Programme for Government 2019 to 2020

Sets out action for protecting Scotland's future.

This document is part of a collection

Executive summary

This Programme for Government has wellbeing at its heart.

Guided by Scotland's National Performance Framework, we will act to improve the wellbeing of the people of Scotland and secure a positive future for generations to come.

This year will see the delivery of 1140 hours of quality early learning and childcare across Scotland. The first generation to benefit from this ground-breaking commitment will also be the first to be eligible for our new Scottish Child Payment. Described as a game changer for families on lower incomes, £10 per child a week for families with children under 6 years of age will be delivered by Christmas 2020 and lift thousands of families out of poverty.

We are well on track to deliver 50,000 affordable homes and the Scottish National Investment Bank will open for business in 2020. New infrastructure investment in education, a commitment to extending the Scottish Attainment Challenge and a boost for additional support for learning show our continued focus on education and closing the attainment gap as our top priority.

This Programme for Government sets out actions we will take to end Scotland's contribution to global climate change. The actions we will take now and the foundations we will put in place in the year ahead are clear markers of how Scotland will transition to net zero emissions and how we will work in partnership to achieve it.

Our action to respond to the global climate emergency is based on the same principles of social justice and building a fairer and more prosperous country that underpin all of our work. Our approach to economic growth is centred on making sure that it is inclusive, sustainable and fair. Our work to strengthen public services focuses on providing what people need, when they need it, with dignity, kindness and respect. Our work to tackle poverty is built on the firm belief that inequality is a human rights issue that we must do everything we can to overcome.

The actions set out in this Programme for Government are only achievable with partnership and collaboration. The shared ambition of individuals, communities, businesses, local government, the public and third sectors to make Scotland a fairer, more equal and successful country is vital to realise our potential.

Ending Scotland's contribution to climate change

Scotland, like the rest of the world, is facing a climate emergency and our wellbeing, and that of future generations, is at stake. As a country, we have a strong record in cutting our emissions but our response to the global climate emergency requires us to accelerate our good work and make many fundamental changes in how we travel, live, heat our homes and in what jobs we do.

To do this, we need to work across the public, private and third sectors and across Scotland's diverse communities. The recently established Climate Emergency Response Group (CERG) already shows the sort of collaboration that we will need to see to be successful. We have noted their 12 specific asks and this Programme for Government responds to them, as well as making other major commitments to set out some of the first actions we will take to respond to the climate emergency. We will continue to work with CERG and other key stakeholders across Scottish society to deliver on our commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

Making these changes is the right thing to do, but it is also an opportunity. We can gain a foothold in the innovation, products and technology needed and use that advantage to make Scotland fairer and more equal and improve people's quality of life. We will show leadership in Government while leveraging the power of private investment and the creativity of communities.

We will use opportunities like the 2020-21 Budget and our Capital Spending Review to look across what we do and assess the extent to which our investments can accelerate emissions reductions and tackle climate change. Low carbon will also be the key theme of our next Infrastructure Investment Plan.

Scotland's 'Green New Deal'

Scotland's 'Green New Deal' will start to create the right conditions to kick-start investment and build the momentum needed for it to continue longer term, making a significant impact on emissions across different sectors and guaranteeing new, high quality jobs.

The Scottish National Investment Bank will begin investing in 2020, supported by the £150 million Building Scotland Fund and a further £340 million in investment to 2021. Securing the transition to net zero will be the Bank's primary mission. The Bank will be supported by £130 million in the coming year.

A Green Growth Accelerator – what the CERG has termed a 'Green City Deal' – extending the current Growth Accelerator model, will unlock additional investment for emissions-reducing infrastructure that supports our transition. The combination of public and private investment that this brings can transform cities and regions and builds on the existing Growth Accelerator's current work changing landscapes in Edinburgh City Centre and Dundee Waterfront.

We know that the green finance market is growing and we want Scotland to be ready to attract those investors. We will bring to market a £3 billion portfolio of projects over the next three years. These projects which will all be ready for investment will include renewables, waste and construction and will look at expanding into other sectors such as transport.

To reap the rewards of our new approaches to investment, and make sure that those rewards are shared fairly, we will take action to give Scotland's workforce the skills that it needs. Our Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan will set out how we will maximise opportunities for people to gain these skills and how we will work with colleges, universities, business and industry to equip the population with the skills of the future.

A 'Mission Zero' for transport

Transport is Scotland's largest greenhouse gas emitting sector and this Programme for Government contains actions across all modes of transport. We will publish a new National Transport Strategy later this year which will redefine investment priorities to put sustainable transport at the heart of decision‑making and ensure that transport plays a key role in delivering net zero emissions by 2045.

We will bring forward a step change in investment to make bus services greener and more punctual and reliable, so that more people make the choice to take the bus. Our actions include:

  • investing over £500 million in improved bus priority infrastructure to tackle the impacts of congestion on bus services and raise bus usage
  • beginning plans to reallocate road space on parts of the motorway network around Glasgow to high‑occupancy vehicles such as buses
  • working with the Scottish National Investment Bank, the bus sector and potential investors to explore the potential for new forms of patient and innovative financing to radically accelerate the deployment of zero emission buses across Scotland
  • We are committed to phasing out new petrol and diesel cars by 2032. We have delivered 1,500 new electric charge points and supported business and communities to buy ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs). We will go further by:
  • providing an additional £17 million to support the demand for ULEVs through our Low Carbon Transport Loan scheme, while expanding the scheme to include used electric vehicles
  • creating the conditions to phase out the need for all new petrol and diesel vehicles in Scotland's public sector fleet by 2030, and phasing out the need for all petrol and diesel cars from the public sector fleet by 2025
  • forming a new Strategic Partnership with electricity network companies to improve electric vehicle charging infrastructure and electricity networks across Scotland

While we work to ensure that Scotland's railways are serving passengers across Scotland, we will also put in place plans to decarbonise railways by 2035. We will set out detailed timescales and actions in spring 2020 that will include investment in electric trains.

We will aim to decarbonise scheduled flights within Scotland by 2040 and aim to create the world's first zero emission aviation region in partnership with Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL). This will include taking action to decarbonise airport operations in the HIAL region. We will begin trialling low or zero emission planes in 2021.

Driving down emissions from buildings and heating

We will make sure that new homes and buildings across Scotland are built to meet the challenge of the climate emergency, combining the action we need to take on climate change with our ambition to provide affordable, warm homes.

Our consultation this year on new building regulations will include measures to improve energy efficiency and the quality of construction and we will work with stakeholders to develop regulations to ensure that new homes from 2024 must use renewable or low carbon heat. Similarly, our ambition is to phase in renewable and low carbon heating systems for new non-domestic buildings consented from 2024. We will work with the construction, property and commercial development sectors to identify and support good practice to inform the development of standards on how we can achieve this.

We will show leadership in the public sector, engaging with partners on a new Net Zero Carbon Standard for new public buildings and accelerating efforts to use 100% renewable electricity on the Scottish public estate. In addition, Scottish Water will become a zero carbon user of electricity by 2040 – five years before our net zero target.

This year, we passed the most ambitious fuel poverty legislation in the UK, setting a target date of 2040 to tackle the root causes of fuel poverty. We will publish a Fuel Poverty Strategy in 2020, setting out how we will tackle all the drivers of fuel poverty in ways which work for different communities. This includes addressing the issues of low household incomes, unaffordable fuel prices, low levels of energy efficiency and inefficient use of fuel.

Biodiversity loss and the climate crisis are intimately bound together: nature plays a key role in defining and regulating our climate and climate is key in shaping the state of nature. Our Biodiversity Challenge Fund was almost entirely committed in its first year and so we will make an additional £2 million available to fund further important projects addressing biodiversity loss and climate change.

These new commitments signal important shifts in public sector investment and make clear our position on leveraging private investment. They will put Scotland at the forefront of innovation in new low emissions technologies and products, stimulating inward investment and supporting new and existing high quality jobs and sustainable supply chains. They will make a significant impact on reducing emissions across Scotland, ensuring we play our part in protecting the environment and the wellbeing of generations to come.

A successful, fair and green economy

This year, our economy faces the unprecedented threat of Brexit, possibly on a 'no deal' basis. 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 an impact on the other business of government.

Despite this uncertainty, we hold strong to our vision of a society where opportunities are created for all and the dividends of increased prosperity are shared fairly. Economic growth must benefit everyone and everyone must have the opportunity to contribute to that growth. It must underpin and drive the wellbeing of our people.

Infrastructure and investment

This year alone, more than £5 billion is being invested in infrastructure projects across the country, including new homes, NHS elective care centres and infrastructure in our cities and regions.

Beginning in 2021, an additional £1 billion will be invested in new or refurbished schools, benefiting around 50,000 pupils across Scotland. This is in addition to the 60,000 who, by the end of next year, will have seen their schools renewed or refurbished since 2009 through the existing Schools for the Future programme. We will announce the first schools to benefit from this programme later this month.

Since 2014, we have committed to investing over £1.8 billion in City Region Deals, other Regional Growth Deals and linked investments over the next 15 years.

Over the next year, we will work with partners to assess the contribution that growth deals can make to tackling climate change and how our forthcoming investments can strengthen our economy, make our society fairer and protect our environment.

We will continue our work to enhance Scotland's connectivity, driving inclusive growth and jobs, as well as helping to reduce travel, open up opportunities and address isolation and remoteness.

As well as progressing towards our commitment to superfast broadband for every home and business in Scotland, we will establish the Scotland 5G Centre to make sure that we are ready to capitalise on this emergent technology.

When the Scottish National Investment Bank opens for business next year, it will be part of Scotland's new inclusive economic foundations and a driver of a new low carbon economy.

We will provide £130 million this year to set up the Bank and finance its early activities. We will continue to work with stakeholders to develop its key missions. However, its primary mission will be securing the transition to net zero.

Support for businesses and innovation

Strong innovation drives business and sector growth, creating and sustaining high quality jobs. Innovation is essential to help us achieve our ambitions for reducing emissions from travel and from sectors such as manufacturing. With the guidance of our Strategic Board, we are improving outcomes through the £2.4 billion annual investment in the enterprise and skills system.

We continue to support business investment in research and development (R&D). We will simplify and streamline our support for R&D – pulling together existing large funds and using them to help businesses transition to net zero.

We will continue to support businesses to transition to a highly-digitalised, low carbon economy. Working with partners in the private and public sectors, we will target high-employment, low‑productivity sectors and support them to embed digital technologies to address their specific needs. We will ensure that this benefits workers, providing opportunities for them to reskill and upskill and access higher quality jobs.

Manufacturing has higher average wages than the service sector and tends to distribute jobs more widely across the country, making it a key contributor to our inclusive economic growth ambitions.

The year ahead will see us invest the first tranche of a £14 million investment targeted at small and medium manufacturing businesses to advance their research, develop new products, improve their productivity and upskill their workforce.

Scotland's tourism industry is an important contributor to the Scottish economy, supporting over 200,000 jobs. We will provide a package of support for the tourism sector to minimise the burden of regulation, support the growth of a skilled, professional and inclusive workforce and help the industry to deliver high quality and memorable experiences for visitors. We will work with partners to support repairs to the Waverley Paddle steamer, allowing her to sail again, and add more sites to a free open public Wi-Fi network across the North Coast 500 route. We will also extend the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

Regional and rural economies

Rural Scotland makes a vital contribution to our national economy. We know that more young people want to stay in the areas where they grew up, but we need to do more to stem rural depopulation and attract more people to live and work in rural and island communities.

We will develop an action plan to support repopulation of our rural and island communities and work with partners to test approaches using small scale pilots in rural Scotland.

We will publish the first ever National Islands Plan by the end of the year. It will set out how we and other public sector partners will work to improve outcomes for island economies and communities and, once it is published, we will report on our progress each year.

The food and drink industry is a vital part of Scotland's economy and of rural and island communities across the country. We are working towards a Scotland where people benefit from and take pride and pleasure in the food we produce, buy, cook, serve and eat every day. We will lay before Parliament a Good Food Nation Bill to provide a statutory framework to support this ambition.

Scotland in the global economy

Our enhanced export plan, A Trading Nation, has been published and is backed by £20 million of investment over three years. It sets out plans to grow Scotland's exports to add around £3.5 billion to Scottish GDP and create 17,500 more jobs. This year, we will continue to develop and expand our support for Scotland's exporters, including expanding our Trade Envoy Network, revamping the Global Scots Network and making up to £2 million available for the First Minister's Export Challenge.

This Programme commits to putting in place a four year Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Growth Plan by summer 2020. Taking the same evidence-based approach as we have to exports, it will focus on attracting investment to the sectors where Scotland is currently world-class as well as building on emerging expertise and enabling technology in addressing major global challenges around ageing, climate change and wellbeing.

Skills and fair work

A strong economy needs a skilled and diverse workforce. Making strides in our Fair Work agenda is essential to increasing wellbeing for everyone in Scotland, and to tackling poverty and inequality.

We will continue to increase the number of people receiving the real Living Wage and take action to help disabled people into work. We are investing up to £5 million over three years to help up to 2,000 women return to work after a career break, particularly in sectors where women are under‑represented.

Scotland's future success depends on people, and migration is vital to our economic, demographic and cultural needs. Attracting people with the skills that our employers need has never been more important.

The UK Government's approach to immigration does not work for Scotland so we will develop a distinct Scottish approach to attracting and retaining talent to address current and future skills gaps in our workforce. We would be far more likely to succeed in those efforts if the Scottish Parliament had control over our immigration laws.

We will work to attract people and families from the rest of the UK to relocate here and work with universities and local authorities to encourage people to stay in Scotland and to move within Scotland to address regional skills gaps.

Improving outcomes through our public services

Public services make a deep and lasting contribution to the wellbeing of our communities. It is our responsibility to deliver high quality, accessible and effective public services, underpinned by our values of kindness, dignity, compassion, openness and transparency.

This is central to shaping the kind of country that we want to be.

We expect high standards of our public services and we place huge importance on making sure that they demonstrate genuine partnership working with the communities that they serve.

Growing up loved, safe and respected and closing the attainment gap

In the year ahead, we will deliver 1140 hours of funded early learning and childcare for families across Scotland. 80,000 families will benefit from the quality of care, including outdoor play and a nutritious meal. This policy will also save families around £4,500 per child each year.

Over the coming year, we will invest £3 million in the Access to Childcare Fund as part of a range of measures to tackle child poverty. It will provide support to establish new projects delivering community-based childcare for low income families. This will also provide opportunities for children within those communities to benefit from a range of activities before or after school or during the holidays. It will begin in April next year and run for two years.

While the attainment gap between children and young people from the wealthiest and poorest areas is closing, there is more to do to help every child reach their potential.

We have continued to invest in the Scottish Attainment Challenge and Pupil Equity Fund with an investment of £182 million in this financial year, as part of a total of £750 million we have made available between 2016 and 2021.

This year's funding will put money into the hands of headteachers to provide additional targeted support to help children and young people overcome barriers to achievement related to poverty.

Regional Improvement Collaboratives have been set up to cover every local authority in Scotland. Over the past year, with our additional £5 million investment, the number of teachers involved has increased and regions are taking action to improve attainment, support curriculum development and help headteachers and others to improve their leadership skills.

In the coming year, we will invest an additional £15 million to improve additional support for learning across Scotland. Working in partnership with local government, this funding will secure additional staff in our classrooms, leading to better experiences for children and their families.

We will also establish a Teacher Innovation Fund, providing opportunities for innovative teachers to apply for funding to help them to access professional development, helping to enhance the attractiveness of teaching as a career.

We will continue funding for the Scottish Attainment Challenge beyond the end of this Parliamentary term – an early commitment on this Government's top priority, to allow local authorities to make plans.

We continue to take action to tackle Adverse Childhood Experiences and we are determined to improve outcomes for looked after children. It is our job, as a society, to love our most vulnerable children and give them the best start in life, doing everything we can to make sure they grow up surrounded by kindness, compassion and understanding.

The Independent Care Review is now in its third stage and will report its findings to us early next year. Care experienced young people have made clear, however, that we must not wait for the outcome of the Review's work before making changes to the care system. We will take action to provide further support to care-experienced people, including help to secure tenancies, greater access to dental care, wider eligibility for support for further and higher education and expanded entitlement to funded early learning and childcare.

Healthy and active

This year we will continue to support our NHS to deliver improved access to care, support our dedicated workforce and work across organisations and communities to tackle Scotland's health challenges.

Last year we set out how we would transform support for good mental health with long‑term changes to the way people of all ages access support and treatment.

We have published recommendations to drive up standards of mental healthcare for new and expectant mothers, supported by £50 million of funding. We have put in place the plans needed to recruit additional staff, with the first of the additional school nurses entering training and new school counsellors starting work across the country. We have invested an additional £4 million in Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services to provide 80 new staff.

In the year ahead we will take forward our work to:

  • develop 24/7 crisis support for children and young people and their families, creating a national service linking to police and emergency health services and introduce a text service so children and young people can text as well as phone to access help
  • put into place a new community wellbeing service to support the mental health needs of children and young people, using an open access model that also allows self-referral. We will also scope out how this service can be made available in the future to people of all ages across Scotland
  • increase specialist staffing levels at the two current mother and baby units in St John's Hospital in NHS Lothian and Leverndale Hospital in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to create centres of expertise
  • support development of a community perinatal mental health service across Scotland, backed by £5 million
  • have all 350 additional school counsellors in place

The number of lives lost to drugs in Scotland is an emergency. This year, we will take further action to tackle the issues associated with use of illicit drugs, reduce harm and stop the rising number of drug deaths.

We will invest an additional £20 million over two years to increase direct support for projects to test new and innovative approaches, improve services and save lives.

We cannot address problem drug use and the harm it causes without addressing the root causes of these issues. Many people who use drugs also endure homelessness, violence and mental health problems.

We know that the reservation of drugs legislation to Westminster is holding areas of Scotland back from taking new approaches that can save lives, for example medically-supervised overdose prevention facilities. While the UK Government refuse to act, we will consult on drugs law reform so that the Scottish Parliament is ready to act when it has the power to do so.

In the coming year, we will establish a Women's Health Plan. It will underpin actions to tackle women's heath inequalities. The new plan will improve access to contraception and focus on reducing inequalities in health outcomes which only affect women such as endometriosis and improving services for women undergoing the menopause.

We will continue to build capacity and capability in our NHS with a focus on improved access to care. We have set out how we will substantially and sustainably improve waiting times across the NHS. We are making progress but there is more to do.

As part of our Waiting Times Improvement Plan, this year we are investing £102 million to carry out more procedures such as cataract removal and hip and knee replacements, as well as increase the number of outpatient and diagnostic appointments. This investment will also support work to increase capacity, including additional workforce, at the network of elective and diagnostic centres currently being created.

To ensure patient safety we will create a new national body to strengthen infection prevention and control, including in the built environment. The body will have oversight for the design, construction and maintenance of major infrastructure developments within the NHS and also play a crucial policy and guidance role regarding incidents and outbreaks across health and social care.

Communities where everyone is valued, protected and respected

We have an obligation, both legal and moral, to respect, protect, fulfil and enhance international human rights. It is a crucial part of making Scotland a safer, fairer and more equal society where everyone is valued, protected and respected.

Poverty and inequality are human rights issues. Our vision is for every person in Scotland to live with human dignity and enjoy their rights in full.

We will continue to take action to reduce child poverty, tackle food insecurity and make sure that the voices of those who experience poverty are heard.

Keeping our communities safe

We will continue to protect the police budget for the lifetime of the Parliament and are providing a further £29 million revenue this year to support Police Scotland.

The major reforms of our justice system, to put victims at its heart, will build on the improvements already made such as the changes to the operation of the victim notification scheme and support for bereaved families. We are consulting on the range of serious crimes where victims can make a statement to the court and we will bring forward legislation to enable victims to set out to the court how the offence has impacted on them physically, emotionally and financially.

We will also work with justice agencies, local government, the third sector and others to consider the whole system changes needed to address Scotland's internationally high rate of imprisonment.

This work will be informed by public health responses to issues such as the misuse of drugs and the impact of adversity, trauma and multiple disadvantage. It will set out a long-term vision for our justice system and how we respond to the changing nature of offending in ways which are proportionate, just, effective and promote rehabilitation, as well as keeping our communities safe and responding to the needs of victims.

Protecting rights

We are taking action across society to make it a fairer place for everyone, and ensure that people's rights are respected and everyone is able to enjoy their rights and freedoms.

The National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership will work to ensure that Scotland is a world leader in putting human rights into practice. It will develop a new statutory framework which will help to safeguard the human rights of everyone in Scotland. It will drive work that includes bringing protections provided by the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and other treaties into domestic law.

We are committed to incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots Law. We will deliver the legislation needed to do this by the end of this Parliamentary term. Our consultation on how a new Act could incorporate the UNCRC has just closed, and we will respond to this in the coming months.

We will consult on the detail of a draft Gender Recognition Bill by the end of this year, setting out our proposals to reform the current process of obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate and how we will bring Scotland into line with international best practice.

In the year ahead we will take forward the recommendations of the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls. We will:

  • create a What Works? Institute to identify, test and promote best practice in changing public attitudes to and challenging stereotypes about women's and girls' equality and rights – we will work with partners to develop a framework for the Institute and its work by summer next year
  • establish a Gender Beacon Collaborative to promote gender equality across Scottish public life – membership and ambitions for the collaborative will be announced later this year
  • continue to lobby the UK Government to improve parental leave
  • support work to encourage 50/50 representation at elections

As part of our work to eradicate violence against women and girls, we will introduce the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Bill. This will improve the way in which forensic medical examinations and associated healthcare interventions are conducted, introducing a self-referral model for victims of sexual crime who wish to have a forensic medical examination without first reporting a crime to the police.

Poverty and inequality

In its first year, Social Security Scotland has supported over 91,000 people and delivered an essential public service based on fairness, dignity and respect.

The Best Start Grant, Best Start Foods and Carer's Allowance Supplement are all providing help to those that need it most and this month the first Funeral Support Payments will be made to help families on lower incomes struggling with the costs of a funeral.

This autumn, young carers will start to receive £300 per year through the Young Carer Grant. We expect that this will help 2,400 young carers across Scotland.

In spring 2020, young people will receive the first payments of the Job Start Payment, assuming we get necessary cooperation from the UK Government. We expect that around 5,000 young people will benefit from this support in the first year. The £250 payment (or £400 for those with children) will help with travel costs, clothing, lunches and other expenses on return to work. Care leavers will get this help if they are receiving a qualifying benefit, even if they have not had a period of unemployment.

We will also bring forward the date for the first payments of the Scottish Child Payment. For under 6s, the first payments will be made by Christmas 2020, giving families who need it most an additional £10 per child per week. The payment will lift an estimated 30,000 children out of relative poverty when fully rolled out and increase family incomes for thousands more.

In the year ahead, we will also deliver further actions to support children and families and tackle poverty. As part of a £22 million package of bespoke parental employment programmes, we will begin delivery of our new Parental Employability Support providing intensive support to low-income families through to 2022. This will include specific support to disabled parents to get quality jobs and stay in work.

In addition to the actions set out in our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, this year we will:

  • boost parental employability programmes, facilitating better local connections between employability services and the expansion of early learning and childcare. Backed by over £4 million, this work will aim to enhance family incomes by improving access to work and in-work progression
  • introduce a £500,000 Family Learning Scotland Programme to help parents gain new skills and take up learning and training – integrated with the expansion of early learning and childcare to allow parents to build on their skills and gain better work
  • prevent homelessness for low-income families through supporting the work of social landlords to prevent crisis points with a new £1.5 million Homelessness Prevention Fund
  • invest £1 million to improve the life chances of young parents and their children. We will build on good practice, using key workers to enable young parents to receive the support they need, including access to good quality housing, help around employment, education and training and the financial help that they are entitled to

We are on track to achieve our target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 for social rent, by 2021, with over half of those already completed.

As well as providing affordable homes, we are taking action to help people to sustain their tenancies. This year, we will provide more than £63 million in Discretionary Housing Payments to help 70,000 households and protect them from the impact of the UK Government's bedroom tax and other welfare cuts.

We will deliver a £150 million national pilot scheme to provide support for first-time buyers with up to £25,000 towards their deposits. The scheme will launch in December this year and will be open to all first-time buyers, regardless of income or eligibility for other existing schemes.

Everyone needs a home – a safe, warm place to live, feel secure and have a sense of belonging. As part of the transformational programme set out in the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, we will launch a fund of up to £4.5 million for third sector organisations on the frontline to innovate and transform the services they provide.

We will also launch a new £10 million Credit Union Investment Fund to increase the number of people saving and borrowing from Credit Unions. The fund will provide loans to Credit Unions to strengthen their balance sheets and increase their digital and physical presence, boosting their ability to support more people.

Our commitment to protecting rights extends beyond Scotland. This year, we will support a newly-expanded programme to protect vulnerable groups in Malawi and Zambia. The programme will support leadership to tackle local issues and give support to a wider range of marginalised groups such as women, children, those with disabilities, LGBTI and people with albinism.

Scotland's future

Our ambitions set out here are in stark contrast to the UK Government's reckless commitment to a 'no deal' Brexit. We know that Brexit will do harm to our economy and our people.

We believe decisions about Scotland's future should be made by the people of Scotland.

So as well as measures to limit the damaging consequences of decisions that have been imposed upon us, it is more important than ever to set out what could be achieved if we took decisions ourselves as an independent country and to ensure people can exercise their democratic right to choose.

We have a clear democratic mandate, won in the 2016 Holyrood election to offer the choice on independence in this Parliament – and we intend to do so. A majority of MSPs support an independence referendum within this Parliament.

The Scottish Government produced a comprehensive plan for an independent Scotland in 2014. The Government will now undertake the necessary work to update that plan and ensure that people have the information they need to make informed choices over the future of the country.

We have also introduced the Referendums Bill which sets out the way future referendums will be run and will provide clarity about the process for voters, campaign participants and those administering the referendum process. 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.

We are now more than three years on from the European Union Referendum. In that referendum, the people of Scotland voted decisively to remain within the EU.



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