Publication - Strategy/plan

Protecting Scotland's Future: the Government's Programme for Scotland 2019-2020

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.

162 page PDF

6.5 MB

162 page PDF

6.5 MB

Contents
Protecting Scotland's Future: the Government's Programme for Scotland 2019-2020
Chapter 4: Communities Where Everyone is Valued, Protected and Respected

162 page PDF

6.5 MB

Chapter 4: Communities Where Everyone is Valued, Protected and Respected

Services that treat people with dignity and respect are at the core of our ambition for Scotland and tackling inequality across our communities is essential to improving everyone's wellbeing.

Scotland's National Performance Framework explicitly recognises the obligation to respect, protect and fulfil international human rights – doing so is a crucial part of making Scotland a fairer and more equal society where everyone is valued, protected and respected.

Keeping our communities safe

Being safe and protected in our communities is essential to everyone's wellbeing and to ensuring that their rights are respected.

Police

We have committed to protect the police revenue budget for the lifetime of the Parliament. We are providing a further £29 million this year, supporting Police Scotland in the implementation of its 10‑year policing strategy.

This is supporting a technology-enabled transformation of the service, making sure that it is fit for the 21st century. Police officers are receiving new mobile devices, allowing them to spend more time in the communities they serve, rather than being tied to police stations, and a single national computer network will improve performance across the country. Police Scotland is trialing a new Contact Assessment Model which will improve the response to those calling the service.

This year, we are consulting on the future strategic priorities which Ministers set for Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority. As part of that, we will be considering the sustainability of policing in Scotland.

We introduced the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill to Parliament this year, which will help to ensure effective, ethical and proportionate practices in the use of biometric data for policing purposes, keeping communities safe whilst respecting the rights of the individual and improving the accountability of the police. We expect the Bill to complete its passage in Parliament next year, after which Parliament will appoint a Biometrics Commissioner.

Extending this work, we will establish an independently-chaired group to ensure that police powers allow for the use of technology to make policing more effective and efficient, as well as ensuring that these powers are used proportionately and ethically.

Making sure that police complaints and misconduct investigation processes are the best they can be is an essential part of a modern and transparent justice system. An independent review led by Rt Hon. Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC has published its preliminary report and we will be considering, with partners, options to take forward the recommendations. We have also appointed the new Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

Putting victims at the centre

We will continue our major reforms of our justice system, making sure it is accessible to those who need it and focusing on improving support for victims of crime. Our goal is to put victims at the heart of our justice system, making sure that their voices are heard and their journey through the system is as streamlined as it can be.

In the past year, we have established the Victims Taskforce and, with the support of Victim Support Scotland in partnership with criminal justice agencies and third sector support agencies, we are working to make sure our justice system is more victim-centred.

The Taskforce will be directly informed by a Victims Sounding Board and victim reference groups. These are made up of victims and their families, allowing them to voice their experiences and influence the work of the Taskforce.

This will build on the new Service for Families Bereaved by Crime, which provides dedicated and continuous support to families bereaved by murder and culpable homicide.

Improvements to how victims experience prison and parole processes are already in train too. Under the Victim Notification Scheme, victims of life sentenced offenders are now given the opportunity to make representations in person ahead of decisions about temporary release and we have consulted on further opportunities for victims to describe their experience in the way which works best for them within the parole process.

We are consulting on expanding the range of serious crimes where victims can make a statement to the court and we will introduce legislation so victims can set out to the court how an offence has impacted on them physically, emotionally and financially.

Our work over the coming year includes:

  • carrying out work to better understand where the gaps are in how we support victims or witnesses involved in the criminal justice system
  • making sure that wherever victims come into contact with the justice system, from early engagements with police to attendance at court and beyond, a trauma-informed approach is taken
  • considering the outcome of Lady Dorrian's review of the management of sexual offences and how these can be better conducted through the courts
  • developing a sexual offences and gender-based violence work stream under the Victims Taskforce, taking into account the remit of Lady Dorrian's review
  • rolling out a statutory appropriate adults service, backed by £1 million of new investment, to provide communication support to vulnerable adults during police procedures
  • investing in the upgrade of facilities for child witnesses to give pre-recorded evidence, including a new facility in Glasgow launching in the autumn
  • beginning the first phase of implementation of the pre-recorded reforms in the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act, starting with child witnesses in certain High Court proceedings
  • developing Scottish standards for the Barnahus concept, publishing draft standards for consultation at the end of this year and finalised standards in 2020
  • progressing our Restorative Justice Action Plan, providing voluntary, safe communication between victims and those who have harmed them, helping victims to move on while seeing perpetrators face the consequences of their actions. This work, backed by £300,000 of new investment, will help to reduce victims' fear of further victimisation and have a positive impact on reducing reoffending. We will map existing provision of restorative justice services, provide training and increase both public awareness and the availability and consistency of services across Scotland by 2023
  • Overseen by the Victims Taskforce, we will:
  • carry out a systematic review of all publications, whether hard copy, online or in official correspondence, to make sure that they are victim-centred, consistent, up-to-date and use clear and compassionate language
  • review the process used to develop and publish the criminal justice bodies' annual standards of service for victims and witnesses so that victim support organisations are more directly involved
  • improve the information available, reviewing how data is shared between different organisations victims come into contact with and exploring the use of digital tools to support victims

Access to justice

Mediation is an often underused means of resolving disputes within our civil justice system. It has potential benefits such as providing a low cost or free service to the majority of litigants, creating opportunities for cases to move faster and more efficiently to a resolution and reducing the inequality of access to the civil justice system due to the high costs of litigation. We will respond to the report of the Expert Group on Mediation by the end of this year.

Legal aid is a fundamental part of our justice system and we must make sure it can be accessed by those who need it. We have uplifted all legal aid fees by 3% since the independent review Rethinking Legal Aid, making Scotland's legal aid spend per head among the highest in the European Union and with the widest scope and eligibility.

We want to make sure the legal aid system is user-focused, flexible and valued as a public service and so we are consulting on further improvements, including how we might use targeted interventions to remove the barriers some people face in accessing legal aid, including in cases of domestic abuse. This work has been informed by the recommendations of the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls.

We will set out our plans by the end of this year and launch a consultation on reforming our legal services early in 2020.

We are developing new technology to transform how the justice system operates – from police mobile devices to improved facilities for pre-recording evidence – making our justice system as efficient as possible and improving the experience of those involved in it.

This year, we will develop new procedures and policies for the collection and sharing of digital evidence across the justice system and will pilot this new technology next year.

We will publish the independent Jury Research report and carry out engagement on what these findings may mean for future criminal justice reforms.

Transforming custody, rehabilitation and community interventions

We will continue our work to modernise our prison service.

Recognising the Scottish Prison Service's role in our justice system, we are continuing to invest in our prison estate. This includes progressing work to replace HMP Barlinnie, Scotland's largest prison, and continuing to progress a new model for the female custodial estate, with intensive support services to help women to overcome issues such as alcohol, drugs, mental health issues and domestic abuse trauma.

The first two community custody units will open by the end of 2021, providing levels of security which are proportionate with the level of risk posed by the majority of female offenders and will allow women in custody to be closer to their communities. Construction of the new Women's National Facility is scheduled to begin early in 2020.

We continue to support the 12 Prison Visitor Centres, providing support to families with relatives in prison – particularly for children affected by parental imprisonment as part of our work to tackle ACEs. Services run by our third sector partners help families deal with the issues they face as a result of imprisonment and give them an important source of advice, information and support.

Our focus on prevention, early intervention and effective community interventions has helped achieve a 20‑year low in reconviction rates.

We are progressing action to tackle Scotland's internationally high rate of imprisonment – the highest in Western Europe. The evidence tells us that community sentences are more effective than short-term custodial sentences – people released from prison after a sentence of 12 months or less are twice as likely to be convicted again than those who have served a Community Payback Order.

While sentencing decisions are a matter for the independent judiciary, we have extended the presumption against short sentences to 12 months or less. Our aim is to reduce disruptive and counter‑productive short-term prison sentences which often lead to homelessness, unemployment and family breakdown.

The extension to the presumption came into force this summer but first we made sure that additional safeguards were put in place for victims of domestic abuse.

We will protect £100 million of funding this year for Justice Social Work, investing £9.5 million a year more than in 2015-16 on community justice services such as community sentences and electronic monitoring. We will monitor the impact of the presumption and other factors closely, including the availability of community sentences relative to demand.

We recognise that remand can be as disruptive to employment, housing and family relationships as short-term prison sentences.

We have issued updated guidance on Bail Supervision and made additional funding available. We will look more widely at how bail law operates and at access to support and mentoring schemes in the community to make sure that it is only used when it is needed to protect the public.

We will commence parts of the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019 that strengthen the Home Detention Curfew regime in Scotland. It will introduce a new offence of remaining unlawfully at large, create new powers of recall for the prison service and give the police greater powers to apprehend anyone who absconds.

The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019 also modernises the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 allowing people to move on from their offending and improve their opportunities for gaining employment and training, reducing their likelihood of reoffending and enabling people to contribute positively to society.

Our work to increase access to and improve confidence in alternatives to short-term prison sentences is an important part of the solution. But there are long-term drivers within our justice and penal system, such as online offending, impacts of trauma and severe and multiple disadvantage in our communities, which need to be addressed too.

This year, we will work with justice agencies, local government, the third sector and others to identify and further progress the whole system changes we need to make to respond to Scotland's internationally high rate of imprisonment.

Our approach will be informed by public health responses to issues such as the misuse of drugs and the impact of adversity, trauma and multiple disadvantage. We 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.

Cashback for communities

Since 2008, nearly £110 million has been committed for investment back into communities as a result of seizing proceeds of crime. This autumn, we will announce the projects and partners for phase 5 of the Cashback for Communities programme which will launch next spring. It will make up to £18 million available over three years to expand young people's horizons and increase the opportunities they have to develop their interests and skills and support them into positive destinations.

Modernising our laws and learning from the past

New legislation for drug-driving limits will come into force in October this year. The new law covers 17 different drug types and means that Scotland is leading the way in creating safer roads with drug-driving limits in place, as well as having a lower drink-drive limit than the rest of the UK.

A number of our other laws need to be updated to reflect life in modern day Scotland.

We will introduce the Defamation and Malicious Publication Bill to Parliament this year, which will simplify and modernise the law and provide a clear framework which balances freedom of expression and protection of individuals' reputations.

We have consulted on the laws of succession and are currently consulting on the rules for judicial factors. We will respond to the results of both consultations by spring next year.

We will also carry out some focused consultation on aspects of the Scottish Law Commission's Report on Moveable Transactions, the recommendations of which we are currently considering.

As well as looking to the future, there are important events from the past which we need to learn lessons from. The independent review of the impact of policing during the Miners' Strike will publish its final report in the autumn and we will consider its findings and any appropriate actions.

A justice system which better reflects our communities

This year marks 100 years of women in the legal profession in Scotland. Whilst progress has been made, there is broad agreement that more needs to be done to ensure that the legal profession reflects the society that it serves and to tackle gender disparity and the gender pay gap. We will work with the legal profession to encourage further improvements, including, for example, emphasising zero tolerance of bullying and harassment and expanding family-friendly policies.

There are also too few women and people from minority ethnic communities in senior positions in the legal profession. We will work with key stakeholders to understand what further action can be taken to remove real or perceived barriers that might be preventing talented legal professionals from reaching senior positions, including applying for judicial office.

Fire and rescue

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service continues to deliver emergency and prevention services across our communities as well as taking important steps to modernise and transform.

Thirty-eight new rapid response vehicles and 18 new whole-time staff are now available in rural areas of Scotland, with a further 42 staff to be appointed over the next two years. The Youth Engagement Scheme will launch this year, preparing young people with important opportunities such as first aid training to develop their skills and confidence.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service conducted 69,000 home fire safety visits last year. The Safe and Well project will help to reduce injuries from unintentional harm by incorporating wider health and social care considerations and improving referral pathways with other services. It will increase the number of vulnerable people across Scotland getting support to maintain their personal resilience, independence and quality of life.

As well as contributing to the wellbeing of our communities, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is taking action to tackle climate change.

To ensure the Service plays its part in reducing emissions, it will increase its charging network to include a further 23 locations, receive delivery of 45 ultra-low emission cars later this month and introduce a replacement van fleet of 20 small- and medium-sized vans.

Across the UK, lessons have been learned as a result of the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower.

In Scotland, we have reviewed fire safety regimes in high-rise domestic buildings. While no major gaps in our legislation were identified, we will take action in a number of key areas to protect our communities living in these buildings. We will:

  • develop specific fire safety guidance aimed at all residents of high-rise domestic buildings
  • introduce Scottish guidance on fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats, guidance on fire safety in specialised housing and guidance on fire risk assessments
  • put in place more stringent fire safety provisions for external wall cladding systems
  • take a consistent position on the storage, removal and enforced prohibition of combustible materials in common areas
  • publish new regulations for automatic fire suppression systems in all new flats and some houses in multiple occupancy by October next year
  • launch a fire safety campaign for common areas

Making sure our buildings are safe from fire and are of the highest standards is essential. In the past year, we have implemented the recommendations of two Scottish Building Standards system reviews, developing new guidance and establishing the Future Boards Programme to take forward a package of measures, including making sure we have a high quality workforce and taking steps to improve compliance with standards.

Following a national consultation earlier this year that attracted over 16,300 responses, we will take forward work with partners including the emergency services, local authorities, animal welfare organisations, the firework industry and communities to explore ways to reduce the negative impact fireworks can have.

Security

We continue our work with partners to ensure Scotland is a safe place to live and work. We continuously improve our national security based on Chilcot principles and work with UK Government to make sure that delivery of the UK Counter-Terrorism Strategy, CONTEST, continues to fit the Scottish approach and environment. As part of this approach, we will continue to take a balanced, proportionate and preventative approach to tacking radicalisation.

Over the past year, we have worked with authorities across Scotland to raise awareness and improve knowledge of this issue, as well as providing resources and self-assessment tools for local government, further education colleges and universities.

We will continue that work this coming year, including making a new resource about online radicalism available to schools, and introducing consistency to the Prevent Professional Concerns multi-agency process.

Protecting rights

Hate crime has no place in Scottish society. We have been taking forward work to consolidate and update laws on hate crime, consulting widely with key stakeholders and with the public. We have published our analysis of that consultation and will introduce a Bill, making hate crime legislation fit for 21st-century Scotland.

As well as introducing legislation, we will encourage reporting by launching a hate crime campaign to challenge the prejudice and attitudes that fuel intolerance. Having already adopted a definition for anti-Semitism, we will consult on adopting a definition of Islamophobia. We will also explore what more can be done to ensure the safety and security of places of worship.

Human rights

The First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership presented its recommendations at the end of 2018. We have now established a National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership which will work to ensure Scotland is a world leader in putting human rights into practice.

It will focus on the development of a new statutory framework which will help to safeguard the human rights of everyone in Scotland. It will drive work to give practical effect to the protections provided by other treaties and obligations, including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, and bringing them into domestic law. The Taskforce will report on its work in 2021.

Human trafficking and exploitation

Human trafficking is a hidden crime and its true scale is unknown. Victims may be frightened or unable to ask for help due to fear of their traffickers, distrust in the authorities and a lack of awareness that there are agencies that can support them to safety and recovery.

We are consulting this year on creating a statutory 'duty to notify' – a legal duty on specified Scottish public authorities to notify Police Scotland about suspected human trafficking and exploitation victims.

This duty will give a more accurate picture of the scale and extent of this crime in Scotland and help agencies and services to target their enforcement activity and support services.

We will also review the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy and, together, this work will help to improve how we identify and support victims, identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity and address conditions in our communities that foster trafficking and exploitation.

Democratic rights

We want to increase democratic participation in Scotland and encourage more people to use their vote and stand for election.

We have led the way internationally by lowering the voting age in local and Scottish Parliament elections to age 16.

We have introduced legislation to strengthen democratic engagement.

The Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill proposes that everyone who has a legal right to live here, including foreign nationals, should have the right to vote in Scottish Parliament and local government elections. Giving fair access to voting rights shows that we value equally all those who choose to make Scotland their home. It is also proposed that prisoners serving 12 months or less will be allowed to register and vote, ensuring that we are compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Scottish Elections (Reform) Bill will also deliver improvements for voters. We have introduced a provision to enable the Scottish Parliament to debate and decide on whether we should move to five-year terms for the Scottish Parliament and for local government. Among other improvements to electoral administration, it is proposed to give greater scope to take into account community ties and local geography when ward boundaries are reviewed.

These changes to modernise our electoral system and widen who takes part in it will be ready in time for the new Scottish Parliament election in 2021 and local government elections in 2022.

Children and young people's rights

We have taken the decision to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots Law, the only country in the UK to do so. We are consulting on the best method to use to do this and will report on our findings in the coming months, delivering legislation by the end of this parliamentary session.

While that process is ongoing, our commitment to ensuring children's rights continues.

We have supported the removal of the existing defence which allows parents to physically punish their children and, to make sure children's voices are heard clearly in family law cases, we are bringing forward a new Children Bill.

We have raised the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old, leading the way in the UK to make sure that no child under 12 will accrue a criminal record.

This year, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we will step up our awareness-raising programme for children's rights. We will:

  • work in partnership with children, young people and wider stakeholders to co-produce materials that highlight how children's rights benefit us all
  • refresh the 'Introduction to children's rights' e-learning tool
  • promote the use of Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments by public bodies and third sector organisations

Making sure young people's voices are heard and providing space for young people to challenge how we think about different generations is essential to making Scotland a place where everyone grows up respected.

Our 2018 Year of Young People saw young people engage in how we make policy, ensuring that government decisions take into account what matters for them – over 750,000 young people attended a related event last year.

We will continue to listen to young people's views, making sure they can contribute to our society and help us to build inclusive and strong communities.

Making Scotland an equal and connected place

Many people in Scotland are living longer, healthier lives, which is a huge achievement.

However, older people can be marginalised and our Older People's Framework, published this year, sets out how we will remove barriers, tackle inequalities and ensure older people can flourish, as well as making sure that our communities benefit from the contributions older people can make. This year, we will:

  • develop a strategy to combat negative perceptions of older people and work with others, including the media, to tackle ageism
  • review guidance on housing adaptations
  • improve provision of and access to mental health services, including psychological therapy for people over the age of 65
  • increase digital inclusion of older people

Social isolation and loneliness can affect people of all ages and stages of life. It can have a significant impact on a person's physical and mental wellbeing and is a major public health issue.

Last year, we published our first strategy to tackle social isolation and loneliness, and build stronger social connections across our communities. We have established a National Implementation Group to help us take action and will publish a delivery plan setting out how we will deliver better outcomes across our communities.

This year we will invest £80,000 to support the befriending sector, ensuring more people can benefit from this vital lifeline.

Civil partnerships

Last year, the UK Supreme Court ruled in a case brought in England and Wales that preventing mixed sex couples from entering into civil partnerships is not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) on equality grounds.

We consulted on the future of civil partnership in Scotland and, following careful consideration of responses, we will introduce legislation to make civil partnerships available to mixed sex couples.

Equality for women and girls

We are proud of the progress we have made on equality in Scotland, but there is still work to do.

We were the first government in the world to fund access to free sanitary products across our schools, colleges and universities and across wider communities, increasingly to those on low incomes.

We are providing up to £8.8 million to continue to make sanitary products available in a wide range of places. Our partnership approach has given organisations the chance to shape delivery in line with local need. It is already embedding into society and making a difference to people's lives. We need to go further and will launch a media campaign to challenge the stigma around menstruation and sanitary products.

We also continue to tackle the causes of inequality women face in the workplace, including with our work on addressing the gender pay gap.

Last year, our Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 set a statutory objective for equal representation of women on public sector non-executive boards by 2022.

This year, we reached a milestone with women accounting for half of all board members appointed to public bodies across Scotland. This is a significant step and this year we will continue our work to make sure there is equal representation on every individual board.

We want to make sure that we do everything we can to tackle the root causes of inequality for women and girls.

The National Advisory Council on Women and Girls published its first report at the beginning of this year and we will be taking forward action based on their recommendations, learning from best practice in Scotland and around the world to make sure everyone is treated fairly and can achieve their full potential.

Over the coming year, we will:

  • create a What Works? Institute to identify, test and promote best practice in changing public attitudes to and challenging stereotypes about women 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
  • fund a post in Gender Equal Media Scotland to increase its impact, engagement and visibility amongst industry and other stakeholders
  • establish a short-life taskforce to look at gender inequality in education and how we can take additional, better connected and bolder action to embed gender equality within early years and school education
  • hold an international event with the Open Government Partnership, academics, civil society groups, public servants and representation from the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls to look at how to address inequality and co‑design gender equity measures
  • continue to lobby the UK Government to improve parental leave
  • support work to encourage 50/50 representation at elections

Violence against women and girls

Violence against women and girls is a breach of human rights. It is unacceptable in any society – everyone has the right to live free from the threat of violence and abuse.

We have committed to ending it for good and our actions are focused on properly securing the rights of women and girls.

We are guided by our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

We will continue our work to prevent gender-based violence, tackling the societal conditions that allow it to happen. We will make sure that our justice, health and education systems are set up to address it and we will continue to provide the right support at the earliest point to women and children who are experiencing abuse.

Importantly, too, we will hold the perpetrators of gender-based violence to account.

Working with COSLA and other partners, we have made significant progress already and we will redouble our efforts over the coming year.

Equally Safe Priority 1 – Scottish society embraces equality and mutual respect and rejects all forms of violence against women and girls

Working with schools, colleges and universities, we have supported work to promote respectful, responsible and confident relationships amongst young people as well as providing a safe environment for students and staff.

This includes providing over £590,000 of additional funding to Rape Crisis Scotland to extend their schools education programme, with 26,000 young people benefiting. We have supported universities and colleges to adopt the Equally Safe Tool Kit.

We will develop national guidance for schools which will set out the range of support and practical prevention and intervention measures available which can be used to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children and young people.

We are also taking action across society. We are committed to a major national campaign on sexual harassment and sexism and this is now in an advanced planning stage while our employer accreditation programme is being piloted in seven council areas across the country.

Equally Safe Priority 2 – women and girls thrive as equal citizens: socially, culturally, economically and politically

Violence against women and girls is a result of women's and girl's status in society, and so we need to eliminate the gender inequality that lies at its root. We are taking broad action to advance women and girls' equality, including:

  • promoting gender equal pay, supported by the real Living Wage
  • improving women's health outcomes, including providing mental health support for all women during pregnancy and after giving birth
  • increasing access to period products
  • expanding entitlement to funded early learning and childcare and piloting approaches to flexible and affordable community-based out-of-school care

Our work to respond to the recommendations of the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls is an important part of our efforts to make sure women and girls grow up and live in a country which allows them to achieve their full potential.

Equally Safe Priority 3 – interventions are early and effective, preventing violence and maximising the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people

Following the introduction of the Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) Bill earlier this year, we held a national summit to explore what further action is needed to tackle female genital mutilation. We will take this work forward this year, as well as refresh our guidance on forced marriage.

This year we will continue to improve the experience of rape and sexual assault victims in our health and justice systems by:

  • introducing the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Bill. This will improve the way in which forensic medical examinations and associated healthcare are conducted, taking a trauma-informed approach and 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
  • supporting the development of the Equally Safe Multi-Agency Centre in Edinburgh which will bring experts from child and adult protection, healthcare, police and social work together under one roof to provide age-appropriate, wrap-around care for children, young people and adults who have been victims of sexual assault and other forms of abuse and neglect
  • supporting a pilot to visually record rape complainers' initial statements to police to be used as evidence later in a trial, with the aim of reducing the need for them to recount their ordeal again in court
  • considering the outcome of Lady Dorrian's review of the management of sexual offences and how they can be better conducted through the courts
  • supporting the development of trauma training packages for justice organisations who come into contact with victims
  • engaging with Rape Crisis Scotland's Survivors Reference Group to make sure our work continues to be informed by the experience of survivors

Equally Safe Priority 4 – men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls and perpetrators of such violence receive a robust and effective response

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 came into effect in April this year, creating a specific offence of domestic abuse covering not only physical abuse but other forms of psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour.

Its introduction has been supported by a national public awareness campaign and training for police officers, members of the judiciary and prosecutors.

We will continue to work with those in housing, social work, health and schools to ensure that professionals have resources available to them to support a shared understanding of domestic abuse.

We will promote the principles of the Safe and Together model™ which seeks to keep children who have experienced domestic violence safe and together with their non-abusive parent, while supporting and acknowledging non-abusive parents' protective efforts and ensuring perpetrators are held accountable for their abuse.

We have supported the roll out of the Caledonian Programme to an additional six local authorities with an additional £2.8 million, meaning more male perpetrators will receive the right rehabilitation services to address the issues giving rise to their offending behaviour.

This year we will explore policy options to increase access to positive behaviour change programmes for domestically abusive men.

We are committed to exploring what more can be done to address prostitution in Scotland, recognising it as a form of violence against women.

We will consult on approaches to challenge men's demand for prostitution, continue to support work to reduce the harms associated with commercial sexual exploitation and help women to exit prostitution.

This year, we will consult on a statutory 'duty to notify' when public authorities suspect human trafficking or exploitation is happening.

LGBTI equality

We continue to advance Scotland's reputation as one of the most progressive countries in Europe for LGBTI equality.

Were Scotland able to be rated as a single entry in the ILGA Europe Rainbow Index, we would be the third most progressive country in Europe and we are working hard to make even more progress.

The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Act 2018 was passed by Parliament last year, righting years of injustices suffered by people across Scotland. Next month, when the legislation is implemented, all men convicted of historical same sex sexual offences will receive an automatic pardon under the new law and be able to apply to have the offence disregarded so it will never show up on any form of disclosure or criminal records check.

We will continue to invest significant funding in crucial LGBTI work, with over £1 million in the next year supporting work on raising awareness, supporting LGBTI adults and young people and tackling the inequalities they experience.

But there is more to do to create a society where no one suffers hate, fear or discrimination simply because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Bold recommendations to embed LGBTI inclusive education within our school curriculum are being implemented and changes will be made to our Census processes, where optional questions on transgender status and history, as well as sexual orientation, will be asked on a voluntary basis for the first time.

The Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2019 makes clear that there will be no penalty for not answering these questions but we hope that this change will improve our understanding of communities across Scotland and ensure our work is designed in ways which works best for our diverse population.

We will publish 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 in line with international best practice. An Equality Impact Assessment will be published alongside the Bill and seek to address concerns which have been raised. We will hold a full public consultation on the detail of the Bill.

This year, we will:

  • continue to challenge transphobia
  • develop guidance for Scottish Government and the wider public sector on balancing trans rights and the rights of women, within the overall context of our clear commitment to promoting trans inclusion
  • establish a working group to consider steps to improve the lives of non-binary people
  • establish a working group to make recommendations on the collection and disaggregation of data in relation to sex, gender and gender identity
  • consider how best to improve the health and wellbeing of trans people, and ensure that children and young people exploring their gender identity have access to the right support
  • produce updated guidance for schools to help them to support transgender pupils, within the current legal framework, by the end of this year

All of this work is grounded in the firm belief that we will continue to protect and promote the rights of women and of trans men and women.

Race equality

Supported by our commitment to the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, our Race Equality Action Plan sets out our work to remove barriers and create equal opportunities for everyone in Scotland, regardless of their race.

We held our first Race Equality Conference in December, which focused on how we can take action to improve employment outcomes for people from minority ethnic communities and we will hold the second conference in early 2020.

We have taken action to improve the wellbeing and protect the human rights of Gypsy/Traveller families in Scotland. Across our work, the voice of this community is being heard and having a say in the issues that affect them. We have funded a new Gypsy/Traveller Women's Voices Project, provided practical and financial support to enable young people to work with us and have provided significant additional funding to improve the delivery of education to Gypsy/Traveller communities.

We are taking this important work forward this year, publishing our joint Action Plan with COSLA this autumn. It will set out how we will tackle racism and discrimination towards Gypsy/Travellers, increase representation in public life and decision-making in communities and improve the wellbeing and outcomes for Gypsy/Travellers. The Plan will also set out how we will deliver more culturally-appropriate and better accommodation, including a £2 million additional investment in public sector Gypsy/Traveller sites, designed to improve quality of life.

Caring for our veterans

Scotland recognises the value that members of the armed forces, veterans and their families bring to our communities and society.

We are working to ensure that ex-servicemen and women receive the support and advice they need to transition from military to civilian life. We will continue our work to take forward the recommendations of the Veterans Commissioner and we will publish an implementation plan for the Strategy for our Veterans by the end of this year.

Since 2008, we have invested over £1.4 million in over 150 projects to support veterans and will continue that support this year with projects across Scotland aiming to combat loneliness and social isolation, support improved employment outcomes and provide wider support.

Poverty and inequality

We are taking action to build a fairer and more equal country, tackling poverty and inequality to make sure everyone in Scotland has equal opportunities, all children and young people can realise their aspirations and all those who need support can get it.

We are making sure that the voices of those who experience poverty are heard and we will speak up for those who are not being listened to or who are disempowered.

We have set ourselves ambitious targets to reduce child poverty and are working hard to boost incomes and reduce household costs for those who need it most.

Next year we will continue to invest £100 million to protect people from the worst of UK Government welfare cuts. This is part of our wider investment in support for low-income households. An initial assessment, published in the Tackling Child Poverty Progress Report, suggests that the Scottish Government invested over £1.4 billion in these households in 2018-19.

Our Council Tax Reduction Scheme, backed by £351 million in 2019-20, benefits almost half‑a‑million households and saves recipients an average of £701 per year.

Our Money Talk Team service, supported by £3.3 million to 2020, provides older people and low-income families with help to maximise their incomes by claiming the benefits and other support they are entitled to. We will continue to fund these essential services in the coming year.

The majority of families living in poverty include an adult in work. Our Fair Work agenda and our efforts to increase the number of people receiving the real Living Wage is helping to lift these families out of poverty and improve the life chances of their children.

Food insecurity

We know that too many people struggle with the cost of food and our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals means that our goal is for zero hunger in Scotland.

This year we have delivered the new Best Start Food scheme to support families on low incomes to access healthy and nutritious food. The introduction of the Best Start Foods payment card could enable a family on low‑income benefits to receive up to £1,054 over the course of Best Start Foods entitlement for children up to 3 years of age.

Our £3.5 million Fair Food Fund is in place and has already helped community organisations to provide more dignified responses to food insecurity. We also recognise the extra pressure on family finances during school holidays, when support like Free School Meals is not available. The Fair Food Fund has ensured that over 60,000 young people were able to access fun activities and nutritious food in the holidays this year, through a range of third sector and local authority projects such as the innovative Highland Holiday Hub. We will continue to support holiday projects and use the learning from the investment in our developing policy for out-of-school care.

Social security

UK Government welfare cuts have increased the risk of deprivation and hardship for low-income families across Scotland.

Our new agency Social Security Scotland has now been up and running for a year, providing over 91,000 people with £190 million in vital support for 2018-19, increasing to over £350 million for 2019-20.

This essential public service is guided by our core values of fairness, dignity and respect. These are embodied in the Social Security Charter which was co-developed with people with lived experience of social security systems and was unanimously approved by Parliament this year. It sets out how the agency will deliver for the people of Scotland and how it will protect and realise people's rights.

Now that the Charter is in place, we will work with people who have experience of the benefits system to co-develop a new framework for how we measure people's experiences of Social Security Scotland and will publish it next month.

In the past year, we have also established the Scottish Commission on Social Security, which provides independent scrutiny of our social security system and holds us to account. We have worked with the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service to establish the Social Security Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland – a body independent from Scottish Government which hears appeals against decisions made by our agency.

We are now delivering five payments to people in Scotland – the three Best Start Grant payments, Best Start Foods and the Carer's Allowance Supplement.

Carer's Allowance Supplement is a new benefit which addresses the injustice that Carer's Allowance is the lowest of all working age benefits. Our supplement means that the support received by carers is now higher than that provided by Jobseeker's Allowance recognising the contribution carers make to society and showing that we greatly value the role that they play. This year's recipients of Carer's Allowance will receive £452.40 more than equivalent carers in the rest of the UK. In total, our investment through Carer's Allowance and the Supplement is over £320 million in 2019-20.

Our Best Start Grant payments provide parents and carers on certain benefits and tax credits with financial support during the early years of a child's life. This is £600 during pregnancy or after birth for a first child and £300 for any siblings thereafter, with £250 at around the time a child starts nursery and another £250 when they reach school age. In the first seven months, we have made more than 42,000 Best Start Grant payments, putting £12.9 million in the pockets of low-income families.

Best Start Foods, providing low-income pregnant women and families with help to buy healthy food, launched this summer and we will provide £6 million of funding for it in 2020-21.

Best Start Foods replaces the UK Healthy Start Voucher scheme, providing more money and introducing a new payment card to remove the stigma associated with the current paper vouchers. Families will also have access to a wider range of foods and more retailers will be taking part. This payment is part of Best Start Grant, meaning families can apply for all payments on one form, in order to receive everything they are entitled to.

These first payments are already making differences to families across Scotland, helping to lift them out of poverty and secure a better future.

This month, we will launch our sixth payment – Funeral Support Payment. This will help people on low incomes who are struggling with the costs of a funeral.

The new benefit will be backed by an additional investment of around £2 million. This has allowed us to widen eligibility to 40% more people than the current UK Government benefit, helping far more people in these very difficult circumstances.

Over the past year, we have also supported local authorities to remove burial and cremation charges for people aged 18 and under.

Assuming the necessary cooperation from the UK Government, our Job Start Payment will be delivered in spring 2020. The Job Start Payment is a new payment to help young people with the cost of moving into the workplace after a period of unemployment. In its first year, around 5,000 young people could benefit from this support.

The £250 payment (or £400 if a person has children) will help with things like 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.

Further social security benefits will be introduced in the coming year:

  • this autumn, our new Young Carer Grant will become available. £300 a year will be given to young carers aged 16, 17 and 18 with caring responsibilities, to help them to do the things that are the norm for other young people. We expect that this payment will help 2,400 young carers across Scotland
  • in summer next year, we will launch our new claims service for the first of our three Disability Assistance benefits – Disability Assistance for Children and Young People. This replaces the UK Government's Child Disability Living Allowance and we will give any child in receipt of the UK Government benefit prior to their 16th birthday an automatic award of our payment up to age 18, to remove the cliff edge many young people experience currently when they turn 16.
  • also in summer next year, we will deliver on our commitment to provide independent advocacy to disabled people who need help and support to access and engage with our social security system.
  • from next winter, families of severely disabled children will receive Winter Heating Assistance – an annual payment of £200 to help with the costs of keeping their homes warm, benefiting 16,000 children.

First Job Start Payments in Spring 2020

We know that the experience of applying and qualifying for disability assistance in the current benefits system can be degrading, humiliating and highly frustrating. This is unacceptable in any case, but is particularly harrowing for people with terminal illnesses.

To make sure that the introduction of our disability assistance embodies our values of treating people with dignity and respect, we have removed the arbitrary timescale that is currently used to assess terminal illness. Instead, the Chief Medical Officer will publish guidance for medical practitioners that will allow them to use their clinical judgement, allowing people to be fast-tracked for their benefit and paid at the highest rate.

Delivering Scotland's social security system with compassion is our focus. We also want to make sure that people are able to receive all the assistance from us that they are entitled to.

We are committed to addressing barriers to access. We will publish our first benefit take-up strategy in October this year, outlining a suite of activities and interventions to promote Scottish benefits and support eligible individuals to take them up.

Shifting the curve on child poverty

The most recent statistics show almost a quarter of children live in relative poverty in Scotland and independent projections suggest that this could rise in the coming years as a result of welfare cuts imposed by the UK Government.

We will not stand by and let this happen. We will again this year spend around £100 million on mitigating measures to protect people in Scotland from the worst damage caused by these cuts.

Last year, our direct support to low-income families with children was £527 million – above and beyond core universal services such as education and health. We are committed to doing everything we can to lift children out of poverty and prevent others from falling into it.

Lift 30,000 children out of poverty

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017, unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament, introduced new statutory targets to eradicate child poverty by 2030. We are the only part of the UK to have set our ambition to eradicate child poverty in statute.

Our first Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan sets out concrete actions to make progress on this ambition. We are clear that the only way to deliver the fairer and more prosperous Scotland we all wish to see is through joined-up action across the country – with a key focus on tackling child poverty.

Across government we are taking action to increase incomes and reduce household costs. Alongside this, we are also taking steps to mitigate the impact of poverty on children and young people today – to help them achieve the best outcomes.

We are working closely with partners to maximise impact and are taking steps to more closely link programmes together to ensure that families receive the complete support package they need.

Backed by a multimillion pound package of investment, including the £50 million Tackling Child Poverty Fund, we are supporting work across Scotland to help lift parents, families and children out of poverty.

The first year progress report set out that 48 of the 58 actions were in progress or already delivered. These include:

  • our devolved employability service, Fair Start Scotland, which launched in April last year. Taking a different approach to the UK Government, our service doesn't penalise people through sanctioning benefits
  • increasing the minimum level of School Clothing Grants to £100 for every eligible child. This is a significant boost to previous levels and benefits 120,000 children each year
  • delivering all three Best Start Grant payments, backed by £21 million in 2019-20
  • We will continue other work to support children and families and tackle poverty. Over the coming year, we will:
  • begin to deliver our new Parental Employability Support. It will provide intensive support to low income parents through to 2022, backed by an investment of £12 million
  • pilot ways to identify and address the barriers faced by disabled parents to enter and sustain employment. The pilots will begin next year, supported by a £6 million investment
  • collaborate with Timewise on a feasibility study for a new approach to flexible work
  • launch our new Access to Childcare Fund to support the development of innovative and flexible childcare provision for low-income families
  • expand our Children's Neighbourhoods Scotland programme to further sites in urban areas, a small town and a rural community

Our work so far is providing a package of support to families – from birth to school and through to employment – all to boost incomes and reduce costs.

However, we know it will take considerable further investment and bold action, such as the Scottish Child Payment, to achieve the required reduction in child poverty we want to see.

The Scottish Child Payment

The Scottish Child Payment is an ambitious and direct measure that will tackle child poverty head on by putting more money into parents' and carers' pockets and helping them to make ends meet. It will help to raise children out of poverty as well as helping to prevent those just above the poverty threshold from sliding under.

It is progressive, backed by significant investment and makes Scotland the only part of the UK that is making such a serious commitment to reduce and ultimately eradicate child poverty.

It will be an entirely new benefit delivered by Social Security Scotland and will provide eligible families with £10 a week for every child under 16. It will be paid monthly and increased annually in line with inflation. Eligibility will be based on qualifying benefits including Universal Credit and legacy benefits.

When delivered in full, 410,000 children will be eligible – over a third of all children in Scotland – and it will be backed by £180 million of investment each year.

It is estimated that the payment will lift 30,000 children out of relative poverty when fully rolled out (a 3 percentage point reduction) and increase family incomes for thousands more. For eligible families with two children under the age of 16, the Scottish Child Payment will boost their income by over £1,000 each year.

To make sure those in need benefit from the new payment as soon as possible, we are making it available earlier than planned to children under 6 years old. Around 60% of all children in poverty live in a family where a child is under 6 years old and making a difference in the early years of a child's life has the biggest impact on long-term outcomes.

Assuming the cooperation of the UK Government, we will begin taking applications from eligible families with children under the age of 6 in the autumn of next year, with the first payments being made by Christmas 2020 – ahead of the schedule set out previously.

It will be available to all remaining eligible families with children under 16 by the end of 2022. There will be no cap on the number of children eligible per family.

Our experience with the new Best Start Grant payments shows that when barriers are removed, stigma is eliminated and people are encouraged to apply, people will take up the benefits on offer.

The Scottish Child Payment will be transformative – it will invest in families to shift the curve of child poverty and will make a positive difference to the lives of thousands of children in Scotland.

Doing even more for families

Alongside the new Scottish Child Payment, we will take further new action to support children and families and tackle poverty, backed by our Tackling Child Poverty Fund.

We will look across the work we do to see how best to align programmes and integrate support. This will provide a more cohesive package of support, focused on improving outcomes for individuals and families in ways which meet their complex sets of needs.

An extra £500 per child per year for families who need it most

Using the opportunities presented by our expansion of early learning and childcare provision, we will provide £500,000 to establish the Family Learning Scotland Programme. Family learning will be offered in or near early learning and childcare settings and will be targeted at priority families. It will help parents to learn about early childhood development and how to support their children's learning. It will also build parents' confidence in their own capacity to learn, acting as a catalyst to help them take up adult learning, training opportunities and gain employment.

We will provide an additional boost of over £4 million to parental employability programmes, facilitating better local connections between employability services and the expansion of early learning and childcare. This will involve supporting parents to start a career and progress in work, including within the early learning and childcare sector, and enhance families' incomes through work or earnings. This means that our total investment in parental employment support will increase to £22 million between 2018 and 2022.

We know that there are links between homelessness and child poverty. We will take action to prevent low income families from becoming homeless by improving access to advice and providing direct support on housing options, income maximisation, financial inclusion, employment and wellbeing.

We will:

  • launch a new £1.5 million Homelessness Prevention Fund to increase and spread the work of social landlords in supporting low-income families in social housing in ways that help to prevent crisis points and avoid homelessness
  • work with local authorities to align Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans and Child Poverty Delivery Plans providing new opportunities to join up resources and better support low-income families
  • explore with Job Centre Plus how they can better support families on low incomes when they access services, in light of the challenges they may face

We will build on good practice around support for young parents, learning from the success of projects such as the Clackmannanshire Young Parents Project. Supported by an initial £1 million, we will work to test this model in other parts of Scotland to help improve the life chances of young parents and their children.

Key workers will 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.

Suitable homes for everyone

Tackling homelessness

Everyone needs a home – a safe, warm place to live, feel secure and have a sense of belonging. Home is part of physical and emotional health and wellbeing but, for some people in Scotland, homelessness is their current reality. We are determined to eradicate homelessness in our country.

Last year, in response to the recommendations of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, we published an action plan to set the direction for real and lasting change, working with the wider public sector and backed by investment of £50 million.

Over three years and beginning this financial year, we are investing £32.5 million in our Rapid Rehousing and Housing First programmes. As a result of our long-term approach to homelessness prevention, we have seen a 40% reduction in the number of homelessness applications and assessments since the peak in 2005-06.

Every local authority is now implementing their rapid rehousing transition plan, which will ensure that people who become homeless move to a settled home as soon as possible.

Our Housing First programme will ensure that rapid rehousing is possible for all, by providing support to those with multiple and complex needs, helping them to find and stay in suitable housing and tackle mental health challenges and addictions. In the past year, around 100 people have been supported in this way and we will support hundreds more this year, recognising that a safe and secure home is the best base for recovery.

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.

In addition, this year, we will:

  • provide up to £2 million to support our partnership with Social Bite, who are working with a range of partners to deliver Housing First Pathfinders in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Stirling, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. These pathfinders will support over 800 people with multiple and complex needs experiencing homelessness into a permanent home with support by spring 2021
  • provide £8 million to support implementation of rapid rehousing transition plans in every area
  • implement changes to the law, removing the duty on local authorities to assess whether a homeless applicant became homeless intentionally, making receiving support easier for people who have difficulties in their lives, such as financial or mental health issues
  • develop plans to remove the requirement for people facing homelessness to have a connection to a council area before they can receive support from that local authority
  • work with third sector partners to change attitudes to homelessness
  • introduce legislation in the coming year to extend the Unsuitable Accommodation Order, with a view to it coming into force by the end of this Parliament. This will reduce the amount of time all people experiencing homelessness can spend in unsuitable accommodation
  • publish information about how homelessness affects different groups within our communities by the end of this year, making sure, in particular, that our work takes proper account of the different reasons for women becoming homeless and addressing those
  • create a domestic abuse homelessness prevention pathway to support women who have experienced domestic abuse to find safe accommodation
  • develop a care leavers homelessness prevention pathway, building on our work this year to better understand what support people with care experience need to reduce their risk of becoming homeless and what specific support care leavers need if they do become homeless

Housing

Since 2007, more than 86,000 affordable homes have been delivered, including over 59,000 for social rent. We are on track to achieve our target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes, 35,000 for social rent, within this term of Parliament, with over half of those already completed.

Our ambitious target is backed by more than £3.3 billion, the single biggest investment in, and delivery of, affordable housing since devolution.

We are working to increase the number of affordable homes of all tenures in communities across Scotland. Working closely with local authorities to make sure we provide the right homes in the right places, we are making up to £25 million available between 2016 and 2021 to the Rural Housing Fund and a further £5 million to meet the specific housing needs of our island communities.

We want to make sure that new affordable homes are accessible to everyone in our communities. In 2017-18, 99% of all new build council and housing association homes met the Housing for Varying Needs Standards and 744 homes were purpose built for older people or disabled people.

We will publish refreshed guidance for local authorities to support them to develop their local housing strategies. These set out the strategic vision and priorities for the future of housing and housing-related services in their areas.

The refreshed guidance will include strengthened requirements relating to Gypsy/Travellers to make sure that their accommodation needs are identified and better understood. It will also include requirements relating to the supply of wheelchair accessible housing across Scotland to provide more choice and flexibility for disabled people and their families.

This work is not only providing affordable homes for people across Scotland, it is also contributing to our economy and helping us to achieve our other priorities.

Support for first-time buyers with up to £25,000 towards their deposits

It is estimated that the Affordable Housing Supply Programme benefits our economy by £1.4 billion each year and supports between 10,000 and 12,000 jobs. Ensuring that new homes are energy efficient is key to tackling the global climate emergency and, by keeping heating costs low, contributes to our efforts to tackle poverty.

We will also continue to support people in Scotland to sustain their tenancies through Discretionary Housing Payments. This year, we will provide more than £63 million to help 70,000 households sustain their tenancies and protect them from the impact of the UK Government's bedroom tax and other welfare cuts.

We also want to ensure we have a healthy home ownership and new build sector. We welcomed publication of the short-life working group's report New Housing & Future Construction Skills: Adapting and Modernising for Growth in May. We will respond to the recommendations by the end of the year.

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.

The new scheme adds to existing programmes, Help to Buy (Scotland) and the Low Cost Initiative for First-Time Buyers, through which investment of £1.2 billion since 2007 has already helped more than 32,000 households buy a home.

We are taking action to tackle issues with short term lets in some areas. To help councils balance the needs and concerns of their communities with wider economic and tourism concerns, we have consulted on the regulatory powers they need and will announce our plans later this year.

We continue to support the growth of the Build to Rent sector in Scotland to boost the supply of good quality homes for private rent through a range of measures covering planning advice, taxation, tenancy reform and a rental income guarantee scheme.

The Building Scotland Fund provides a source of loans for eligible schemes, as well as investing £94 million to-date in supporting the wider development of 5,500 new homes for rent and sale across all tenures, together with other regeneration, industrial and commercial property investments.

Looking ahead, the Building Scotland Fund will continue to support housebuilding growth in Scotland, including through the SME housebuilding sector.

We need to plan for the future of our housing stock to make sure that everyone in Scotland has a high quality and sustainable home that they can afford and which meets their needs.

We want to build this vision together with the people of Scotland and so have engaged widely with stakeholders over the past year, including local government, businesses, the third sector, home owners, tenants and others.

We published our draft vision and principles in July and will consult widely on these and how we make them a reality over the next few months. We will then publish our Housing to 2040 vision and route map in spring next year.

Scotland's third sector

There are over 24,500 registered charities, 6,000 social enterprises and an estimated 20,000 community groups working across Scotland.

This year, we will provide £24.9 million to strengthen this diverse sector. We will work to identify more opportunities for multi-year grant programmes, as well as test new innovative models of commissioning and social investment.

Building on the results of a national consultation on charity law, we will work collaboratively with partners to continue to develop and refine proposals to promote transparency and accountability.

Scotland's eco-system of support for social enterprise is world-leading. Since the launch of Scotland's Social Enterprise Strategy, we have invested more than £25 million in the sector and social enterprises now contribute £2.3 billion annually to our economy.

Last year, we hosted the Social Enterprise World Forum, welcoming more than 1,400 social entrepreneurs from 47 countries and earlier this year we launched the new £17 million 'Scottish Social Growth Fund'. By next spring, we will publish the second social enterprise action plan, co-produced with the sector, to continue to drive forward this inclusive way of doing business.

£10 million Credit Union Investment Fund

This spring, we published a new National Volunteering Outcomes Framework.

Volunteers contribute over £2 billion to our economy each year and there are 1.2 million volunteers in Scotland giving up their time to help their communities.

Volunteering can improve people's wellbeing and physical and mental health, as well as improve confidence, strengthen social networks and build bonds in and between communities. This year, we will launch a delivery plan for the Framework, including clear and measurable indicators to track progress.

The credit union movement in Scotland has more than 410,000 members. We will develop a national strategy to further grow and strengthen this important sector so that it can continue to provide ethical savings and loans to people from all walks of life – safeguarding them against exploitative rates and a cycle of debt.

In spring 2020, we will introduce a £10 million Credit Union Investment Fund which will provide loans to support credit unions to grow memberships and improve their systems.

Scotland on the global stage

Scotland's place in the world is uncertain as a result of the UK's departure from the EU. Rising tensions on global trade and the increasingly evident impact of the global climate emergency means the way we interact with the rest of the world has never been more important.

Scotland is committed to being a good global citizen – we want to be open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally, playing our part in tackling global challenges such as poverty, injustice, inequality and climate change.

Our expanded international network stretches across a number of European countries, as well as the USA, Canada and China. These innovation and investment hubs play a key role in maintaining Scotland's strong reputation worldwide. We will continue to invest in our overseas networks, creating a single, unified platform to foster long‑term connections that will support the growth of our exports and attract investors, students and visitors to Scotland.

Since the EU referendum, there have been more than 400 Ministerial engagements with other European countries. We present ourselves as a positive and open European country, keen to collaborate to address global challenges and share our experience and knowledge.

We have participated in multilateral work too, taking part in the Arctic Circle Assembly and hosting the Nordic Council Forum. We will publish our first Arctic Policy Framework this month.

These international connections give us support and new perspectives as well as the opportunity to contribute to tackling some of the world's biggest challenges and play our part in pursuing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

As well as taking steps to address the global climate emergency in Scotland, our international standing enables us to work with other nations to tackle it.

The poor and vulnerable are the first to be affected by climate change, and will suffer the worst, yet have done little or nothing to cause the problem.

That is why we established a Climate Justice Fund in 2012 and will provide up to £21 million by 2021 for climate justice-related activities around the world. This will support work to secure access to food, water and energy as well as help to boost levels of climate literacy and supporting advocacy.

We continue to implement our International Development Strategy in our Sub-Saharan Africa partner countries, furthering our partnerships with Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia.

This year, we will support a newly-expanded programme to protect vulnerable groups in Malawi and Zambia. Following the success of Police Scotland's work with police forces in these countries to help them tackle gender-based violence and improve child protection, 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.

We will review our Small Grants Programme, and whilst that review takes place, offer the chance for small organisations to apply for grants to strengthen their safeguarding and governance processes.

We will continue to fund scholarships for women and girls in Pakistan to allow them to pursue their education. This support will continue through women and girls' secondary education, into an undergraduate degree and onwards to cover a Masters degree.

Scotland is a place of safety for those fleeing conflict and persecution.

Since 2015, every local authority has contributed to helping more than 3000 people find safety in Scotland. We are working with COSLA and the Scottish Refugee Council to support refugees and people seeking asylum to integrate into our communities through the New Scots refugee integration strategy. We will publish a progress report on our work in the spring and, in the next year, we will publish an Anti-Destitution Strategy focused on people who have no recourse to public funds.

We provide Crisis Grants to families joining refugees in Scotland under family reunion rules, giving them the financial support they need to meet their basic needs before they are able to access welfare benefits.

Current refugee resettlement programmes, including the Syrian Resettlement Programme, are due to end early next year. The UK Government has said that this important work will continue as one global scheme. We are working with our local government partners to develop our approach to the future of refugee resettlement.

Strengthening places

We and COSLA have adopted the Place Principle – this is an approach to encourage better collaboration and community involvement. It will help to make best use of resources and assets, improving the way that services within a place are joined up to increase their impact.

Putting the principle into action will allow local areas to respond to issues and circumstances in the ways which work best for them, driving inclusive growth, improving wellbeing and achieving better outcomes for people and communities.

This year, we will:

  • work with local partners and communities to develop local place plans and pilot collaborative approaches across different sectors such as housing, transport and town centres
  • promote equality and engage diverse groups to create joined-up solutions that make the most of the assets areas already have and make sure that the right extra support and investment is provided to make a difference
  • provide around £11 million from the Investing in Communities Fund, awarding multi-year funding to help local areas plan over the longer term and develop holistic responses to the priority issues for people in their communities
  • create a new website by the end of this year to act as a central resource for promoting and implementing the Place Principle

Local governance

Our main goal is to ensure Scotland is a country where everyone is valued, treated with dignity and respect and has access to opportunities and a good quality of life.

To do this, we must listen to people and communities.

Last year, over 4,000 people responded to an invitation from Scottish Government and local government to help us make sure we can achieve this goal. They told us that communities work best when they have local control and influence over decisions that affect them most.

That is why we are working with local government and wider public services to further empower local communities, councils and their partners. People told us they wanted to see a transformation in how decision-making arrangements work in Scotland and this year we will explore how we can make that a reality, creating a system of inclusive local democracy based on rights which will improve outcomes for people and communities.

Regeneration

Some of our communities still suffer the effects of deprivation and disadvantage, limiting people's health, wellbeing and future potential. Transforming local areas through regeneration works best when communities are in control.

We will maintain our capital funding for regeneration for the remainder of this Parliament. That includes the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, the evergreen Scottish Partnership for Regeneration in Urban Centres Fund and Clyde Gateway which is transforming the social, economic and environmental outlook for communities in the area.

There is still too much unused and unproductive land in Scotland, including long-term vacant and derelict land which blights some of our most disadvantaged communities. We will continue to tackle this through the Vacant and Derelict Land Fund and we are exploring ways to accelerate investment to grow industrial and commercial capacity across Scotland's most disadvantaged areas.

Land reform

We are improving Scotland's system of land ownership, use, rights and responsibilities, so that our land contributes to a fair and just society while balancing public and private interests.

We will invest £10 million this year and next to the Scottish Land Fund, supporting community ownership to boost local amenities and support local economies.

We have provided funding to Community Land Scotland to support urban communities to take ownership of land and assets. We have established the Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce to help communities bring a new lease of life to vacant land and we will consider its recommendations.

We will introduce a new community right to buy for sustainable development by spring next year and will hold an international land reform conference in 2020 where we can demonstrate our progress.

How we use our land is part of our response to the global climate emergency and other challenges such as housing, social inclusion and food security. This year, we will begin work to enable further renewable energy developments on Scotland's national forests and land, ensuring that any new developments pay community benefits.

In the coming year, we will bring together experts from across the world to explore how we can tackle land reform issues and make sure land reform benefits everyone in Scotland.

Underpinning land reform is the need to know who owns land in Scotland. This year, we will continue our work on regulations for a new Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land, aiming for these to be in force by 2021.

The Scottish Crown Estate Act received Royal Assent this year, part of which allows for local control and decision-making over Crown assets. We will ensure that communities benefit from the net revenue generated from the Scottish Crown Estate marine assets out to 12 nautical miles, making payments directly to coastal local authorities.

We will publish a Strategic Management Plan by spring next year – it will set out objectives and priorities for Scottish Crown Estate assets including seabed leasing rights out to 200 nautical miles and describe how around half of Scotland's foreshore, as well as rural and urban property, will be managed in ways that benefit communities.


Contact

Email: kathryn.fergusson@gov.scot