Publication - Strategy/plan

Protecting Scotland, Renewing Scotland: The Government's Programme for Scotland 2020-2021

The Programme for Government sets out the actions we will take in the coming year and beyond. It includes the legislative programme for the next parliamentary year.

139 page PDF

8.0 MB

139 page PDF

8.0 MB

Contents
Protecting Scotland, Renewing Scotland: The Government's Programme for Scotland 2020-2021
Chapter 3 Promoting Equality and Helping Our Young People Grasp Their Potential

139 page PDF

8.0 MB

Chapter 3 Promoting Equality and Helping Our Young People Grasp Their Potential

This pandemic is primarily a public health emergency, but it has also taken - and will continue to take - a heavy toll on our society, communities and lives. The drive to tackle the damaging impacts of inequalities in our communities has come into even sharper focus.

This last five months has, however, seen an unparalleled collective response - a remarkable coming together of our society. Like countries around the world, and alongside the grief and loss felt by many, Scotland's experience of COVID-19 is also a story of personal sacrifices, public service and community spirit. That incredible commitment must be built on and be part of how we build, recover and renew as a society.

In the previous chapter we highlighted the magnificent contribution of our health and care staff. We owe the same debt of gratitude to other key workers, without whom our society could not and would not have continued to function. These include our teachers, police officers and emergency services staff, retail workers, bus drivers and refuse collectors, community workers and volunteers, and others whose daily work continued in order to keep society running and protect us from even greater harms. For those who shielded - businesses, public services, volunteers and third sector organisations were a lifeline providing invaluable support.

In response to COVID-19 we acted quickly to deliver significant new support at scale, in particular for low income families. We immediately empowered the public sector, third sector and community organisations to respond swiftly and without red tape, with an initial £350 million Communities funding package, which was announced on 18 March - a week ahead of lockdown. This investment more than doubled our Scottish Welfare Fund budget, making over £120 million available to support third sector and community efforts, and supporting investment of over £110 million to tackle food insecurity.

Active third sector organisations demonstrated during the pandemic the level and scale of services that they can provide and the crucial role they play in our communities. For thousands of people, volunteering during the pandemic provided a sense of purpose and community that may otherwise have been missing. We have a unique opportunity to build on that. A thriving third sector is vital to Scotland and as such it is an essential partner to Government.

Over £120 million has been committed in direct investment in the third sector during the crisis and we have taken an inclusive approach by ensuring it can benefit from other schemes such as the Business Support Fund. Our £25 million Third Sector Resilience Fund was launched quickly and effectively. It has saved over 15,000 jobs and saved the public purse up to £125 million. In response to the crisis, charities and third sector organisations worked tirelessly to ensure food, essential supplies and other vital services reached those most in need, as donation streams and other funding routes dried up overnight. Now more than ever these organisations deserve our support, ensuring they can continue to serve those communities during recovery. As we have set out earlier in this document, in the coming year we will provide new support to ensure the third sector has the necessary support to thrive and contribute to our social and economic recovery, and continue their excellent work seen throughout the crisis to support people and communities.

Supporting all of our work in this area is the Social Renewal Advisory Board (SRAB) which is helping us build on the policy responses seen during the pandemic.

The Social Renewal Advisory Board is advising the Scottish Government on how to build a stronger, fairer and more equal Scotland for the post‑pandemic period. The Board aims to build on the shifts in policy and practice we saw in the immediate response to COVID-19 where, by working at pace and in partnership, we challenged traditional ways of working to deliver real change.

Proposals are being developed by a series of expert discussion groups known as 'policy circles'. The circles are focusing on Age and Disability, Addressing Low Income, Community‑led Place Based Renewal, Cross Cutting Delivery, Financial Security, the Housing System, Access to Food, the Third Sector, and Communities and Volunteering.

Underpinning all the Board's work is a commitment to advancing equality and promoting and protecting human rights. COVID-19 has intensified many pre‑existing inequalities, and it is crucial that the policies we are putting in place work for all of Scotland's people.

Initial recommendations from the Board's discussions are set out across the Programme for Government. The Board is now developing further proposals on social renewal and will set these out in full in a report later in the year.

Supporting children and families

We need to give our children and their families every chance to succeed. The social harms of COVID-19 reinforced the importance of tackling poverty and low income. The ambitious targets in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 provide us with a clear goal to reduce the numbers of children living in poverty in Scotland by 2023, and effectively eradicate child poverty by 2030.

A detailed four year programme of action to deliver on those targets was launched in 2018, backed by a £50 million Tackling Child Poverty Fund. In order to recover some of the ground lost to the COVID-19 response, we will focus even more intensely on child poverty as we recover.

Tackling poverty

We know that one of the key drivers of tackling child poverty is increasing family incomes, including through social security. Building a system based on dignity, fairness and respect that places clients at its heart, we established Social Security Scotland in 2018. Already, the Agency is successfully delivering eight benefits, four of which are new and the others more generous than the UK benefits they have replaced. These support low income families, young people entering employment, carers, and people facing a bereavement. In the coming year we expect to spend £3.3 billion in total on benefits, providing vital support to low income people and helping to mitigate the impact of UK Government welfare cuts.

In addition to the range of new devolved benefits being delivered by Social Security Scotland, we continue to support people on low incomes through the Scottish Welfare Fund delivered by local authorities. Since its establishment in 2013 this vital lifeline has paid out more than £230 million supporting over 680,000 people. In light of the coronavirus we have more than doubled the fund, distributing an additional £22 million to local authorities at the start of the pandemic, and retaining a further £23 million to be used where it is needed most. To help those struggling with housing costs, we also increased our funding for Discretionary Housing Payments, also delivered by local authorities, by £5 million. We are now increasing this even further by £3 million. That brings the budget for this crucial support for tenants to £80.6 million - including nearly £60 million to mitigate the UK Government's bedroom tax.

That is a significant investment, but we want to go even further in the use of our new powers. Chief among that is the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment - a new benefit to increase family incomes and reduce child poverty. It will pay £10 per week for each eligible child in a family, every four weeks. There will be no cap on the number of children that families can claim for and it will be uprated annually in line with inflation. It has rightly been hailed as a game‑changer by leading anti‑poverty charities.

We are introducing the Scottish Child Payment first for families with children under 6 in recognition of the fact that of all children in poverty, almost 60% live in a family where a child is under six years old. Before the pandemic, we estimated that could support up 170,000 children. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we know that more and more families will have had to rely on social safety nets, with an increase in people applying for qualifying benefits, such as Universal Credit. We will ensure everyone who is eligible is aware of their entitlement, and is able to receive the support they deserve.

Scottish Child Payment applications from November and first payments from end February 2021

Throughout the pandemic we have prioritised delivery of the Scottish Child Payment. Significant work, under incredible pressures, has meant that we will aim to start taking applications for under 6s in November 2020 and for first payments to be made to eligible families from the end of February 2021. Despite the delays and pressures caused by COVID-19, that is a delay of only two months to our original timetable. Together with the support already in place through the Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods, this will offer families on low incomes over £5,200 of financial support by the time their first child turns six. Importantly, we will never place arbitrary limits on the number of children who can be supported and up to £4,900 is available for second and subsequent children.

Recognising the additional hardships that winter can bring, particularly with rising fuel costs, we will also start making payments of our new Child Winter Heating Assistance in winter 2020, subject to DWP providing the necessary data on time. This will provide families of the most severely disabled children with £200 per child to help with the cost of heating in the winter months, with approximately 16,000 children likely to qualify this year.

The Social Renewal Advisory Board made a series of recommendations on social security, which we are now responding to.

Recognising the importance of maximising people's incomes in tackling poverty and disadvantage, we will do more to promote benefit take up, including making a benefits eligibility checker available online. We will consider which benefits need specific attention and how partners and online content can help us strengthen our approach. We will also explore with COSLA how to embed Scotland's Social Security principles and human rights‑based approach within the local authority level benefits and payments system.

We will work with COSLA to build on good practice in relation to automation of local level benefits and payments and to consider a national approach where possible. This ensures that people who are eligible for benefits receive the support they are entitled to. We will work with our partners to develop guidance and resources on best practice, and with the UK Government to make it easier to introduce automation for local‑level benefits and payments - free school meals, school clothing grants and educational maintenance allowances - which are key to alleviating the impacts of child and family poverty and supporting attendance and learning within education.

Alongside increasing incomes through social security we are taking action to ensure access to vital resources, and supporting communities to respond to the immediate pressures families face. We have invested over £110 million in tackling food insecurity as a result of the pandemic. This has funded national initiatives like grocery box parcels for people shielding, and provided flexible investment for local authorities and third sector organisations to put in place coordinated responses to food insecurity at a local level. This includes almost £30 million to support the continued delivery of a free school meal or alternative provision during school closures and over the summer holidays. This has supported around 175,000 children and young people during a difficult time for them and their families.

The Social Renewal Advisory Board raised the issue of food insecurity in school holidays - a problem addressed during the pandemic by continuing to fund free school meal entitlements over the Easter and summer breaks. We will work with COSLA on what more can be done here, using the Board's final recommendations later in the year. The Board also focused on the need to strengthen community food partnerships: we recognise that coordinated partnership working in response to COVID-19 has brought together the strengths of different sectors, and we will work with the Board to consider how this can be developed further.

Tackling debt is another priority area, as the pandemic continues. We are making £2.4 million ring‑fenced funding available for debt advice, focusing on innovative and inventive approaches. We are also working with AdviceUK to support smaller‑scale, local projects run by its members across Scotland. Alongside the actions in our Debt Advice Routemap, we will support debt and advice organisations to develop a 'multi‑channel' approach to advice with phone, online, face to face, and outside of working hours options.

Accessible and affordable credit is often key to managing money, particularly for those on low incomes. We will work with Carnegie UK Trust and the Affordable Credit Action Group to promote affordable credit, as one way for people to reduce unaffordable debt and arrears. We will consider what more we can do to support existing providers and explore alternative sources of help such as housing associations or employers, as recommended by the Social Renewal Advisory Board.

The best start in life

Getting it right for every child means recognising that life chances, and future attainment, start at birth. We are delivering a comprehensive package of support to ensure that is the best start. That underlines our investment and delivery of initiatives like Scotland's baby box - of which more than 47,000 were delivered in 2019. 93% of parents are taking up a baby box, and there is nearly 100% parent satisfaction with it. We are grateful to all those who continued to deliver the BabyBox during lockdown, at what was a very worrying time for new parents.

With the introduction of all three elements of the Best Start Grant, by the end of March 2020, more than 75,000 payments had been made to families on low incomes, with investment of £21 million in 2019‑20. BSG takes provision for the first child from £500 under the UK Sure Start Maternity Grant up to a total of £1,100, over three payments. We do not put a cap on the number of children we help, so subsequent children, who receive nothing from the UK Government, receive up to a total of £800. Best Start Foods also provides a payment for healthy food of £17 every four weeks for any children between one and three years old and during pregnancy, and £34 for babies up to the age of one.

To further improve the support we provide in the early years, we will continue to review and transform maternity and neonatal services over 5 years through the Best Start programme. Through this we will deliver person‑centred care that reduces inequalities, keeps mother and baby together, provides choice and improves experience of care and clinical outcomes for the 50,000 pregnant women and their babies who use our services every year.

Providing the best start in life also forms a central part of our ambition to invest in high‑quality early learning and childcare. We made a commitment in 2014 to deliver the most ambitious childcare offer anywhere in the UK - 1,140 funded hours for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds. In March this year Audit Scotland confirmed we were on track to deliver. When the scale of the national emergency became clear, however, we recognised that with delays to the construction of nurseries and the training of some new staff, local authorities would not be able to meet the legal duty to deliver the expansion from this August. This decision weighs heavily on all of us - however it is now time to reset that commitment.

We are determined to deliver our commitment to the expansion of early learning and childcare, and will work with Local Government and providers to deliver on this as quickly and as safely as possible. Councils have continued to develop their offer even over the recent months, and in some parts of the country, they are able to provide 1,140 hours to eligible children this year. A date for full implementation of the expansion hours will be jointly agreed by Scottish Government and Local Government and an assessment of readiness provided by December 2020.

Childcare for school-age children is equally important, and has a significant part to play in supporting people into work and to secure better jobs with higher incomes. We have committed to develop and deliver a framework for school age childcare during this Parliamentary term. This will set out a bold vision for school age childcare in Scotland and the steps we will take to make it more accessible and affordable, using the responses to our 2019 consultation to consider what more the Scottish Government can do.

To support the framework, we will build on learning from our Access to Childcare fund, supported by £3 million from the Tackling Child Poverty Fund, which is helping community based projects across Scotland test new models of school age childcare for low income families. Successful models include St Mirin's Out of School Club in Glasgow which will work in partnership with their local primary school to make school age childcare more accessible and affordable for those families who need it most. This includes increased opening hours to test early morning and late evening sessions, subsidised costs for parents, and bringing childcare staff into the school to deliver play services to ensure effective transitions for children.

A safe return to schools

All children and young people will have experienced negative effects from being unable to attend school, and from living in a world restricted by physical distancing.

We know that the broader effects of the pandemic and lockdown have risked learning, friendships, safety, wellbeing and mental health. Our priority has been to lift restrictions on our children and young people as soon as it is safe to do so, including working with partners to ensure that school closures do not go on for a minute longer than necessary.

At the outset the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG) - which brings together the Scottish Government, teachers' representatives, parent bodies, local authorities and trades unions - agreed five guiding principles to ensure that the child is always placed at the centre of our considerations: our approach must be Safe, Fair, Ethical, Clear and Realistic.

We are now working alongside that group to take all possible steps to ensure that pupils, teachers and other school staff get the support they need to remain safe and feel comfortable in the school environment. The guidance and health mitigations we have developed, based on scientific advice, are designed to demonstrate to everyone affected that it is safe for schools to reopen subject to continued suppression of the virus, and that we safeguard the health and wellbeing of pupils, students and staff. This includes those who have been shielding or are more vulnerable due to factors such as ethnicity, pregnancy or an underlying health condition. The guidance that local authorities and schools have been asked to implement includes risk assessments, enhanced cleaning regimes, good hand and respiratory hygiene, ventilation, and use of PPE where appropriate. To complement this, we are providing up to £50 million to local authorities specifically to help cover additional costs associated with those requirements.

We have also implemented a series of measures under our enhanced surveillance and testing programme, including full application in schools of Test and Protect, clear protocols for outbreak management, and priority testing for all staff with symptoms. All schools have received a Sector Advice Card summarising the key measures to be taken in terms of prevention and response. Teachers, nursery and school staff can all access testing on demand if they are concerned they have been at risk from infection, even if they show no symptoms. Our surveillance measures will allow us to report regularly against key parameters and to make rapid adjustments in the light of evidence of developments on the ground.

While teachers, local authorities, parents and pupils have all worked together to ensure a safe and welcoming return to school, the CERG will now continue to meet regularly to monitor trends on the ground, consider the latest evidence, and update their advice as and when required. It will always keep issues such as face coverings and physical distancing under careful review. While we will never underestimate the challenges involved, feedback from schools and Local Authorities has been positive and we saw many examples across social media of happy, smiling pupils and staff returning to school.

Supporting learning and closing the attainment gap

We have heard clearly from young people that they were concerned about the impact of school closures. Education provides a fundamental mechanism for addressing inequality, poverty and to improve health and wellbeing; as the UNESCO supported International Commission on the Futures of Education highlights "massive efforts will be necessary to make sure the 2020s do not become a decade of lost opportunity".

Our policies have already resulted in the highest level of education investment per person across the UK, and we also have more teachers per pupil than elsewhere. In addition, since the start of the pandemic, we have increased support for families to engage with learning at home. Education Scotland supported local authorities and teachers to ensure learning continues, including via Glow, our digital learning platform, as well as new national digital learning resources, launched 'Scotland Learns' with weekly support for practitioners and parents, and delivered a series of teacher webinars on topics such as digital literacy skills, evidencing learning using iPads, and getting the most out of Glow. Education Scotland will now strengthen its close working with e‑Sgoil, widening access for learners to live lessons, providing timetabled online classes, and training additional teachers to provide online learning as part of a wider e‑Learning National Offer.

e‑Sgoil - which was originally created to offer greater learning opportunities for pupils in the Western Isles - can provide lessons across primary and secondary levels. Lesson provision from e‑Sgoil will be available to all local authorities and schools, for example for groups of learners who need to self‑isolate or if a school has to close. From early September it will also be offering a programme of Study Support for Senior Phase pupils to consolidate their learning. This provision will be delivered outwith the school day, to pupils in their homes. Weekly webinars covering approximately 20 certificated courses will be delivered over an initial eight‑week period and e‑Sgoil will continue to work with local authorities to identify further areas of need. This work builds on the success of the e‑Sgoil national 'lockdown' offer - where over 3,000 young people from across the country participated in real‑time e‑Sgoil lessons from their homes. Further additions to the curriculum are also offered for the broad general education and senior phase from partner organisations such as Keep Scotland Beautiful, the Gaelic Book Council and Skills Development Scotland.

Underpinned by the hard work and commitment of our councils and teachers, our focus is now moving towards accelerating our education recovery mission and progress in closing the poverty‑related attainment gap. Our central mission remains to deliver excellence and equity across Scottish education, with an immediate emphasis on supporting the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

In July we announced £80 million of additional investment in education staff, sufficient for the recruitment of around 1,400 additional teachers and 200 support staff this year. It is anticipated that these additional teachers will intensify support for individuals or groups of pupils who have significant gaps in their progress as a result of lockdown, supporting young people who are shielding, supporting small groups of learners who need more intense support and covering classes for teachers who are shielding. They also provide scope to alter class sizes to provide more teaching and learning, and to enable more physical distancing where this is challenging. They will also be vital in responding to any local flare‑ups of the virus, which could necessitate implementation of contingency plans for blended learning for a period.

We recognise that disruption caused by the pandemic are impacting children from disadvantaged backgrounds particularly severely. We have encouraged local authorities and schools to target support where it is most needed, giving them flexibility to redirect Attainment Scotland Funding to help mitigate the impacts of school closures on our most disadvantaged families, and to make adjustments to existing plans to be delivered as schools return.

For the first time, Pupil Equity Fund allocations of over £250 million were confirmed for two years (2020/21 and 2021/22) benefitting 97% of schools and giving headteachers assistance in their planning and decision making. As well as taking total investment in the Scottish Attainment Challenge to over £750 million over the last five years, this also extends the programme for a further year beyond this Parliamentary term and provides invaluable long‑term commitment. We will publish evidence of progress with our defining mission of closing the poverty‑related attainment gap by March 2021. We will work with our partners, including our International Council of Education Advisors, to design the best approach to accelerating progress with closing the poverty‑related attainment gap, through the next phase of the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

The experience of lockdown shows that access to technology and digital capability is, and will remain, a fundamental aspect of education in Scotland. Despite pupils now being physically back at school, we are still committed to tackling digital exclusion. We are investing £30 million as part of a huge digital boost through provision of laptops for disadvantaged children and young people, which includes £25 million to enable a rollout of digital devices to school pupils to enable them to study online, with an initial provision of approximately 25,000 Chromebooks. We expect that, in total, around 70,000 devices and 18,000 connectivity solutions will be provided to children and young people across the country in the coming weeks. We know that the effects of the pandemic will be long‑lasting, and individual circumstances mean not every family will have had access to such technology, but we will ensure that no young person is left behind.

£30 million to support digital inclusion amongst disadvantaged children and young people

In the event of any future disruption to schooling, for example due to the need for children to self‑isolate, we will work with local government to ensure continuity of learning. This will mean that remote learning opportunities will be provided for children, using technology where appropriate, learning the lessons from the best practice which emerged during the national lockdown. Education Scotland will publish examples entitled 'What Scotland Learned' to inform approaches to remote learning in the future if required. Education Scotland Attainment Advisers continue to support local authorities and schools as they support the learning of children and young people from the most deprived backgrounds.

Alongside a focus on ensuring continuity of learning, there must be a continued focus on using the flexibility that Scotland's curriculum - Curriculum for Excellence - provides in order to best meet the diverse needs of individual learners during the recovery phase. Guidance has already been produced by the CERG to support teachers and other professional practitioners in preparing the curriculum offer for the recovery phase, with an emphasis on prioritising the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of children and young people, practitioners and families. The CERG will continue to review and update key guidance for schools, including guidance on ensuring continuity in learning and on the curriculum during the recovery period.

A longer term strategy will be required to help address the impact the pandemic has had on some of the most vulnerable children and families. The implementation of an Equity Audit will deepen our understanding of the impact of on children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and set clear areas of focus for accelerating recovery.

We will continue to support families with the cost of the school day, and in line with the Tackling Child Poverty Action Plan, will review the level of school clothing grant with local government to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of families.

Alongside this, we will continue to improve support for pupils through implementation of the recommendations of Angela Morgan's independently Chaired review of additional support for learning, working with our partners to deliver key actions to address the recommendations in the coming year and in the longer term. We also know that our education system must support everyone to reach their full potential and it is vital the curriculum is as diverse as the young people who learn in our schools. We are continuing to progress delivery of the world-leading recommendations on LGBT Inclusive Education across the curriculum in order to improve the learning environment for all children and young people.

We are also mindful of the impact of the pandemic on teachers and other staff in schools and are committed to helping them to deliver excellent education for all learners. Accordingly we will bring forward new professional learning focused on wellbeing and ensure more coaching opportunities are created for a range of staff. We will develop and deliver a new mental health training and learning resource for all school staff. This will build upon our work to support learning for school staff to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on children and young people's mental wellbeing. We will also create new support for new teachers who have just completed their probation year allowing them to build on their existing skills.

Our experience during COVID-19 school closures also reinforced the vital role played by community learning and development in supporting young people and families - a role that will become ever more important in our recovery year. As part of our support to the sector we will allocate £3 million to a new Youth Work for Education Recovery Fund, supporting young people to engage with youth work activities that build their confidence and skills, support their health and well‑being, and address the poverty‑related attainment gap.

Recognising the achievements of young people

Most pressingly, COVID-19 meant it was not safe to hold the 2020 SQA Exam Diet and it had to be cancelled for the first time in history. In these unprecedented circumstances difficult decisions had to be made. We have acknowledged that we did not get all of these right for all of our young people, and wholeheartedly apologise to those affected.

We are determined to learn all we can from the experience, and recognise the broader debate that exists over the future of assessment and qualifications in Scotland. To ensure that we best recognise the achievements of Scotland's young people in the future we have already appointed a leading education expert to carry out an independent review of the handling of awarding of qualifications in 2020. In addition, we will ensure a broader independent review of the Scottish approach to assessment and qualifications takes place which will consider best practice globally and provides recommendations. To ensure no young person loses out on a chance of a university place, we will also provide additional funded places.

Enhancing the school estate

By the end of 2020 the remaining projects which form part of the £1.8 billion Scotland's Schools for the Future programme will be completed and open to pupils. In total, this programme has delivered 117 new schools projects and benefited around 60,000 pupils since it was established in 2009.

We expect to announce a second phase of new schools projects by the end of 2020 as part of the new £1 billion Learning Estate Investment Programme. A first phase of 11 projects was announced in September 2019 and those projects are expected to be complete for the start of the new term in August 2024.

Higher Education

Our work to close the attainment gap and ensure a better future for all young people does not stop at the school gates - it must extend to every level of education.

We will always protect free education ensuring that opportunities for our young people are based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay - but we know that the availability of free education by itself cannot overcome other inequalities. We are continuing to work with colleges, universities, and others to implement the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Widening Access, ensuring that, by 2030, admissions to university reflects our population with at least 20 per cent of university entrants coming from our 20 per cent most deprived communities. An interim target of 16 per cent by 2021 has been met, but progress must be quicker, and across all of our universities. We will build on successful work to scale up outreach activities and reforming admissions to reflect the potential a young person may have, not just their prior attainment. We will continue to develop a School Engagement Framework to support pupils into the right choices, whether that is a modern apprenticeship, college, university, or employment.

To deliver fair access and ensure students can stay in education, we are investing a record amount in student support. As well as benefiting from free tuition, Scottish students have the lowest average loan debt in the UK, and further education students have access to the UK's most generous bursary. But we want to make sure that all students, especially those in our most deprived communities, are provided with the financial support they need to succeed. We have been continuing to work to implement the Independent Review of Student Support and have taken significant steps to further improve support - but we also know that the pandemic has changed life for everyone, including students who will not be immune from the wider personal, social and economic impacts. To support our response, we need the right data. We will carry out a student income and expenditure survey in Scotland, and look at the feasibility of doing so in collaboration with the UK and Welsh Governments. This will provide a detailed picture of student finances, and how it affects their experiences of higher education.

We know that COVID-19 has increased the poverty gap for Scotland's most marginalised adults and young people, and reinforced that we must to do more to support vulnerable young people and adults with few or no qualifications, including those for whom English is not a first language. We will develop a lifelong learning strategy that ensures youth and adult learning are integrated within our wider education and skills system. Implementation of the strategy would seek to increase provision for vulnerable adults by building on existing and creating new learning partnerships between colleges, the Open University and community based organisations.

Scotland's universities are one of our most precious resources. Our world renowned institutions and research promote Scotland's place in the world, play a leading role in economic recovery, and provide the highly skilled workforce of the future. To enable them to concentrate on planning the long‑term future of a sector so vital to the Scottish economy, we provided a one‑off £75 million increase in funding for Scotland's universities to help them respond to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have published a Higher and Further Education Financial Sustainability action plan, outlining the practical steps we are taking to protect institutions, promote tertiary education in Scotland and prioritise student wellbeing. This came with a further £10 million for estates development, £5 million emergency student funds across further and higher education, early access to £11.4 million of higher education hardship funds, and £4.7 million for students facing hardship to access equipment to study on‑line.

COVID-19 now represents a double threat, adding to the significant risk we know Brexit will present. Scottish universities receive an average of 8% of their total research funding from the EU. The majority of this comes from Horizon 2020 - since 2014, this has provided more than €536 million to Scottish institutions. But the effects of Brexit will run deeper that just financial. EU and international students bring significant economic, social and cultural benefits to our campuses and communities. Membership of shared programmes like Erasmus+ also enables over 2,000 Scottish students to benefit from learning and living in another country during their studies. We have continued to press UK Government to deliver a comprehensive package of support to counter those twin threats, taking into account the particular interests of Scotland's universities.

Keeping the Promise

Taken together, our work to provide the best start in life, invest in social protection, and drive up attainment at all levels of education is about ensuring a safe future for all, where all our infants, children, and young people can grasp their potential. That must start with looking at those who are most vulnerable, ensuring they are protected from harm, and empowered to succeed. Nowhere is that more true, and perhaps no group more in need of protection and nurturing, than care experienced young people. As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have granted £1.5 million to key partner organisations to help provide direct support to looked‑after children and young people, as well as some of Scotland's most vulnerable families. That is a strong foundation, but we have made a promise which we will not allow the crisis to threaten.

The recent Independent Care Review was one of the most substantial, ambitious, and necessary reviews in the history of the Scottish Parliament. It delivered a powerfully simple message: care must have love and nurture at its heart. Keeping The Promise it asked us to make will mean all children will grow up loved, safe and respected so they can realise their full potential. Where possible, families will be supported to stay together, and provided the support they need to thrive. When that is not possible, the relationships that matter to children and young people - particularly with brothers and sisters - will be protected. And the priority when an infant, child or young person needs our care must be the provision of stable, safe, secure, loving homes that allow them to experience the normal joys and challenges of growing up. To make this a reality, we are taking three important steps.

  • We have acknowledged the role Scottish Government plays in the design and delivery of the current system and committed to create a structure that can facilitate the re‑design of whole system approaches to care and support. This begins with embedding the commitments already made to care experienced people into policy and delivery, with significant and intensive work across the entirety of government policy
  • An Oversight Board is being established to hold us to account, with Fiona Duncan - Chair of the Care Review -appointed to lead it. At least half of the members of the Oversight Board will be care experienced, because we cannot build a new approach without having those with lived experience at the heart of accountability
  • We are supporting the establishment of a dedicated, independent Promise Team, including investing £4 million in the Promise Partnership which will help embed and scale‑up holistic family support. This will promote early intervention and prevention, driven by the needs of, and designed with, children, young people and their families. We will also support and develop the workforce so that they have the opportunity to keep The Promise

As part of our work to deliver better care, the Scottish Government will better support kinship carers, establishing a kinship collaborative and continuing to work with partners to take forward the recommendations of the National Review of Foster, Kinship and Adoption Care Allowances. We will support key partners to implement the recovery plan for the Children's Hearing System which reduces all reliance on emergency legislation and provides a full return to steady state by September 2021. We will draw on the learning from the national and local responses to the pandemic, and conclusions of the Care Review to further develop our approach to child protection. We will consult on and publish revised National Guidance for Child Protection and develop a new approach to reviewing significant protection cases by April 2021.

We will draw on the learning from the national and local responses to the pandemic, and conclusions of the Care Review to further develop our approach to child protection. We will consult on and publish revised National Guidance for Child Protection and develop a new approach to reviewing significant protection cases by April 2021.

As well as supporting care experienced people today, we must face up to the past when we failed to ensure that children in our care grew up loved, safe and respected. The Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill will legislate for a redress scheme to provide tangible recognition, acknowledgement, and apology of harm as a result of historical child abuse in residential care settings in Scotland. An advance scheme has already provided more than 450 people who are elderly or terminally ill with a payment of £10,000 each.

Our work to deliver a safe future for all also delivers one of the most ambitious pieces of legislation since devolution. The UNCRC Bill will fully and directly incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children into Scots law, to the maximum extent of the Scottish Parliament's powers, before the end of this Parliament. Public authorities, including the Scottish Ministers, will be under a statutory duty not to act incompatibly with the UNCRC requirements as set out in the Bill. If they do, children, young people and their representatives can use the courts to enforce their rights. This will deliver a proactive culture of everyday accountability for children's rights across public services.

The UNCRC Incorporation Bill will protect the rights of children and young people in Scotland

Better housing

Ensuring everyone has access to a safe, warm and affordable place to call home is at the heart of our ambition for a Fairer Scotland - creating jobs, tackling social and health inequalities, and creating strong, sustainable communities.

More social housing with access to outside space

At the start of this Parliamentary term we embarked on the single biggest investment and delivery of affordable housing since devolution, committing to 50,000 affordable homes, with at least 35,000 for social rent. By the end of March 2020, 34,791 affordable homes had been delivered, over 23,000 of which were for social rent. The pandemic has had a significant impact on the construction industry, but with 46,000 home approvals in the four years to end March 2020, we were on track to deliver this ambitious commitment. We are working with partners across the housing sector to deliver the remainder of these homes as quickly as it is safe to do so. We have also helped those who aspire to home ownership achieve it, with over 35,000 households supported through our existing shared equity schemes since 2007, the majority of whom are under 35. We are now helping even more people through our pilot First Time Buyers Fund which we will evaluate later this year.

Looking ahead, we have asked people across Scotland to help us set out a vision for how we want our homes and communities to look in 2040 and what we need to do to get there. We will use this to set out a 20‑year plan to deliver good quality, energy efficient, zero carbon housing with access to outdoor space, transport links, digital connectivity and community services. The Housing to 2040 Vision and Principles and Route Map will be published later this year. The work of the Social Renewal Advisory Board will help ensure this route map reflects our learning from the experience of the pandemic about the importance of house, home and community and safe housing for all. We also expect the Social Renewal Advisory Board to provide a view on the role of rent control or rent capping in our future housing policy.

Investment in housing will make a crucial contribution to Scotland's recovery. Building on funding of over £3 billion over the current parliament, we have committed £300 million of interim funding for 2021‑22, ensuring that affordable homes continue to be delivered beyond this current parliamentary term. Our current investment in housing will, on average, leverage economic output in the region of £1.4 billion per year and support around 10,000 to 12,000 jobs per year in the construction and related industries in Scotland. As set out in our action to boost the energy and heat efficiency of buildings, it also produces significant social and environmental benefits. With 25% of Scotland's emissions coming from heating buildings, making homes greener will make a significant contribution towards net zero. It helps tackle fuel poverty head on by reducing energy bills. And it produces significant improvements in health and wellbeing.

To support our ambitions, we will encourage innovation, supporting the sector to embrace new ways of working to speed up the delivery of homes, improve quality, reduce waste and increase productivity. That also requires developing the skill sets required for the future. We welcomed the publication of Professor Sean Smith's report on housing construction skills which remain a priority area. We have accepted the majority of the recommendations to government, and will implement them with the support of partners. Before Spring 2021, we will also develop and agree an accord between government and the construction industry.

Housing is much more than just bricks and mortar - it is somewhere that should enhance people's sense of wellbeing and promote better physical and mental health. Now, our homes will also be somewhere many of us work from. We will improve the quality of all Scottish Government grant funded homes, with a specific focus on social homes, by increasing the conditionality of public investment. We will develop guidance this year, to target three issues of quality:

  • Carbon: Greater use of offsite construction for new social housing. This has the potential to speed up delivery of affordable homes, reduce waste and achieve the quality of construction needed to support zero emissions homes, and it offers opportunities to improve productivity and attract a more diverse workforce
  • COVID-19 response: Ensure all new social housing offers private or communal outdoor space with room for people to sit outside and space for home working or study
  • Connected: Drive forward work to make all new social housing digitally‑enabled. We will work with the social housing sector to explore the options for providing ready‑to‑go internet connections in new social housing

As recommended by the Social Renewal Advisory Board, we will review the current housing adaptations system and make recommendations on how best to improve and streamline the system and maximise the impact of investment. This will make full use of existing and planned housing stock to provide homes for as many people as possible, and enable people to stay in their homes for longer or return after hospitalisation. Social Renewal Advisory Board also asked us to review existing design standards and guidance to drive improvement and innovation across all tenures - we have already done so for the social rented sector and will do the same for other tenures.

Underpinning all of our action is a determination to ensure everyone has access to adequate, safe and secure housing - but too many still do not. Tackling homelessness remains a national priority. In 2018 we set out unambiguously how we will eradicate homelessness and rough sleeping in our Ending Homelessness Together action plan. We have been making steady progress but the experience of COVID-19 has shown we must accelerate our ambitions. We cannot see anyone return to rough sleeping following the unprecedented success of our response to the pandemic in supporting people into safe accommodation. We want to secure settled homes for those currently in emergency accommodation, and prevent anyone falling into homelessness.

The pandemic has enabled us to think differently. It means we must modify night shelter provision this winter and actively end the use of night shelter and dormitory style provision in future, building on examples in Glasgow and Edinburgh, by forming Rapid Rehousing Welcome Centres. These will enable an under‑one‑roof multi‑agency triage system to make connections with appropriate services for people at the sharpest end of homelessness. The approach is based on scaling down hotel accommodation and night shelter provision and scaling up rapid rehousing and Housing First, where overnight and on‑site sleeping arrangements will remain a last resort.

We must also go further and faster on the local rapid rehousing transition plans already in place. We are funding a six month pilot project to facilitate settled accommodation in the private rented sector for individuals who are currently living in hotels in Edinburgh, having previously been rough sleeping or using the care shelter. This will inform decision making on a Scotland‑wide proposal. We have also fast‑tracked plans to extend the Unsuitable Accommodation Order. This means no‑one will stay in unsuitable temporary accommodation without access to basic facilities and support for more than seven days. We will continue to work with local authorities in areas where rough sleeping is most prevalent to ensure people currently accommodated in hotel rooms receive person‑centred support, coupled with a strong accommodation offer to prevent a return to rough sleeping.

We will continue our work to transform the housing system to focus on the prevention of homelessness so that people are supported to remain in their homes, and we will build on the learning in what we've so far known, aimed at people with complex needs. By end of June 2020, 270 Housing First tenancies had started in the pathfinder areas, with a tenancy sustainment rate of 88%.

As also recommended by the Social Renewal Advisory Board, we will strengthen guidance on discretionary housing payments, to ensure it is clear and in particular for people transitioning from temporary to permanent accommodation.

To build upon this work, Social Renewal Advisory Board advice, and recent recommendations of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, we will publish jointly with COSLA an updated Ending Homelessness Together action plan in autumn.

A key part of our strategy for recovery is to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place. We will continue to take action to minimise the risk of evictions into homelessness in the private and social rented sectors - building on our learning from the emergency protections put in place through the course of the outbreak - and help people access the financial support available to them to continue to pay their rent and avoid rent arrears.

We know that the pandemic continues to have major financial repercussions and many households will be facing challenges in meeting their rent, therefore we are increasing support to tenants through a package of additional support. We will establish a new £10 million Tenant Hardship Loan Fund later this autumn which will provide interest free loans to support those struggling to meet their rent costs due to financial difficulty associated with the pandemic. This Fund will focus on those tenants unable to access other forms of support for their housing costs.

To provide direct financial support to those struggling with housing costs we have already made £5 million additional funding available for local authorities to provide Discretionary Housing Payments to those needing help with their housing costs, and we will now increase the Discretionary Housing Payments funding by a further £3 million, bringing total funding for DHPs to over £80 million. We will work with local authorities to help ensure this supports as many households as possible in a way that responds to local pressures resulting from COVID-19, and that tenants in arrears are aware of where they can get impartial advice on best options for their circumstances.

To provide additional time and relief for those experiencing issues with arrears we will extend the emergency legislation put in place to protect private and social tenants from eviction during the pandemic up to six months, subject to approval from the Scottish Parliament. Recognising the negative impact on communities, we will also introduce new regulations to allow for the notice period for eviction for anti‑social or criminal behaviour to return to one month to protect neighbours and support landlords to resolve issues. Together this package will provide support, protection and options for tenants, enabling them to secure the financial support that is available to them so that they can keep paying their rent and remain in their homes over this unprecedented period.

Recognising that some groups are at higher risk of homelessness than others, we will continue to implement the homelessness prevention pathways so that people leaving prison, care leavers and victims of domestic abuse have positive housing pathways that support them to keep a settled home and achieve positive outcomes in their lives. We will ensure our policy responses are gender‑sensitive and take into account the diverse and complex needs of women. We will also take forward plans to remove the requirement for people facing homelessness to have a connection with the local area before they can receive an offer of settled accommodation.

In the context of the significant growth in purpose built student accommodation and COVID-19, we will conduct in 2021 a review of purpose built student accommodation, in partnership with stakeholders. This will be taken forwards in parallel with work to ensure rent affordability and improving standards across the Private Rented Sector.

We recognise there has been a dramatic rise in the number of short‑term lets in Scotland in the past few years. For many people, visitors and businesses, short‑term lets offer a convenient, rewarding and authentic experience, and we will always seek to welcome more visitors from around the world. However, in some parts of the country, they have caused real and significant concerns about the impact on local communities and the availability of housing for permanent residents. It should be for local councils, and people, to determine the best use of housing to meet need in their areas.

That is why in 2019, we undertook a consultation on the benefits of and issues around short‑term lets, the principles that would help to guide our approach, and some proposed approaches to regulation. The impact of COVID-19 delayed our work to regulate short‑term lets in Scotland. However, this has recently been restarted and we are aiming to lay secondary legislation to give local authorities powers to license short‑term lets and introduce control areas in December so that it can be in force by spring 2021. These powers will allow local authorities to balance the needs and concerns of their communities with wider economic and tourism interests.

Promoting equality and human rights

As set out throughout this Programme for Government, we are driving an ambitious and progressive agenda to ensure equality and human rights are embedded in all we do. The impacts of COVID-19 have been and will continue to be experienced disproportionally by different groups, including women, those from minority ethnic communities, older people and disabled people. To address this, we will develop an equality and human rights mainstreaming strategy, which is underpinned by a comprehensive approach to improving data collation and analysis, and will ensure that the voices of those impacted shape our approach and policies. We will work across different groups to promote equality, recognising intersectional inequality, drawing from the expertise of key stakeholders, and being guided by vital national forums such as the First Minister's National Advisory Council on Women and Girls.

At a time of global crisis, meeting our international human rights obligations as a responsible modern nation has never been more important. We will continue work on the First Minister's National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership, to deliver a radical blueprint for human rights legislation covering all areas of devolved responsibility. This will include how best to take forward our commitment to incorporate the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women into domestic legislation. We will also actively consider the incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People and the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination, working closely with key stakeholders in these sectors. We will continue to play our part in building international capacity to advance human rights through increased funding for the Scottish Human Rights Defenders Fellowship.

We will continue to take forward our work to protect, promote and improve equality in Scotland. This includes building on our international reputation for LGBTI equality. Our Non‑Binary Working Group will bring valuable lived experience to our work towards equality for non‑binary people, and we will continue work to produce guidance for the Scottish Government, which will also be available across the public sector and more widely, on realising trans inclusion while continuing to advance the rights of all women.

Inclusive communication is a crucial aspect of our approach to equality. The Social Renewal Advisory Board recommended work should be stepped up within Scottish Government and the wider public sector to promote accessible, inclusive communications for all - ensuring everyone in Scotland can access information on an equal basis. This is underway, with improved guidance and support now available to policy makers across Scottish Government.

Through our collaborative work on the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, we also expect access to free period products to be enshrined in law for anyone who needs them, building on Scotland's world-leading work in this area.

Supporting older people

As we have seen starkly throughout the crisis, older people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 restrictions and shielding measures. Our focus has been to keep people safe and connected. We have provided around £1.7 million to organisations who are directly supporting the needs of older people during the pandemic, including funding for helplines and food distribution. This has included over £700,000 to Age Scotland's Helpline and over £110,000 for older minority ethnic people's meal services.

Older people contribute hugely to volunteering, their communities and the economy. Older People's Strategic Action Forum members are participating in our Social Renewal Advisory Board in order to ensure the needs and contribution of older people are fully considered in Scotland's recovery.

Equally safe

The experience of lockdown reiterated the importance of protecting women and girls who are isolated and vulnerable during unprecedented times, and facing domestic abuse. We provided a £1.5 million funding package for the women's aid and rape crisis network, helping to maximise the effective protection and provision of support for those experiencing gender‑based violence, both during the immediate crisis period and in the longer term. We continue to support Emily Test and Rape Crisis Scotland in their work in further and higher education sectors.

Everyone should be protected and violence, discrimination and gender‑based inequality consigned to history. This year, we will continue to implement our Equally Safe strategy with a particular focus on supporting women and children at risk of violence and abuse. We will introduce legislation on domestic abuse protection orders, progress legislation to improve forensic medical examinations for victims of sexual assault, consult on challenging men's demand in relation to prostitution, and take forward the implementation our new Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) Act. By the end of the year, we will launch our £13 million Delivering Equally Safe Fund to support greater prevention and early intervention for women and children at risk.

We will also continue to pursue our gender equality ambitions in education and learning via the mechanism of the Deputy First Minister's Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning. Given the evidence which suggests that girls and young women are disproportionately impacted by crises such as COVID-19, we will continue to work with education and children's and equality stakeholders to ensure that girls and young women's experience of the education and learning landscape is a gender competent one.

As a result of the work of the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland's Taskforce for the improvement of healthcare and forensic medical examination services for people who have experienced rape, sexual assault or child sexual abuse, such examinations no longer take place in a police station. The Taskforce is continuing its work to create a Scottish Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SSARC) service in each territorial Health Board supported by Scottish Government funding towards infrastructure and workforce. Despite the evident pressures involved in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Boards remain committed to maintaining these services as part of their core service. Underpinning the work of the Taskforce, the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Bill remains a priority and is proceeding to a new timetable. This will enshrine in law an holistic healthcare and recovery focused model and will provide a legal framework for consistent access to self‑referral services across Scotland.

Improving outcomes for minority ethnic communities

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on minority ethnic communities. As set out throughout this document, we will prioritise action to promote equality and human rights for minority ethnic communities, taking a cross‑portfolio approach to implementing the recommendations of the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity and build this into our ambitious plans to advance race equality. As part of this, we must recognise what we have done well to tackle issues of systemic racism in the past, but also where we must improve. As recommended by the Expert Reference Group, we will undertake a review of past and current initiatives to tackle systemic racism.

As outlined previously in this chapter, housing plays a key role in improving a range of social outcomes. Our housing approach already recognises the distinct needs of minority ethnic communities, and local authorities must consider these in their areas. But the experience of the pandemic shows we need to better understand and address the challenges faced by minority ethnic communities. We are carrying out an evidence review which will identify gaps and determine what further research is required to inform housing programmes of the future. We will work with local authorities to ensure local housing strategies properly recognise and address challenges faced by minority ethnic communities and support them with the tools they need to do so. As we review and renew the Social Housing Charter, we will look at all options to support improvements in the social housing sector.

Over the coming year, we will we will build on work in partnership with COSLA during the COVID-19 outbreak to support Councils to provide more and better Gypsy/Traveller accommodation, in line with our commitments in the Gypsy/Traveller action plan. Despite most accommodation meeting the Minimum Standard, we know that standards are lower than they should be in some areas and there continues to be a shortage of permanent sites for Gypsy/Traveller communities. With £2 million already made available this year, we will ensure the needs of Gypsy/Travellers are appropriately and collectively resourced going forward.

COVID-19 has not been the only global issue to bring greater attention to issues of racial inequality. The growing Black Lives Matter movement has shone a powerful spotlight on continuing racial injustice and race‑based violence, and the need for countries to face their colonial history. Scotland, too, needs to address its history. Partnering with Museums Galleries Scotland, in collaboration with race equality and museums sector stakeholders, we will sponsor an independent expert group to make recommendations on how Scotland's existing and future museum collections we can better recognise and represent a more accurate portrayal of Scotland's colonial and slavery history and what further steps should be taken to ensure people in Scotland are aware of the role Scotland played and how that manifests itself in our society today. This will include how to reflect, interpret and celebrate the wide‑ranging and positive contributions that ethnic minority communities have made and continue to make to Scotland.

Workplaces must share the diversity of the communities they serve and set a positive leadership example. With the John Smith Centre, we will establish a Minority Ethnic Leadership and Development Programme, a 9 month professional and personal development programme for 50 black and minority ethnic people from across Scotland. The Minority Ethnic Emerging Leaders Academy will support development of leadership, including internships and a dedicated mentor to support awardees throughout the programme and beyond. Backed by £470,000, this will support the Scottish Government ambition to remove barriers to leadership and increase diversity and representation from minority ethnic communities in public life.

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and one of the recommendations made by Scottish Government's COVID-19 Ethnicity Expert Group, we will engage with relevant stakeholders to better enable our children and young people to learn about Scotland's colonial and slavery history and the real need today to challenge racism, eliminate racial discrimination and advance equality. We will ensure that the diversity of our society is recognised and represented in the education workforce at all levels in line with the ambitions of the Race Equality Framework. As part of this work we will address the under representation of Minority Ethnic teachers in Scotland by exploring alternative pathways into teaching for Minority Ethnic and other underrepresented groups.

We will also continue to work with the Scottish Funding Council as it takes forward the recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's inquiry into racial harassment in British Universities published in 2019.

Supporting cohesive communities

In response to COVID-19, we are working with faith communities and organisations to enable them to respond to the urgent challenges of the crisis and to support those that are most vulnerable. People who have come to Scotland to work, study, be with family, or who need a place of safety, must not be abandoned at this time of crisis. Nearly £275,000 funding was allocated to third sector organisations supporting people seeking asylum and others who are subject to No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) to respond to people's essential needs during the pandemic.

We will work with COSLA and the Scottish Refugee Council to support refugees and people seeking asylum to integrate in communities in Scotland, in line with the key principle of our New Scots strategy that integration begins from day one of arrival. Together with COSLA we will publish an anti‑destitution strategy to support those in our communities most at risk from reserved immigration policies on NRPF. As part of this we are re‑examining options to support those who are destitute through NRPF, including expanding the scope for more effective and dignified support.

As well as delivering consolidated, modernised and updated hate crime legislation, we will continue to work with stakeholders, including Police Scotland, to tackle and encourage reporting of hate crime. We will work with Police Scotland, Local Authorities and wider partners to safeguard those individuals who become vulnerable to divisive and radicalising narratives, including as a result of having been disconnected from positive influences during lockdown.

Veterans

Veterans, members of the Armed Forces and their families are valued assets to our communities and society. We are fully committed to ensuring there is no disadvantage to the Armed Forces and veterans community in Scotland when accessing public services and support. Building on our cross‑government approach to supporting veterans we will take forward the actions, published in January, in our implementation plan for the Strategy for our Veterans as well as continuing to progress the Scottish Veterans Commissioner's recommendations. This includes actions to improve support across key themes such as Employment, Education and Skills; and Health and Wellbeing. We will continue to invest in the Scottish Veterans Fund this year adding to the more than £1.5 million provided to over 170 projects since 2008. We will also fund the Unforgotten Forces consortium of charities with £750 000 over the three years to 2022‑23 to improve the health, wellbeing and quality of life for older veterans.

A Scotland where we live in vibrant, healthy and safe places and communities

Delivering on our ambitions for a fairer Scotland starts at a local community level. The COVID-19 response has shown the central importance of communities to supporting and protecting individuals and families across Scotland. It has changed the way we all live, work, learn and shop.

As the Social Renewal Advisory Board has noted, now is the time to add pace and focus to our place‑based agenda, linking closely with our efforts to tackle the global climate emergency, and support a wellbeing economy. Building on the experience of COVID-19, we will work with local government to take forward our ambitions for 20 minute neighbourhoods.

The 20 minute neighbourhood is an idea that is becoming popular across the world. Developed in different ways in cities like Melbourne, Portland and Paris, people can meet most of their essential needs within a 20 minute walk. This means you can do your shopping, join in with leisure activities, take your children to school, find local services like your GP practice and ideally get to work - all within easy access of where you live. It also means having greenspace on your doorstep and a local environment that encourages active travel to promote health and well‑being. It is a place where people want to live, so affordable housing must be part of it.

The idea of the 20 minute neighbourhood aligns with our town centre first approach where our work on the links between planning and public health have been held up as an example throughout the UK and globally. To build on that we have launched a Review of the Town Centre Action Plan and have asked the Review for advice on how to adapt the 20 minute neighbourhood idea for our cities, towns, rural and island communities. Many of our local communities are already benefitting from their 20 minute neighbourhoods, but many others aren't and there will be particular challenges for some of our rural and island communities where services are much more spread out. The Review is due to report at the end of November. Aligned with this activity, and in recognition of the significant impact of the pandemic on the retail sector, we will work with the sector and across government to develop our retail strategy. This will seek to address the particular opportunities and challenges faced by the sector and to provide a more resilient future for retailers in Scotland.

We will also establish a Place Based Investment Programme, linking and aligning all place‑based funding initiatives to ensure we have a coherent approach to effectively progress our 20 minute neighbourhood ambitions. As part of this Programme, we will invest £275 million to support community‑led regeneration and town‑centre revitalisation, including the repurposing of buildings, maintenance and repairs, reallocating external space and community‑led land acquisition. This will also support the ongoing work on Clyde Gateway.

As recommended by the Social Renewal Advisory Board, we will also look to strengthen our support for community anchor organisations - like housing associations and community development trusts - that provide essential services with communities. We will use our Empowering Communities Programme to build on the learning from the COVID-19 response, strengthen the community anchor model and support its wider take up.

The COVID-19 pandemic has required us to rethink how and where we work, opening up new ways to think about our n neighbourhoods, towns, cities and rural communities. The programme will support efforts to progress the Working Local Challenge ambition to create more shared space local working hubs for the private, public and third sector in local towns to enable more flexible and remote working.

We will consider the recommendations of the Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce and explore opportunities to invest in our local blue and green infrastructure targeting problematic long‑term vacant and derelict land, to deliver sustainable inclusive growth, and mitigate climate change as part of the Green Recovery.

One positive experience of lockdown has been the increase in active travel. Research from Transport Scotland shows that cycling was the only mode of transport to show an increase in demand compared to last year. We must lock in those positive changes through active travel infrastructure schemes which connect towns and cities from the suburbs to the centres, connect housing to transport, enable active travel in rural areas and support the idea of 20 minute neighbourhoods. Addressing cycling and walking infrastructure challenges through space reallocation will alleviate pinch points and ensure transition from lockdown doesn't result in a surge in private car use.

Over £500 million over 5 years for walking, cycling and wheeling

To support this, we will commit to just over £500 million over five years for active travel, including for local authorities and others to bid in for funding of large scale, transformational active travel infrastructure projects, reallocating road space in favour of walking, cycling and wheeling over cars.

In response to the significant decrease in car usage, and increase in active travel witnessed during lockdown we worked with Sustrans to put forward a programme of temporary measures including reallocation of road space in favour of pedestrians and cyclists. This programme ('Spaces for People') utilised almost £39 million funding from the Places for Everyone Programme which funds permanent infrastructure and which could not operate under COVID-19 restrictions. Local authorities now have the opportunity to review the temporary infrastructure projects - turning many of them into permanent schemes - and we are engaging with them to determine where this is possible.

As part of our sustainable transport future, in 2019 we announced a landmark, long term capital investment of over £500 million for bus priority measures to tackle the impacts of congestion on bus services. Work on this was paused during the pandemic, but in the interim we have launched the £10 million Bus Priority Rapid Deployment Fund for temporary bus priority measures. Building on this, and working closely with COSLA, the bus industry and other partners, we will launch the Bus Partnership Fund in the coming months to support local authorities' ambitions around tackling congestion so that bus journeys are quicker and more reliable, and more people make the choice to take the bus. Work is also underway to reallocate road space on parts of the motorway network around Glasgow to high occupancy vehicles such as buses.

Public transport demand remains impacted by the need for physical distancing and a drop in public confidence. Working from home, the move to more shopping online and impacts on the tourism sector have seen major reductions in demand. Given the levels of uncertainty it is only right that we consider the implications for transport and how we re‑start the second Strategic Transport Projects Review to ensure that this will help identify interventions that would aid or help accelerate economic recovery. We will take a phased approach to STPR2, with Phase 1 focusing on recommendations which "lock in" the benefits and travel behaviours of individuals and provide a step change in investment which supports the priorities and outcomes of the National Transport Strategy.

We will also accelerate our work to consider a range of possible permanent options to address the challenges faced on the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful, with a dedicated parallel project team now established to progress the environmental and engineering assessment, as well as stakeholder engagement.

Although young people have been negatively impacted by this crisis, we know they are full of many ideas and aspirations for Scotland and we also know that young people, working with Government and partners, can spearhead creative approaches and positive change that can help our service providers and communities recover well from COVID-19. Therefore, as one of the most impacted groups we want to hear their views. We will engage with young people on the future of transport, seeking their views on how we tackle transport inequalities and move us towards a more sustainable and inclusive Scottish transport network.

We remain committed to delivering a national concessionary travel scheme for free bus travel for under‑19s, and have begun the necessary preparations including planning, research, legal review and due diligence. We will consult with young people, local authorities, transport operators and other stakeholders to maximise the benefits of the scheme. We will consult with young people's views on the impacts of COVID-19 and post‑lockdown measures on public transport usage and behaviour to inform this, and as part of the review of discounts available on public transport to those under the age of 26 which is due for completion end of December 2020.

Alongside these substantial efforts to increase active travel, we must also work to improve road safety - ensuring people feel safe, with appropriate measures in place to enable that. We will publish Scotland's Road Safety Framework to 2030, following consultation on an ambitious and compelling long‑term vision for road safety where there are zero fatalities or serious injuries on Scotland's roads by 2050. This will include ambitious interim targets where the number of people being killed or seriously injured on our roads will be halved by 2030. In line with international best practice we will embed the Safe System approach within our road safety delivery framework.

Taking decisive action to promote active travel, improve public transport, and reduce our reliance on cars will ensure we can have a positive impact on air quality, the natural environment, and individual health and wellbeing. That also underpins our commitment to introduce Low Emission Zones (LEZs) in our four biggest cities, and into all other air quality management areas by 2023, where the National Low Emission Framework appraisals advocate such mitigation. LEZs are an important form of vehicle access regulation, setting an environmental limit on certain road spaces and improving air quality by restricting access to the dirtiest vehicles, particularly at locations where there is public exposure.

Scotland's first LEZ was launched in Glasgow, with an initial focus on buses, at the end of 2018. While we were on track to meet our commitment for LEZ introductions in 2020, the pandemic caused significant disruption to planning and resourcing. In May, the LEZ Leadership Group took the difficult but pragmatic decision to pause LEZ introductions. Work on introducing LEZs will now resume on the basis of introducing LEZ's in the three remaining cities between February and May 2022. We will also consult on a draft new air quality strategy in the latter part of 2020, setting out how we will deliver further air quality improvements over the next five years. The new strategy will be published in the first part of 2021.

All of our work to redesign our communities to best respond to the pandemic and living with COVID-19 will be underpinned by National Planning Framework 4, local development plans, and Local Place Plans, introduced through the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, and by giving people an opportunity to develop proposals for the development and use of land in the place where they live. We know people want more power to shape the places they live in, care about, and know best.

Our work so far on the Local Governance Review has involved over 4,000 people discussing the future of local democracy. COVID-19 delayed the next part of this conversation, but the response to the pandemic has reinforced what communities told us they can achieve. Once we are able, we will begin widespread engagement to explore in detail how a new tier of democracy can be made to work in practice. To prepare the way we will start work now with a small number of diverse communities to learn how best to approach these conversations. As we move forward, these places will provide a bedrock to shape ambitious legislative change, test alternative resource allocation, and experiment with new inclusive forms of decision‑making. We also know that the way power and resources are shared between national and local government across all of our public services contributes to the success of different places. The Local Governance Review creates an important opportunity to agree changes which can support community aspiration and help achieve our shared ambition set out in the National Performance Framework.

Ensuring safer communities

Our Justice and emergency services have provided a significant response through the pandemic in keeping our communities safe. Among other success stories, we have seen the strength of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in maintaining essential fire and rescue services throughout, the Scottish Ambulance Service have provided a vital health response while also enabling patient transport, and Police Scotland have played a critical role in supporting our actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in communities.

A single national police service allowed for a quick, clear and consistent policing response to COVID-19, supported by £1.2bn public investment and real terms protection since 2016. Police Scotland has been at the front and centre of the response to COVID-19 in Scotland, and continues to work closely with all partners including in local authorities and health to support the collective effort to combat COVID-19. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis their 4Es approach to policing - Engaging, Explaining, Encouraging and only as a last resort Enforcing - has been central in ensuring our collective approach to the unprecedented but necessary public health measures put in place. Police officers and staff continue to put themselves in harm's way to protect the public and we are fully supportive of the pledge made by the Chief Constable outlining his commitment to reduce the impact of violence and improve the safety of officers and staff.

As we start to move beyond the immediate impacts of the pandemic on justice services, we will focus on recovery and renewal, to enable the justice system to go beyond pre‑COVID-19 work, and prepare for future transformation. As a result of the restrictions that needed to be put in place during the pandemic, we recognise there is a very significant and growing backlog in cases waiting to come before a court, with associated impacts for those accused of crime, victims and witnesses. The resumption of court business will exert pressure at all points of the justice system - from the impact on court services, as those on remand cannot be tried, to a potential increase in the prison population when they are. During the pandemic, we have provided additional funding for investment in court technology and towards the establishment of remote jury centres to allow the most serious criminal cases to proceed. This investment has also supported the civil justice system which has maintained business, where practical, by remote means. We will work with justice bodies, the legal profession, victims organisations and others to look at how we can continue to tackle the backlog and provide confidence to victims, witness and others affected by delays.

To ensure we have a strong response to those pressures, and plan for longer term reform, we have established a Recover, Renew, Transform programme, overseen by a newly established Criminal Justice Board. This Board - bringing together criminal and community justice stakeholders, and drawing on the views of victim support service representatives and others - will consider proposals for the reform of the justice system. That includes building upon innovations put in place during the pandemic, including greater use of digital tools. It will also consider support for victims and witnesses, and ways to prevent repeat offending and manage the prison population, through more effective community‑based interventions. Building on the presumption against short custodial sentences, which was extended to 12 months or less in 2019, we will promote and expand the availability of effective community interventions, including bringing forward regulations for the use of electronic monitoring on bail, supporting increased accessibility to supervised bail services and publishing guidance on structured deferred sentences.

As part of our transformation of the justice service, we are committed to modernising the prison estate, with a priority on the new female custodial estate and replacements for HMP Barlinnie and HMP Inverness. Our plans for the new female estate are transformative and world‑leading. It will deliver, by the end of 2022, a new national prison and two Community Custody Units in Dundee and Glasgow tailored to the specific support needs of women. We take seriously the pressures facing HMP Barlinnie and are have provided additional funding for remedial measures that will directly address infrastructure concerns. This remedial work is expected to be complete by summer 2022 at the latest, on a phased basis to enable crucial services of the prison to remain running.

Underpinning the recovery and transformation agenda, we will put the interests of victims at the heart of justice reforms, supported by the work of the Victims Taskforce. We will continue work to strengthen communication and engagement with victims and families throughout the justice process. We will work with justice agencies and third sector support providers to explore further use of non‑court buildings for the pre‑recording and giving of evidence. To better support victims or witnesses of sexual offences involved in the criminal justice system we will consider the recommendations from the report of Lady Dorrian's Review of the management of sexual offences. While the pandemic has placed significant pressure on parliamentary time, we will continue to progress the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Bill before the end of the parliament.

As part of our broadly preventative approach to violence, we will continue to work with Scotland's Violence Reduction Unit and Medics Against Violence to support the development of the Navigator programme. Now operational in emergency departments around Scotland, the Navigator programme engages with people who have been affected by violence and to stop the revolving door of violent injury in our hospitals as well as easing the pressure that such violence places on vital public services.

As part of our wider work on community safety, we will take forward the actions outlined in the Fireworks Action Plan, and run a public awareness campaign to promote the safe and appropriate use of fireworks ahead of bonfire night this year. The recommendations of the Fireworks Review Group on tightening legislation on fireworks will be considered to ensure our communities are safer and to reduce the harm, and fear, caused by misuse of fireworks. We will also consult further on the law on dangerous dogs, including the offence of a dog being dangerously out of control contained within the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.


Contact

Email: Tim.Ellis@gov.scot