Programme for Government 2019 to 2020

Sets out action for protecting Scotland's future.

Introduction from the First Minister

We are currently living through unprecedented and deeply troubling times for Scotland and the UK. At a time when we are wrestling with global challenges such as the climate emergency, we also face a constitutional emergency as the current UK Government undermines democracy by suspending the UK Parliament and taking Scotland out of the European Union (EU) against our will and possibly without a deal.

The people of Scotland voted to remain in the EU and this Government has consistently opposed Brexit. A 'no deal' Brexit would create unprecedented challenges for the government and for the wider country – it would put jobs, livelihoods and communities at risk.

As a Government our opposition to a 'no deal' Brexit is clear, but we are obliged to prepare for one. That means that if the UK Government does not step back from the brink, some elements of this Programme may have to be postponed while we deal with a mess that is not of Scotland's making.

We will seek to minimise any impact on the day‑to‑day activity of government but compromises may be required. However, this will not in any way diminish our ambitions for Scotland and this Programme sets those out.

The current political and constitutional crisis also raises the importance of securing the right for Scotland to have a say over our own future. As the decisions of the UK Government increasingly go against the interests and democratic wishes of the people of Scotland, it is more important than ever that we complete the necessary steps to hold a referendum on independence.

In April this year, I acknowledged that we faced a climate emergency. Over this summer, the evidence of that has been clear – we have seen the kind of extreme weather events across Europe that will become more and more common if we fail to rise to this global challenge. The consequences of global climate change will be severe. While in some parts of the world its effects are existential, we will also feel the impact here at home. We must act.

This Programme for Government sets out some of the next steps on Scotland's journey to net zero emissions and raises our ambition in light of the emergency we face. We are leading the world in setting challenging targets, but we must also redouble our efforts to meet them.

Tackling climate change also creates opportunities. We can lead the way in showing how our society and economy can transition to net zero in a way that creates economic opportunity and provides the assurance of rewarding work for all.

If we are able to proceed as planned, the coming parliamentary year will see several key milestones on the path to setting out Scotland's comprehensive response to the climate emergency. The Infrastructure Commission will publish its recommendations in advance of the Capital Spending Review. This will give us the opportunity to bring a low or zero carbon focus to all of our future infrastructure investments. Along with the renewal of the National Planning Framework, our future public infrastructure programme will lay the foundations on which we will build low and zero carbon homes, communities and industries. The National Transport Strategy, to be published later this year, will redefine investment priorities, putting sustainable transport at the heart of decision‑making. In the year ahead, we will also publish an updated Climate Change Plan to take full account of the advice of the UK Committee on Climate Change.

The coming together of these fundamental reviews of government activity will mean changes in the way that we travel, live and grow our economy. By embracing these changes, we can reduce our emissions, become a driver of innovation and provide support to our communities to navigate these changes.

Of course, climate change is happening as we speak and it is something that we must all contribute to tackling now. In advance of the outcome of these reviews, this Programme for Government contains the first package of additional measures that we will take in response to the climate emergency. These measures cut across all parts of government but they are by no means the final word – instead they should be seen as a down-payment on our commitment to ensure that Scotland ends its contribution to global climate change by 2045 at the latest.

Amongst other elements this embryonic Scottish Green Deal includes commitments to:

  • invest over £500 million in improved bus priority infrastructure to tackle the impacts of congestion on bus services and raise bus usage
  • put the Highlands and Islands on a path to becoming the world's first net zero aviation region by 2040, including a commitment to zero emissions from Highland and Islands Airports Limited's operations. We will begin trials of low or zero emission flights in 2021
  • reduce emissions from Scotland's railways to zero by 2035 through the continued electrification of the network, the procurement of battery-powered trains and exploration of the potential of hydrogen-powered trains in Scotland
  • provide an additional £17 million to support the demand for ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) through our Low Carbon Transport Loan scheme, while expanding the scheme to include used electric vehicles
  • ensure that from 2024, all new homes must use renewable or low carbon heat. This will be achieved through a fundamental overhaul in building regulations that will increase energy efficiency and the efficiency of construction from 2021, and will be accompanied by a £30 million investment in renewable heat projects
  • put the transition to net zero at the heart of the Scottish National Investment Bank's work
  • unlock additional resource for emissions-reducing investment through a Green Growth Accelerator – referred to by the Climate Emergency Response Group (CERG) as a 'Green City Deal' – combining public and private investment to transform cities and regions
  • bring to market a £3 billion portfolio of projects, including renewables, waste and construction, ready for green finance investment
  • support Scotland's people to gain the skills they need to share the rewards of these new approaches to investment through a Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan

Protecting the environment and ensuring a just transition to a net zero future is part of our commitment to put wellbeing at the heart of all we do as a Government.

Improving economic growth is important but we must generate it in a way that reduces inequality, improves quality of life and supports and benefits everyone in society.

Doing so against the backdrop of Brexit increases the challenge we face but it does not reduce our determination to deliver.

Scotland has long faced a problem of persistent and often multi-generational poverty. Child poverty, while lower than in other parts of the UK, is a particular challenge. The UK Government's austerity programme, including severe welfare cuts, is making this problem worse.

The Scottish Government has put tough targets to reduce child poverty in law and this year we will take bold steps to meet them.

We will bring forward regulations so that we can introduce our new Scottish Child Payment of £10 per week.

This Programme for Government commits to commencing payments to eligible families with children under the age of six by Christmas 2020 – ahead of the schedule we set out before the Summer Recess. The Scottish Child Payment will be paid to all eligible families with children up to 16 years of age by 2022. This game-changing investment will put over £500 a year, for each child, in the pockets of families who need it the most and has the potential to lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

The year ahead will also see the full expansion of early learning and childcare to 30 hours per week (1140 hours a year) for all 3 and 4 year olds, and for 2 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds. Alongside this expansion, we will also intensify our work to raise attainment in schools with more support for young people with additional support needs and the extension of the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

We also continue our work to widen access to our world class universities and work with both them and colleges to further improve their collaboration with business and for us all to benefit from their ground-breaking and often world-leading research.

Later this month, we will also confirm the first wave of new schools that will be constructed through our £1 billion school investment programme. This will see more schools that are low emission, digitally-enabled and better connected to their local communities. Recognising the impact of the recent fire at Woodmill High School in Dunfermline, we will work in partnership with Fife Council to ensure Woodmill is re-built as quickly as possible.

Together with the introduction of the Best Start Grant over the last year and continued delivery of Scotland's Baby Box, these new commitments will make a valuable contribution to ensuring that Scotland is the best place to grow up.

We will also build on the commitments in last year's Programme for Government which set out a comprehensive package of measures to improve mental health services for children, young people and adults. We have published recommendations to drive up standards of perinatal and infant mental healthcare, supported by £50 million of funding. This academic year sees the first tranche of new school counsellors starting work to support our children and young people in their communities, with all in place by next September. Going forward we will see further progress as we develop community-based mental health services for children and young people. This will use an open access model, allowing referrals to be made by those who work with and support children and young people. Crucially, children and young people will be able to self-refer to the service. We will also scope out how this service can be made available in the future to people of all ages across Scotland.

Our services are changing but the rise in suicides this year shows that there is more to be done. Last year, we established a National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group to help drive change. In the coming year, we will support local suicide prevention planning and help more staff to work with those in crisis and those who have been bereaved by suicide.

The recent statistics showing a rise in the numbers of drugs deaths in Scotland means that we must act urgently. Accordingly, this Programme for Government commits us to invest a further £20 million over two years to support local services and provide targeted support. We will also continue to press the UK Government to act on medically-supervised overdose prevention facilities or to devolve the powers to enable the Scottish Government to do so.

This Programme also continues record investment in our NHS and includes over £100 million to support implementation of the Waiting Times Improvement Plan to eliminate unacceptable waits.

Social Security Scotland is already providing £190 million of vital support to over 91,000 people including carers and young families. Over the coming year, it will deliver a new Job Start Payment, the Young Carer Grant, Disability Assistance for Children and Young People and, this month, the Funeral Support Payment.

These investments are not possible without a strong economy that generates the jobs and wealth for us all to benefit from. We will continue our work to transform Scotland's infrastructure, support our innovators and expand our exports.

This will include a £130 million investment this year as part of the establishment of the Scottish National Investment Bank. The Bank will work with partners from across our economy to deliver investment, with the transition to net zero its primary mission.

We will also put in place a Foreign Direct Investment Growth Plan to confirm Scotland's place as one of the most attractive places to do business, particularly for low carbon industries. We are also investing a further £37 million in business research and development (R&D) to support innovation and make progress towards our target of doubling business R&D investment by 2025.

The Programme also builds on our reforms to the justice system and our commitment to human rights. A new Hate Crime Bill will bring criminal law up-to-date in this important area. We will also continue our improvements to forensic services for victims of sexual offences. And we will deliver changes recommended by the Victims Taskforce which has already supported improvements in how victims experience prison and parole processes.

The National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership will continue its work to establish a legislative framework for a Scottish Bill of Rights. This will be preceded, by the end of this Parliament, by legislation to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We will also consult on the detail of draft legislation to bring Scotland's process of Gender Recognition in line with international best practice.

It is worth noting that this is our fourth Programme for Government since the referendum on EU membership. Even in June 2016, no one would have predicted that we would begin this parliamentary year facing a 'no deal' Brexit, with the Westminster Parliament suspended.

The Scottish Government not only has a duty to prepare for a 'no deal' Brexit, but we also have an obligation to speak up loudly and clearly against the actions that are being taken in our name.

The Scottish Government will continue to work with others in Scotland, the Welsh Government and people and parties across the UK to do all we can to prevent a damaging Brexit of any kind.

As long as a 'no deal' Brexit remains a risk, we will do everything we can to ensure that we are as prepared as we can be, while being honest that we cannot prevent all the damage that it will cause, nor avoid some impact on the other business of government.

While much of the responsibility for mitigating the impact of a 'no deal' Brexit lies with the UK Government, we and our public sector partners have undertaken significant work and contingency planning for the effects of a hard Brexit right across our economy and public services and we will continue to do so.

However, regardless of what happens over the next few months, the last three years have shown us that Scotland's interests are not best served by Westminster government.

The Scottish Government is therefore preparing to allow the people of Scotland to choose the future that is best for our country.

We have a clear democratic mandate, won in the 2016 Holyrood election, to offer the choice of independence in this Parliament – and we intend to do so. A majority of MSPs support an independence referendum within this Parliament. Accordingly, we have introduced the Referendums Bill which sets out the way future referendums will be run. We will seek agreement to a transfer of power during the passage of the Bill to enable an independence referendum that is beyond challenge to be held. It would be contrary to basic democratic principles for the UK Government to attempt to block such a referendum.

As part of enabling people to debate what kind of future they want and to ensure they have all the information they need, we have established an independent Citizens' Assembly to create a non-partisan space for such discussions to take place. We have also invited all parties to engage in discussions about what further powers they believe the Scottish Parliament needs to address the challenges that have emerged as a result of the Brexit debate.

This Programme for Government shows the ambition we have for Scotland. It sets out the progressive actions we can take to make our country the best place in the world to grow up, learn, work and live in. Our vision is of a place where a parent's income does not dictate a child's life chances; a country where our economy can flourish while we also respect our obligations to the environment; and where diversity and difference is celebrated as an asset.

This is a Scotland I hope we can all strive for.

The plans I am setting out in this Programme for Government include:

  • a 'Green New Deal', harnessing the power of the Scottish National Investment Bank, a £3 billion Green Investment Portfolio and a Green Growth Accelerator – what the Climate Change Emergency Response Group (CERG) has termed a 'Green City Deal' – to attract green finance to Scotland
  • investing over £500 million in improved bus priority infrastructure to tackle the impacts of congestion on bus services and raise bus usage
  • decarbonising Scotland's railways by 2035 and making the Highlands and Islands the world's first net zero aviation region by 2040
  • developing regulations so that new homes from 2024 must use renewable or low carbon heat
  • targeting a minimum of £30 million of support for renewable heat projects
  • bringing forward the date for the first Scottish Child Payments to Christmas 2020
  • making the first Job Start Payments in spring 2020
  • announcing the first wave of new or refurbished schools via our £1 billion school investment programme
  • providing £15 million of funding for more services and staff for additional support for learning
  • putting in place a Women's Health Plan to tackle women's heath inequalities
  • providing an additional £20 million of funding to help tackle the drugs emergency
  • continuing to support mental health, with a 24/7 crisis support service for children and young people and their families, a community wellbeing service enabling self-referral for children and young people and a £5 million investment in a community perinatal mental health service across Scotland
  • taking forward planning to mitigate the worst consequences of a 'no deal' Brexit

This Programme for Government 2019‑20 sets out the Scottish Government's plans to make Scotland a more successful country, with opportunities and increased wellbeing for all.

This Programme for Government 2019‑20 sets out the Scottish Government's plans to make Scotland a more successful country, with opportunities and increased wellbeing for all

Infographic Text:

Our Purpose

To focus on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth

  • We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy
  • We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination
  • We are open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally
  • We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely
  • We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally

Our Values

We are a society which treats all our people with kindness, dignity and compassion, respects the rule of law, and acts in an open and transparent way

  • We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment
  • We are healthy and active
  • We have thriving and innovative businesses, with quality jobs and fair work for everyone
  • We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society
  • We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential
  • We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe

Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP First Minister of Scotland

Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP
First Minister of Scotland



Back to top