliamentary year


  • Budget
  • Domestic Abuse
  • The UNCRC (Incorporation) Bill
  • University of St. Andrews (Degrees in Medicine and Dentistry)

Already introduced

  • Defamation and Malicious Publication
  • Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences)
  • Hate Crime and Public Order
  • Heat Networks
  • Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care)
  • Social Security Administration and Tribunal Membership
  • UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity)

Bills passed this Session

  • Age of Criminal Responsibility Act 2019
  • Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) Act 2020
  • Air Departure Tax Act 2017
  • Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) Act 2020
  • Budget Act 2017
  • Budget (No.2) Act 2018
  • Budget (No.3) Act 2019
  • Budget (No.4) Act 2020
  • Census (Amendment) Act 2019
  • Child Poverty Act 2017
  • Children Act 2020
  • Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) Act 2018
  • Civil Partnership Act 2020
  • Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) Act 2019
  • Consumer Scotland Act 2020
  • Contract (Third Party Rights) Act 2017
  • Coronavirus Act 2020
  • Coronavirus (No.2) Act 2020
  • Damages (Investment Returns and Periodical Payments) Act 2019
  • Disclosure Act 2020
  • Domestic Abuse Act 2018
  • Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) Act 2020
  • Forestry and Land Management Act 2018
  • Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) Act 2019
  • Gender Representation on Public Boards Act 2018
  • Health and Care (Staffing) Act 2019
  • Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Act 2018
  • Housing (Amendment) Act 2018
  • Human Tissue (Authorisation) Act 2019
  • Islands Act 2018
  • Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) Act 2018
  • Management of Offenders Act 2019
  • Non‑Domestic Rates Act 2020
  • Planning Act 2019
  • Prescription Act 2018
  • Referendums Act 2020
  • Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act 2020
  • Scottish Crown Estate Act 2019
  • Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Act 2020
  • Scottish Elections (Reform) Act 2020
  • Scottish National Investment Bank Act 2020
  • Social Security Act 2018
  • South of Scotland Enterprise Act 2019
  • Transport Act 2019
  • UEFA European Championships Act 2020
  • UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) Bill
  • Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) Act 2019
  • Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses Act 2018

Bill Summaries

Bills to be progressed this parliamentary year


The Bill will secure the Scottish Government's spending plans and allocation of resources to strategic objectives.

Domestic Abuse

The Bill will introduce emergency orders designed to protect people who are at risk of domestic abuse by imposing prohibitions or requirements on the person subject to the order which are necessary for the purpose of protecting the person at risk. An example would be a requirement to leave the home of the person at risk, and a prohibition on re‑entering it while the order is in force.

The UNCRC (Incorporation) Bill

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is the global "gold standard" for children's rights. The Scottish government is committed to further embedding the rights of children and young people, as enshrined in the UNCRC, through the delivery of new legislation. The UNCRC Incorporation Bill seeks to do this in two ways: to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law so that children and their representatives can vindicate their rights set out international law in our domestic courts; and to ensure that there is a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children's rights across public services in Scotland.

The Bill will mean that children, young people and their families will experience public authorities consistently acting to uphold the rights of all children in Scotland. Public authorities, including Scottish Ministers, will be under a statutory duty not to act incompatibly with the UNCRC rights as set out in the Bill and rights holders will be able to challenge public authorities in the courts for breaches of their rights. The Bill will ensure that public authorities take proactive steps to ensure compliance with children's rights in their decision making and service delivery. This will build on existing structures which will enable children and young people to be heard and take an active role in their own lives and communities. Delivering the new legislation will improve outcomes for children and young people and help make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.

University of St. Andrews (Degrees in Medicine and Dentistry)

The Bill will remove a legislative prohibition which currently prevents the University of St. Andrews from awarding medical and dentistry degrees. The Bill is being brought forward primarily to enable the University of St. Andrews to award, jointly with the University of Dundee, Primary Medical Qualifications to Scottish Graduate Entry Medicine (ScotGEM) MBChB students in advance of the first student cohort graduating in 2022. ScotGEM was announced by the First Minister in 2016 as part of a commitment to create a more sustainable medical workforce and encourage more people into a career in healthcare. The legislative barrier was put in place by the Universities Act 1966 to give effect to the immediate separation of Queen's College in Dundee from the University of St. Andrews in order to form the University of Dundee. As it serves no legitimate purpose in today's context, the Bill will seek to remove the legislative prohibition entirely for both medical and dentistry degrees, creating a fairer higher education sector in Scotland and enabling all of our valued institutions to maximise the options and opportunities they offer to students in Scotland.

UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity)

The Bill aims to provide a measure of continuity and stability in Scots law after the end of the EU exit transition period. It contains a discretionary power to align Scots law with EU law in devolved areas. The Bill will also ensure there continue to be guiding principles on the environment in Scotland and will establish an environmental governance body to secure full and effective implementation of environmental law.

Defamation and Malicious Publication

The Bill will simplify and modernise the law of defamation and provide a clear framework which more appropriately balances freedom of expression and protection of reputation.

Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences)

The Bill will underpin the ongoing work of the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland's Rape and Sexual Assault Taskforce. The Bill provides a new legal basis for the carrying out of forensic medical examinations for victims of sexual crime, and in particular will establish a national self‑referral model for victims who wish to have an examination without first reporting to the police. The Government wishes to give victims control over what happens to them at a time when it has been taken away.

Hate Crime and Public Order

The Bill consolidates, modernises and extends hate crime legislation in Scotland. It adds age as an additional characteristic and includes a power to enable the characteristic of 'sex' to be added at a later date. The Bill provides for new stirring up of hatred offences for age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics. Currently there are only offences of stirring up racial hatred.

Heat Networks

The Bill will introduce regulation to the heat network sector to support the development of district and communal heating networks. These systems are crucial to Scotland's response to the global climate emergency.

Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care)

The Bill seeks to establish a financial redress scheme for and in respect of survivors of historical child abuse in certain residential care settings in Scotland. The purpose of the scheme is to acknowledge and provide tangible recognition of harm suffered as a result of that abuse. The Bill also provides for access to some non‑financial elements of redress including emotional and psychological support.

Social Security Administration and Tribunal Membership

The Bill addresses a small number of matters relating to social security administration and Tribunal membership, which need to be made in order to ensure the continued effective implementation of the Social Security Act 2018.



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