The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost everything. Like many countries around the world, we endured a lockdown that has deeply impacted our public services, our economy and our people. It's changed the way we work and socialise and called into question what we once knew as normal.
What began as a public health crisis has become a global economic crisis - growth has stalled, businesses have had to close, and there have been many job losses with the likelihood of more to come. The pandemic has also highlighted, and in many cases worsened, the inequalities in our society with those with the least before the crisis often worst affected by both the health and economic impacts.
But it has also showed us what we are capable of when we come together as a country. We came together to support those who most needed help and support, to innovate in our businesses, and protect jobs, and to redesign how we work, travel and access public services. Delivering on this Programme for Government will require the same collective effort to tackle the fundamental challenges in our society and to ensure that rather than return to business as usual, we use this moment to create the fairer, greener and wealthier country that we all want to see.
The Scottish Government is committed to achieving net zero by 2045, reducing child poverty to less than 10% of children living in relative poverty by 2030, and to building a wellbeing economy. These commitments are central to this Programme for Government. Progress will only be possible through collaboration and a collective determination to succeed. And it will only be possible if we continue to suppress - and preferably eliminate - the virus.
This Programme for Government sets out the Scottish Government's response to these connected challenges and opportunities. It commits to:
- a national mission to create new jobs, good jobs and green jobs - with a particular focus on our young people, supporting retraining and investing in our Green New Deal to tackle climate change
- promoting lifelong health and wellbeing - by tackling COVID-19, remobilising and reforming the NHS and social care and tackling health inequalities
- promoting equality and helping our young people fulfil their potential
A national mission to help create new jobs, good jobs and green jobs:
During the pandemic so far we have provided £2.3 billion investment in our businesses - helping to mitigate some of the worst impacts of lockdown. As we move into the next phase of the pandemic and continue to ease lockdown we must now look to support those who may face redundancy or will not have the job opportunities that would normally be open to them. In doing so we have an opportunity to retrain and reskill people for the jobs of the future. So we commit to using all the tools at our disposal and to working with business and the third sector in a national mission to help create new jobs, good jobs and green jobs.
Our commitment to addressing the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change remains unwavering throughout, and delivering a green recovery is at the heart of our response. To support jobs and realise our climate ambitions we are committing to the next tranche of our Green New Deal. We are ramping up and committing to multiyear investments to send a clear signal to supply chains to invest in people and technology, and help us deliver the net zero transition.
We will also take forward the recommendations of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery.
To support this mission this Programme commits us to:
- A £60 million Youth Guarantee, so every young person aged between 16 and 24 will be guaranteed an opportunity at university or college, an apprenticeship programme, employment including work experience, or participating in a formal volunteering programme. This will be backed by additional funding for apprenticeships and the new Job Start Grant
- An initial £25 million National Training Transition Fund to provide retraining opportunities for people who have lost their jobs or are at risk of doing so
- Create a £100 million Green Jobs fund, investing alongside a range of sectors - such as manufacturing, tech, and land based organisations - to support new and increased opportunities for green job creation across Scotland
- An additional £2.35 million for the Parental Employability Support Fund for those most at‑risk of poverty, including disabled, young, and ethnic minority parents
- A £1.6 billion investment over the next Parliament to decarbonise the way we heat our home and our buildings, reducing emissions, tackling fuel poverty and creating new jobs
- £60 million to support decarbonisation of the industrial and manufacturing sector - driving down emissions and protecting jobs
- A new Inward investment strategy, to give people new skills, and attract investment and jobs into Scotland, with the potential to generate 100,000 high value jobs over the next decade
- Invest £1.5 million in the next phase of the Unlocking Ambition programme, which provides grant and specialist wraparound support for early stage, growth potential businesses, with a new focus on low carbon and economic recovery
- Steadily increase Scotland's annual infrastructure investment until it is £1.5 billion higher by the end of the next Parliament than in 2019‑20
- Capitalise the Scottish National Investment Bank with £2 billion over ten years, with a primary mission to support the transition to net zero emissions
- A £62 million Energy Transition Fund to support businesses in the oil, gas and energy sectors over the next five years as they grow and diversify, and help attract private sector investment in the North East
- Work with trade unions and employers to pioneer new ways of embedding fair work practices in all workplaces. We will also tackle the discrimination and unfair practices towards minority ethnic people
- Doubling the Flexible Workforce Development Fund to £20m - enabling employers to access up to £15,000 each to address skills gaps in their workforce
- Establishing a national network of world-class start up incubators, "Tech Scalers", with the aim of creating and supporting between 300 and 500 high quality start‑ups over the next 5 years
- Commit an additional £23m this year to help more digitally excluded people get online - providing both devices and internet connections. This will bring the total number of people supported to 50,000 by the end of the year
- Investing £150 million over the next five years in forestry to support the economy and our net zero goal
The imperative of keeping COVID-19 under control continues to place constraints on many businesses. However, controlling the virus is a pre‑requisite of a sustainable recovery in the medium to longer term. Many businesses will be understandably frustrated about continuing constraints on their activity but we have to balance this against the devastating impact a further national lockdown would have. Suppressing - and working to eliminate - the virus will protect jobs and help employers retain staff and plan more securely for the future. That is why one of our most significant economic investments this year will be in testing, contact tracing and surveillance.
We will continue to argue for an extension of the furlough scheme for those sectors and employers who for public health reasons are still not able to operate or who will struggle most during the recovery and for furlough to be retained in the event of the need for local lockdowns.
Promoting lifelong health and wellbeing
Our health and social care staff have responded heroically throughout this crisis - mobilising the whole system to respond to the pandemic and delivering significant reorganisation to treat those with the virus. We have managed to suppress the virus together and must continue to do so. Our own actions are the first line of defence - these will be supported by Test and Protect, and with community care and hospital support for those that need it.
As Agenda for Change pay negotiations get underway and as we consider the future of care services, we will consider how we value and reward those who work in our health and care sector. We also commit in this Programme for Government to maintain and increase the support available for staff who have had to work in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable.
As we adjust to living with the virus we must now embed a world-class public health system for the future. The pandemic has shown that we can provide a different type of care; not least by using digital tools to provide quicker and more convenient support for many. For some, online services won't be right so we must ensure people can access the right care, in the right place at the right time so we will accelerate our reforms of how NHS services are provided in the community.
We must also learn lessons from this crisis about our social care system. We will commission an independent review of the social care system. This will include consideration of the creation of a National Care Service. We will also put a renewed focus on tackling health inequalities, and improving quality of life. Before the crisis, we know there were too many people at risk as a result of long term health conditions - the crisis has exacerbated that. We will focus on the determinants of health inequalities, and drive forward our efforts to improve mental health and wellbeing.
This Programme commits us to:
- Continue to develop a world-class public health service that builds on our COVID-19 response
- Continue to suppress - and preferably eliminate - COVID-19. We will also provide support to those who have the virus and to those who are recovering from it, focusing not just on physical health but also on mental health and social support
- Launch in September a new proximity app, Protect Scotland, to enhance and support Test and Protect
- Remobilise our NHS Services focusing on (1) a move to deliver safely as many of its normal services as possible; (2) ensuring the capacity that is necessary to deal with the continuing presence of COVID-19; and (3) preparing the health and care services for the wider pressures of the winter season
- Extend the seasonal flu vaccine to those working in social care who provide direct personal care, those over 55, those living with someone who is shielding, and those aged 50‑54 depending on vaccine supplies, to protect people and our NHS this winter
- Immediately establish an independent review of adult social care. This will examine how adult social care can most effectively be reformed to deliver a national approach to care and support services. This will include consideration of a national care service
- Create a new role of Patient Safety Commissioner
- Scale up access to digital care - for both physical (Near Me video consultations) and mental health (Cognitive Behavioural Therapies) care
- Introduce a high quality and clinically safe thrombectomy service in Scotland which will ensure that those who experience severe stroke receive the best possible care, reducing their risk of long term disability
- Develop a nationwide network of community treatment centres to help patients manage their conditions and get treatments closer to home
- Redesign our accident and emergency services to ensure patients get safe and effective care in a way that protects them from exposure to COVID-19
- Expand mental health and wellbeing support for health and social care staff, including the development of a Health and Social Care Mental Health Network and enhanced access to digital resources
- Implement a Workforce Specialist Service, which will provide confidential assessment and treatment for mental ill health. This will be delivered through a multi‑disciplinary team of mental health care providers, and be supported by the continued delivery of digital wellbeing resources through the National Wellbeing Hub and the National Wellbeing Helpline
- Establish community health and wellbeing services that will support children, young people and their families - and have a particular focus on mental health - across all local authorities in 2021
- Work with Boards to retain, develop and support Mental Health Assessment Centres, as part of a broader approach to improving access to appropriate help as quickly as possible for people with mental health needs or distress
Promoting equality and helping our young people grasp their potential
COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on all of our communities and people, but particularly those who were most at‑risk to start with. It again highlights why now is the time to think about things differently and to renew our focus on the goals of reducing inequality and improving the quality of life of all of our people.
Children and young people have been particularly impacted, and their life chances risk being fundamentally altered without action. That's why we have provided additional support to councils to help them build additional resilience into our schools and provide greater flexibility in how they can use funds to tackle the attainment gap. We're also closing the digital divide by providing devices and connections for those families who don't have them. This year we will also set out how we will meet our commitment to 1,140 hours of free early learning and childcare. The pandemic also underlines the importance of our commitment to empowering children and young people by incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law. Our efforts to tackle child poverty are also bolstered by our introduction of the Scottish Child Payment, with applications opening later this year.
Fundamentally though, for our children as well as everyone else, we need to think about the way that we live. The quality of our housing is one of the most important factors in determining our quality of life so we must provide warm and safe homes for all that are part of vibrant communities with services, amenities, jobs and connectivity close to home.
Lockdown also taught us about the importance of considering the quality of the environment that people live in and creating the conditions that promote healthier lifestyles. So we will restart our work on tackling air pollution through the low emissions zones in our cities and commit to over £500m investment over the next five years in active travel infrastructure, access to bikes and behaviour change schemes to promote walking, cycling and wheeling. We will also work with local government to rethink how we can build‑in these quality of life, and health enhancing improvements to the communities we live in. Delivering on our health goals, climate goals, and economic goals.
We will also redouble our efforts to mainstream equality and human rights and to improve the life chances of all of our people. This is particularly important in the context of the global Black Lives Matter protests that have ignited around the world. We must do more to understand the barriers that people from our minority ethnic communities face and take action to remove those barriers.
This Programme for Government commits us to:
- Open the Scottish Child Payment for applications for children under 6 in November 2020, with the first payments made in February 2021
- Make payments of the new Child Winter Heating Assistance in winter 2020
- Deliver increased early learning and childcare and set a new target date for the expansion of childcare to 1,140 hours for all three and four year olds, and vulnerable two year olds, across all local authorities by the end of 2020
- Ensure our young people catch up on any lost education due to Covid‑19 with £135 million additional investment. This will include funding to recruit 1400 additional teachers and 200 support staff and help close the poverty related attainment gap
- Support children to learn on‑line through the provision of 25,000 chromebooks
- Allocate £3 million to support young people to engage in youth work activities
- Conduct a broad independent review of the Scottish approach to assessment and qualifications and learn lessons from this year's SQA results
- Keep our promise to care experienced young people, investing £4 million to deliver holistic family support, and establishing an independent oversight Board to drive forward progress
- Delivering a revolution in children's rights, by fully and directly incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to the maximum extent possible within the Scottish Parliament's powers, into Scots law
- Take radical action to end homelessness - designing night shelters and dormitory‑style provision out of the homelessness system, and continuing to scale up Housing First
- Establish a £10 million Tenants Hardship Loan Fund, increase our Discretionary Housing Payments support for tenants by a further £3m; and ensure notice periods continue to be extended until March 2021
- Ensure that by 2040 we live in energy efficient, zero carbon housing with access to outdoor space, transport links, digital connectivity and community services. As a first step we will improve the quality of all Scottish Government grant funded homes
- Work with local government to take forward ambitions for 20 minute neighbourhoods where people can live, work and learn in communities close to home
- Provide over £500 million over five years for large scale, transformational active travel infrastructure projects, access to bikes and behaviour change schemes
- Introduce Low Emissions Zones in Scotland's major cities in the first half of 2022
- Take forward work to transform our justice system, with a specific focus on developing alternatives to prison, and safeguarding witnesses and victims
Putting equality and human rights at the heart of our approach
We will only achieve the ambitions we have set out, and ensure a genuinely collective recovery for everyone, by putting equality and human rights at the heart of our approach. We will ensure everyone in Scotland receives the support they need, and we will take action to tackle the systemic injustices in our society. The last few months have shown us not only the specific and additional pressures of the health crisis on parts of our society, particularly those from minority ethnic communities and older people, but we have also seen a global awakening to the continued racial injustices in our society. We can and must do better to tackle those injustices and ensure a better Scotland for everyone. We will:
- Enable better collection and use of minority ethnic health data, to ensure the public health response is properly focused
- Undertaking an audit of past and current initiatives to tackle systemic racism
- Take actions to tackle the barriers faced by our minority communities in work, education, health, and housing
- Sponsor an independent expert group to recommend how Scotland's existing and future museum collections can better recognise and represent a more accurate portrayal of Scotland's colonial and slavery history
- Work with the John Smith Centre to establish a leadership development programme for people from minority ethnic communities
The fiscal and Brexit context
We also set out in this Programme for Government the extremely challenging fiscal position that the Scottish Government faces in light of the pandemic. While additional UK Government investment has been welcome, the withdrawal of the furlough scheme creates great anxiety in the Scottish, and indeed UK economy. The Scottish Government would support continued operation of the Job Retention Scheme by the UK Government, particularly for sectors that are unable to open fully or will continue to struggle as a result of restrictions and for areas where a local lockdown may be required. The pandemic has underlined how little flexibility the Scottish Government has in taking action to deal with such shocks. In the absence of the appropriate powers we repeat our ask of the UK Government, shared by colleagues in the other devolved nations, to provide devolved governments with additional fiscal flexibility.
Of course, the other shock our economy faces is the UK's exit from the European Union and the looming end of the transition period after 31 December 2020. The UK Government's approach looks more and more likely to end in no deal at the end of the year or, at the very best, a threadbare deal that does little to lessen the impacts of our exit. So we set out how we will prepare for that eventuality and defend the powers of the Scottish Parliament in the face of UK Government attempts to undermine devolution.
The combination of the impact of the pandemic and the UK's exit from the European Union demonstrate areas where the limitations on the powers of the Scottish Parliament restrict our ability to protect and renew Scotland as we seek to build back fairer and stronger. The Scottish Government's view is that Scotland should become an independent country.
That is why, before the end of his Parliament, we will publish a draft bill for an independence referendum - setting out the terms of a future referendum clearly and unambiguously to the people of Scotland. This will include the question to be asked, subject to appropriate testing by the Electoral Commission, and the timescale in which we consider the referendum should be held, taking account of the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic at the time of publication of the draft bill.